With an array of chairs around him, a clapping audience and a center spotlight focused at the front of the room, author Roy Kesey stepped up to the podium at the Innovative Media Research and Commercialization Center (IMRC) to share his work.
Sponsored by the English Department and the National Poetry Foundation, the University of Maine New Writing Series hosted a well-known writer Kesey to speak to fans and to share his work on Thursday, Oct. 19. Held at the IMRC, Kesey read and shared stories from different collections of his work.
The event started off with writing series coordinator Steve Evans welcoming everyone and explaining the layout for the night. Followed by Evans was friend and admirer of Roy Kesey, Greg Howard. Howard gave the audience a short summary of Kesey’s life and also a list of the books and writings Kesey has had published and is currently working on. That includes his latest short story collection titled “Any Deadly Thing,” as well as one of his more well-known fiction novels “Pacazo.”
“His work [Pacazo] is a masterpiece of delirium and desperation, a compulsive read,” Howard said. “It’s stunning, a realist-tinged portrait of everyday people. Its sense-rattling and acoustically gorgeous sentences make it almost seemingly unfair. His work is truly original.”
Once Kesey took the stage and greeted the audience, he began sharing pieces of his writing that were meaningful to him. Before reading them, he gave background information for each of the pieces of text, and explained how the writing of them had significantly impacted his life in one way or another.
Chosen by Stephen King to have his work featured in the Best American Short Stories Anthology, Kesey decided that writing was something he should pursue, and telling stories became his lifelong passion. He read the audience an excerpt from the Latin-American book he translated, “Savage Theories,” a humorous and lighthearted novel written in Spanish by one of his colleagues. Following that he read a short piece from his novel, “Ride,” his latest finished piece that is on its way to being published. He finished off the reading by giving the audience a blurb from one of his collections of short stories, titled “How to Count in a Small Town.”
After the readings, Kesey answered questions from the audience and gave young writers advice for starting their own novels.
“I had to go to college to find out that you could be a writer and be alive at the same time. I write a draft and then rewrite, and then rewrite again six or seven times, always trying to keep the voice of my writing consistent and coherent,” Kesey said.
Kesey added a humorous and lighthearted touch to the serious topic of how to be successful as a fiction writer in today’s society. He shared insight and advice with the audience, using stories from his own life to give helpful tips and lessons that he’s learned throughout his career. Kesey is currently working on the translation of his second novel from Spanish as well as his latest collection of fictional short stories.
To find out more about Kesey’s work, please visit roykesey.com. The UMaine New Writing Series was founded in 1999. All events are held at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoons in the Allen and Sally Fernald APPE Space in 104 Stewart Commons. For the list of speakers visit nwsnews.wordpress.com. All events are free and open to the public.