Monday night, students and staff gathered to hear stories of love and loss with a twist of dark humor.
An audience of about 25 people gathered in La Plata Hall to hear author Douglas Watson read excerpts from his debut short story collection, The Era of Not Quite. The Honors College hosted Watson, whose featured collection won the BOA Editions short fiction prize. Originally from Pennsylvania, Watson graduated from Swarthmore College and lives in New York City working as a copy editor for Time magazine, while he delves into the depths of humanity through his fictional short story writing.
Watson spoke about his inspiration for the book and how he spent his childhood reading.
“I guess I was grateful without thinking about it, to those authors who wrote those books,” Watson said. “By the time I started really writing at age 30, it was like coming home to my first love.”
Watson started the event by reading “Against Specificity,” which described the tale of an unknown person, on his journey to find “Thing A.” In his desperation to find the new “Thing A,” the character’s thoughts take on the voice of Watson as he takes a voyage down the “long slide.”
“It is interesting to get an insight into the author’s mind,” said sophomore English major Casey Patterson. “You can interpret a story all you want, but you never really know until you talk to the author himself.”
As Watson moved into the story, “I’m Sorry I lost the Scrap of Paper on Which you Outlined Your Plans for the Future,” he reminded college students, “It is OK to have fun with words. When you’re doing all the writing here that is required of you, you can lose touch with words.”
Freshman biology major Elaine Athey said she appreciated the way Watson told his stories.
“I thought it was really funny and ironic,” she said. “The best part was his dry delivery.”
Watson emphasized that characters in a story must want something, and it is a writer’s job to make readers become emotionally involved.
Watson also read excerpts from his next book, A Moody Fellow Finds Love and Then Dies. The book is scheduled to come out April 1, 2014, a choice he said reflects his “smart-ass personality.”
Freshman computer science major Jeremy Krach, who was already a fan of Watson’s, said he liked that Watson’s work tackles dark themes while also poking fun at them.
“His writing is short and easy to pick up and put down, and you can read [his stories] in between classes,” Krach said.
Several students, including freshman biochemistry major Caroline Tipton, said they appreciated how Watson’s lecture made them reflect on their own writing and reading styles.
“It was definitely my type of humor, but you have to understand it to appreciate it,” she said. “It has a different level to it that made me really think about writing myself.”
Freshman physiology and neurobiology major Holli Rutkowski said, “I really liked it because it was so general that each person could look at it in their own, individual way. I would definitely read more of his stories because they give you more insight into yourself as readers.”
Watson stressed having fun and writing for personal sanity and satisfaction.
“The only rule for creative writing, and life, is that anything you can make work, do it,” he said.