The Boise Public Library's Cole and Ustick branch has put together a veritable gold mine of good info for aspiring writers—or anyone interested in how their favorite writers craft the words they read.
A small crowd of 12 students, seniors and lit-curious individuals took part in the library's installment of the Spring Author Series March 14. They listened as co-founder of Boise State's MFA Program and acclaimed author Mitch Wieland taught them what makes a solid scene. The library's Sagebrush Room was transformed into a college classroom (sans lofty tuition rates) as Wieland took to the white board to demonstrate points on scene and summary, concrete and sensory details, events, function and structure.
Some scribbled notes, and others listened intently with complimentary cookies and coffee in hand as the former fiction editor of Black Warrior Review talked about what makes a manuscript gripping and the importance of constructing scenes well. Wieland spoke about his influences and "heroes," including Raymond Carver and Richard Ford, reading an excerpt from "Rock Springs."
"I had taken that passage as memory, as lived experience. Richard Ford had tricked my mind," Wieland said, noting how detail can engross a reader in a scene.
He also read a brief segment from one of his contemporaries, Anthony Doerr, using his story "Hunter's Wife" in his lecture. Wieland also included things he'd learned from screenwriters, and spoke about fiction's abilities to focus on and utilize the thoughts and feelings of characters, more so than film.
The event took on even more of a classroom feel when Wieland doled out paper, pencils and handouts with a writing exercise on it. Attendees were asked to craft a scene in five sentences, each with a certain specification, such as using six words of dialogue.
Attendees then asked the writer questions, such as, does he think about all of the things he mentioned every time he writes. The answer clued the audience into another of Wieland's interests—martial arts.
"I'm a Bruce Lee fan," Wieland said. "And he doesn't think about punching—his fist just goes."
The Spring Author series continues with Aaron Patterson Wednesday, March 21, at noon. Visit the library's website for more info.