By Rachel Boland
Author Matt Bell visited the College on Nov. 14 at 12:30 p.m as part of The Visiting Writer Series, which is an annual event held by the creative writing class, Writing Communities. The event hosted a healthy crowd of English majors and literature lovers alike in the Library Auditorium.
Students gathered eagerly to listen to advice from an accomplished writer, a career path that most of the audience members aspired to pursue, as he read excerpts from his published works and divulged on the creative process that has lead to his success in fiction writing.
Bell’s accomplishments as a writer include published works in Tin House, The New York Times and The Fairy Tale Review. He has also won a variety of awards including the Young Lions Fiction Award and the Paula Anderson Book Award.
Professor Jess Row, who teaches the creative writing course, praised the group of students that helped organize the event.
“They did a terrific job,” he said. “It couldn’t have been better.”
During the reading, Bell read excerpts from two of his works, “Appleseed” and “Scrapper.”
“Appleseed” is a retelling of the story of Johnny Appleseed and is written in his signature lyrical style.
“Scrapper” takes place in a dystopian society in Detroit, and is described on Bell’s website as “a devastating reimagining of one of America’s greatest cities, its beautiful architecture, its lost houses, shuttered factories, boxing gyms and storefront churches.”
After Bell read excerpts from his own works, the floor then opened for questions both from the selected moderators at the event, senior English major Emily Miller and sophomore mathematics major Ariel Steinsaltz.
Miller asked Bell how he prepares to write some of his imaginative and dramatic scenes.
Bell said he liked to write first thing in the morning, where he drew inspiration from his dreams the night before.
While working on his novel, “In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods,” he tried to go “from dream to desk” to best incorporate elements from his imaginative subconscious. He explained that his works were often a reflection of his inner inspirations.
“Inside your differences is your real work and your real self,” Bell said.
In terms of his creative process, Bell also acknowledged that he also learns a lot from his students.
“There’s obviously a teacher-student relationship, I really think of my students as fellow writers.”
Audience members also asked questions about whether or not his writing style changed since his move from Michigan to Arizona and whether his lyric writing came from his first drafts or the edits.
Bell said that his move influenced the book he is writing now, “Appleseed.” He described it as a “book about really trying to see the natural world” in a new perspective, one he experienced differently in Michigan than in Arizona.
Those in attendance responded positively Bell’s advice about writing.
“I am in a creative writing class so for me personally it was very educational and I took a lot away from it,” said senior English major Luke Giambona. “I especially liked the Q&A where he touched on his personal experience and inspiration.”
Students were not the only ones who enjoyed the reading. Bell himself also said he had a great experience speaking to aspiring writers and learn their creative processes.
“This was great,” he said. “Everyone was incredibly hospitable and it was great to talk to a room full of writers that have their own work.”