The spring semester is in full swing! In between getting used to a full class schedule in addition to my work schedule again, I joined my friend and former classmate Priscilla to a reading by Colum McCann.
I hadn’t read any of McCann’s work but was immediately sold when I discovered he’s an Irish writer. I love Irish authors. Partly due to Frank McCourt (I’ve read Angela’s Ashes multiple times) and partly due to growing up with Rhea, my Irish best friend from Belgium, and having traveled to Ireland with said best friend. So before attending the reading, I printed and read excerpts of his books Let the Great World Spin and Everything in This Country Must.
Rhea and I, buried in the sand in Knokke.
By the time I arrived to the reading it was standing room only. McCann read from his stories, which contain vivid images. The part that captivated me the most however, was the Q&A. McCann discussed his ideal day, which includes early morning writing and no checking emails until well in the afternoon. Finding the time to write without distractions can be so difficult. I usually write on Sundays and while I want to start early, I always get into a good flow later in the evening, no matter how early I start. Once I graduate, I hope to be able to have Sunday entirely to myself to write without any other assignments due.
Another story that struck me was when he mentioned meeting someone in a bar in Brooklyn who told him of his Irish childhood that was very different from McCann. This encounter spawned many ideas for McCann, which I believe ultimately led to his novel Dancer. When I first started writing a few semesters ago, I realized that anything can be a writing inspiration. I’d go to the doctor and think “Oh, I must write about this experience.” This withered away after a while but my goal is to revive it. I keep a running OneNote list of writing ideas and hope to add more to it as I take the time to appreciate small scenes and encounters that can be the inspiration for a good piece of writing.
I left the reading feeling inspired and excited to have discovered a new author whose books I look forward to reading.
Hunter College’s reading series is open to the public. Check out their Distinguished Writers website to see who’s coming and to RSVP.
Colum McCann has a great Letters to a Young Writer section on his website. Take a look for some weekly advice, such as “To hell with grammar, but only if you know the grammar first. To hell with formality, but only if you have learned what it means to be formal” (McCann).