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SUNY Oswego’s Impactful Living Writers Series

Rasheed Shabazz
Living Writers

October 14, 2018

OSWEGO – In order to truly develop as writers, you must first put down your cellphones and observe the world around us, a noted author said. (20)

The more attached you become to our devices, the more boring you become, author Ryan Van Meter said.

“We as humans are becoming more generic and difficult to observe,” Van Meter said. “Therefore we are forgetting how to notice, and how to notice well.”

Van Meter was addressing students, faculty and staff on Oct. 8 at Marano Campus Center auditorium as a part of The Living Writers Series.

His presentation focused on what he believes makes a great non-fiction writer.

The Living Writers series consists of students and staff who read and reflect upon the work of authors that they eventually meet.

The meeting allows authors to give advice to the audience on how to sharpen their writing skills.

The students are then allowed to ask questions and converse with the author.

Van Meter began his presentation by describing his hobby of “people watching” and how difficult it has become in the recent decade.

While people watching, he closely observes the small things about people that make them individuals.

Look for things that you would normally miss if you weren’t looking,” Van Meter said.

Van Meter related his practice of people watching to an ability that writers must possess, “noticing the revealing detail.”

Writers must seek to find crucial details, this will aid the reader to better connect to the story.

A story with vague details is one that a reader may struggle to empathize with.

Van Meter emphasized that the more personal your details are, the more involved the reader will feel.

He advised readers to imagine how they felt during these moments, to recreate the energy.

He calls this method “noticing the metaphorical meaning in your work.”

Van Meter stated that as writers we must dig down deep into our past, and tell the stories that only we can tell.

Find a story that is specific to you and also unique to readers.

This will make your writing polarizing and give it identity.

Practicing this will add texture to your stories, which will provide readers with more to absorb.

He suggested that writers refrain from using too many cliches when writing.

Writers should instead strive to create the next great cliche.

Classic cliches such as “it was a dark stormy night” or “once upon a time” are examples of what to avoid.

When storytelling, authors often like to solidify a clear protagonist and antagonist.

Van Meter is obsessed to this tactic, as he likes to keep the role of characters indefinite.

He believes that crucial characters should evolve during the story, therefore switching roles throughout.

He informed the audience that each chapter of a story must have a key moment that they should write towards.

Minor details can be utilized throughout each chapter, but the key moment must be always be highlighted.

When writing personal narratives based on past events, writers must look at their past self as an entirely different person.

Meaning, the writer shall grow throughout the story while taking something positive from a negative situation.

“There is something you do not know yet. What is it?” Van Meter stated when referring to the mindset writers should have.

In Van Meter’s personal narrative, “If You Knew Then What I Know Now,” he gradually learns to embrace his sexuality, after years of struggling to find his true self. He uses each hardship that he encounters throughout his essays to show his gradual growth and maturity.

Van Meter stated how he prefers to keep the tone of his stories neutral.

An author must not write stories out of anger, since it may obstruct the reader from forming their own opinion.

Writers must provide the details, but leave the lesson of their story up to the reader to decipher.

According Laura Donnelly, the professor of the Living Writers Series, the series allows students “to explore the processes of the visiting writers, and to understand, analyze and reflect upon what the professional writer considers to be important in the act of writing.”

When selecting authors to participate in the series, Donnelly considers three main criteria.

“The strength of the writers work, the fact that they already have achieved professional recognition, and their ability to engage with our student body in a productive matter,” Donnelly said.

The intention of the series is to bring in authors that can effectively connect with and inspire the crowd.

The ability to interact and discuss works of literature with the author provides the Living Writers Series with an intimate learning experience.

Student of the Living Writers Series class, Frank Sanchez said, “The class itself is a great place for discussion and thoughtful conversation with authors.”

When asked on where she sees the series headed, Donnelly said, “We’re interested in looking for ways to continue collaborating with new initiatives and groups on campus.”
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Source List
Professor Laura Donnelly
[email protected]

Ryan Van Meter

Frank Sanchez
[email protected]