Campus Life

Visiting Novelist Lectures Writing Students on Crafting Beginnings

As part of the creative writing program’s visiting artist lineup, author Steve Kistulentz read from his March 2018 novel “Panorama” Sept. 4 at Hendrix College and delivered a craft talk Aug. 5 at UCA on beginnings and the process of crafting art.

During his craft talk, Kistulentz gave recommendations to the writers in the room on how to start the beginning of a piece, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, film or music.

He advised students on how they should view the relationship of empathy with their characters and on what keeps an audience reading and watching.

He emphasized the importance of providing the audience a doorway into the world the writer crafts.

“That’s what good art does,” Kistulentz said. “It gives you insight into a world that you could otherwise never participate in.”

Kistulentz said he wanted students to keep in mind the creator’s intention for his work. Instead of immediately dismissing the work as a topic most would find uninteresting, he prompted students to consider what the writer wanted to convey.

This is why he spent the majority of the meeting encouraging students to interpret for themselves the meaning of different passages.

While students bounced ideas around, Kistulentz joined in their laughter and considered their points of view before providing his own.

The beginning scene from the acclaimed “Hawaii Five-0” pilot episode was shown as an example of beginnings, in addition to François Pompon’s famous Polar Bear sculpture.

Kistulentz provided a two-page packet to students during the meeting, which held essential information regarding what openings should accomplish, helpful tricks for beginning a piece and examples from texts.

Kistulentz ended his craft talk with a simple response to an infamous question.

“Where does the story begin?” he said, before adding, “At the beginning.”

Wrapping up his discussion, Kistulentz left the students with a simple but necessary piece of advice.

“Ambition is good, right?” Kistulentz asked students. “You should want to write things no one has written before. To bring your experience to bear and to tell stories which do not exist yet for other people, but don’t make the task more daunting than asking yourself, ‘Did I do something that informed my writing today?’”

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Sandy Longhorn said craft talks and public readings are vital for students’ education.

“Visiting authors provide UCA creative writing students with the opportunity to hear from and engage with writers publishing today in genres our students would like to master,” Longhorn said. “This is an invaluable resource as our visiting authors bring diversity and fresh voices to the instruction in creative writing that our students receive.”

She also said that witnessing these authors allows students to make networking contacts with the writers who visit campus and said that these authors inform students about what their next steps might be outside the classroom.

Students can look forward to two more authors visiting UCA in the near future: creative nonfiction writer Kathryn Miles on Oct. 1-2 and poet Allison Joseph on Nov. 9.

Photo by Emily Gist

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