AUBURN — An award-winning author residing in Central New York will visit Cayuga Community College’s campuses this spring, holding public readings from several of her stories and discussing writing techniques with students.
Lena Bertone, the author of two books and currently a writing professor at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, will visit the Auburn Campus on April 30 and the Fulton Campus on May 2 after students in the Cayuga Creative Writing Club asked her to visit the college. Events both days are open to the public.
Cayuga English Professor Mark Montgomery said students reviewed the work of several writers before contacting Bertone. Montgomery, who called Bertone’s work a “wondrous experience,” said students were drawn to the author’s characters and the worlds in which those characters live.
“They loved how she created such narrative depth in such an abbreviated form, and her use of both strange and familiar figures,” said Montgomery. “Her stories imagine a world where the mundane collides with the miraculous and ancient myth steps into the here and now.”
A graduate of Arizona State University with a Master of Fine Arts Degree, Bertone said she started writing in high school and college, adding that “she was quite bad at it” when she began.
“I wrote a few poems in college that I still like, but mostly I wrote things that were sort of cryptic and difficult to decipher. I learned good lessons from that,” she said.
Bertone made a decision to focus on improving her writing, and spent several years crafting stories and a novel. Eventually, her desire to improve her writing became stronger, and she shifted to writing several hours a day instead of several hours per week.
“The more time I spent writing, the more focused I was on making the writing what I wanted it to be,” she said.
Bertone estimated that she was 30 years old before she wrote a story she was excited about.
“Getting published was, for me, about persistence,” she said. “I decided that I would send out a lot of work to a lot of places, and that I wouldn’t let rejection discourage me. Rejection is often arbitrary — it can have little to do with how good your writing is.”
Bertone published her first short story in Puerto Del Sol in 2007, and has published more than 30 stories in literary journals in her career. Her first book, a collection of short stories titled “Behind This Mirror” was first published in 2015 and will be reissued this year with additional material.
She described the stories in “Behind This Mirror” as “surreal and dream-like” and incorporating aspects of fairy tales, while “Letters to the Devil” is a novella written as a collection of diary entries and letters by a woman deserted by her lover. “The letters recount experiences that are often magical or supernatural, but are also very human,” Bertone said of the novella.
Bertone said she is planning to read several selections at her appearances at Cayuga, including short pieces from “Behind This Mirror.”
She has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize, and her second book, “Letters to the Devil,” won Lit Pub’s second annual prose contest in 2015.
The reading at Cayuga’s Auburn Campus is scheduled for 11 a.m. April 30, with the writing seminar to follow at noon. Both events will be held in the college library. The reading and writing seminar at the Fulton Campus are scheduled for 11 a.m. May 2 in the Learning Commons Classroom.