How timely that in my spare time my nose would be buried in the pages of “English Creek,” a novel by Montana native Ivan Doig, when a copy of Whitman College professor Katrina Roberts’ anthology of thoughts and wisdom from articulate novelists, memoirists, poets and other writers arrived at my desk for perusal.
Hosting a broad range of genre writers for this series allowed Katrina to compile “Because You Asked, A Book of Answers on the Art & Craft of the Writing Life.” It’s a sampler, if you will, into the thoughts and experiences and of 85 writers who’ve visited campus to speak.
Ivan Doig came on my radar in 2013 when at Katrina’s invitation he arrived at Whitman to participate in the Visiting Writers Reading Series. Before his death on April 9, 2015, he had a distinctive voice, a wry humor and rhythm and tremendously visual way of describing people, their stories and surroundings.
As a reader, I feel as if I’m right there looking over the shoulders of characters as they wend through the plot progression.
For more than 15 years Katrina has hosted the likes of Ivan to feed her students and the community with ideas, inspiration and information about the writing process and learn about the writers’s lives.
Audiences pump the guest speakers for details about their crafting processes once the talks are finished.
Katrina wrote in the book’s preface, “But oh, to hear words from the writer’s own mouth, to be invited to ask about intentions, or inspirations, or methods!
“There’s simply something magical about sentences springing to life from their source, about a character or writer stepping from a page, descending stairs of a tiny plane, and striding across the airport tarmac toward you. (Will I recognize him from his book jacket? Will she be easygoing, animated?”
About himself, Ivan said, “I don’t think of myself as a ‘western’ writer.’ To me, language — the substance on the page, that poetry under the prose — is the ultimate ‘region,’ the true home, for a writer. If I have any creed that I wish you as readers, necessary accomplices in this flirtatious ceremony of writing and reading, will take with you from my pages, it’d be this belief of mine that writers of caliber can ground their work in specific land and lingo and yet be writing of that larger country: life.”
Only tuned in to the Visiting Writers Reading Series for two years, I’ve been utterly delighted by the speakers, some writing in genres I didn’t think I’d like in the least and all about whom I knew nothing. Take the awesome 2015 stellar writers offered thus far: Alex Dimitrov, a poet; Alison Bechdel, graphic memoirist; and Benjamin Percy, novelist.
Katrina’s offerings for the remainder of the academic year include Rick Barot, Feb. 11; Elena Passarello, March 3; Diane Cook, April 14; and the finale on May 5, a reading opportunity for Whitman student writers.
These free events are at 7 p.m. in Kimball Theatre.
Katrina’s book is available at the Whitman College Bookstore, downstairs in Reid Campus Center, 280 Boyer Ave.