Explore Creative Process at Syracuse University
Pola Rosen, Ed.D.
elegant wood-paneled rooms of the Pierpont Morgan Library were
a fitting venue for an exploration of the creative process by
noted authors, graduates and professors of Syracuse University.
Their most recent award-winning works encompassed the fields of
children’s literature, novels, poems and short stories. As John
Kennedy said of a stellar gathering of contemporaries while he
was in the White House, never since Jefferson dined alone was
there such brilliance in one place.
Introduced by President Kenneth Shaw and Dean Cathryn Newton,
noted children’s author and illustrator Karen Winnick, said, “writing
picture-books for young children implores me to look at the world
with wonderment. I struggle to write with honesty in order to
arrive at the truth of a story.” Two of her books, Mr. Lincoln’s
Whiskers and Sybil’s Night Ride, are historical fiction,
prompting children to ask if she’s ever met Abraham Lincoln. “Writing
of another time and place, I must imagine the sights, the sounds,
the feelings of being there,” said Winnick.
A quintessential children’s author, she encourages children to
write, to express their feelings through words, art or music.
She herself uses the “tools of prose, poetry, cadence, rhythm,
repetition and sometimes rhyme” to create her 32 page mini-wonders.
Each of her illustrations starts as an original oil painting before
undergoing the transformation to a book. Underscoring the fact
that writing for children is not simplistic, she quoted Mem Fox,
an Australian children’s author who compares writing a picture
book to writing War and Peace in haiku. There is a great
deal to say and only 32 pages.
Barbara Goldsmith, a founding editor of New York Magazine and
author of nonfiction as well as fiction books, quipped “I have
trouble collaborating even with myself” as she stressed that good
writing appears effortless. A real writer, she said “is haunted
by a plot that he must write. Somerset Maugham had three rules
about writing a novel but unfortunately, no one knows what they
George Saunders, a novelist, stated “The course of literature
is the stuff of your life.” Writing for him is “extreme attentiveness
to the present moment.”
Elizabeth Strout and Mary Karr were two other award-winning panelists.
When polled about how they write, some said they digest their
thoughts and then write; some think about their books all the
time; some don’t think about writing until they actually sit down
and do it.
interest were the favorite books cited by the novelists: Barbara
Goldsmith: Middlemarch; Karen Winnick: Angle of Repose;
Mary Karr: Letters of Chekhov;
George Saunders: Chekhov’s Short Stories; Elizabeth Strout:
Journals of John Cheever.#
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