Friday, May 3, 2013

Andre Dubus III on Writing As An Act of Discovery

I attended the Connecticut Library Association annual conference for its second day on Tuesday, April 30th, at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell.  Andre Dubus III spoke for one of the sessions.  I confess that I have not yet read his books.  I've had a copy of National Book Award Finalist House and Sand and Fog on my bookshelf since I saw the movie, which I liked.  I've also been interested in reading his memoir, Townie.

This was one of those author talks that made me wish I went to a lot more of them.  I have to hand it to CLA, as author Geraldine Brooks spoke at last year's conference and was also an interesting speaker.

Dubus stressed curiosity above all as the necessary characteristic of a successful writer.  Talent is nothing without curiosity, he emphasized.  An author needs to know the what to start a book.  But what really is going on is the question that needs to be explored.

He talked about receptivity.  He used the example of wanting to write a story about a psychopathic male, but instead being derailed to tell the story about a woman who was only supposed to be a peripheral character.  Instead, her story seemed to be more real than the "sexy psychopath" he had really wanted to write about.  So he followed her story instead.  A member of the audience asked him what makes him go with one story over another and he responded, "intuition."  And went on to explain that he believes that intuition has to do with guarding truth.

As for his writing habits, he has an office he goes to in the morning, three sessions a week.  He says he gets himself into writing mode by reading poetry.