By Megan Wanner
“Hope tends to be an energizer. You have to somewhat believe you are going to write this novel and it is going to do well.” This is one of the pieces of advice award-winning nonfiction writer David Gessner offered Elon University, N.C. students Wednesday night at a reading given in Yeager Hall.
Included in his lineup were an essay written for a radio show called “What I Believe,” a portion about his dad from his first book, “Under the Devil’s Thumb” that he felt showed both wildness and workaholic sides, an essay titled “‘Bigger Than Shakespeare’ or How I Weathered the Perfect Storm” from his book “Sick of Nature” spurred by his envy of Sebastian Younger and an essay titled “Herring, Van Gogh and Me” about the first time he saw van Gogh’s self-portrait from his book “A Wild, Rank Place.”
Some students in attendance were not as interested in nonfiction but came just because they enjoy Gessner. “I write poetry more than nonfiction,” freshman Laura Minchew said. “He’s just really funny and easy to connect with and his books give you inspiration even if it’s not the story you tend to write.”
Gessner spent the week at Elon addressing students about apprenticeship and the importance of having both wildness and work in their lives as writers. “On the one hand you need the work,” Gessner said. “You need the workaholic side to go at it but you also need to be wild or else you’re a drudge.”
Another piece of advice Gessner included in his reading was about the art of writing nonfiction. “It doesn’t have to be this big huge thing,” he said. “It’s the art of writing about it.”
Many students thought he gave good advice to young writers. “Hearing him talk about the business side of writing was very informative,” junior Kelly Ostazeski said.
Check out David Gessner’s advice to young writers:
Check out a video made by David Gessner for his students at UNCW: