Award-winning author Ron Carlson

On October 3, the Libraries’ Speaker Series featured acclaimed writer and UCI professor Ron Carlson in a program about the creative process of writing. Praised as “a master of the short story,” Carlson is the award-winning author of four short story collections, three novels, including Five Skies, and the just-released, Ron Carlson Writes a Story.

Carlson spoke animatedly about his new book and the process that writers go through to create a story. Ron Carlson Writes a Story provides insights into writing by inviting the reader to watch over his shoulder as he composes a story.

“I start with what I know and then write toward what I don’t,” he said. “As soon as I can’t touch bottom anymore, as soon as I’m off the foundations of what I was thinking, that’s when the story happens.”

Carlson described a writer as “a person who pays attention to his or her life and wants to know about it. And that doesn’t mean exactly what happened, but maybe what the truth is underneath what happened.”

Carlson came to UCI in fall of 2006 to serve as the director of the Programs in Writing, known for nurturing writers such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon, and best-selling author of The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold. Carlson has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, the Cohen Prize at Ploughshares, and a National Society of Arts and Letters Literature Award.

“I think the mandate is that you have to write about something that matters to you.”“Most of my stories are drawn from my own experiences, things I’ve confronted,” Carlson said. “I think the mandate is that you have to write about something that matters to you. And that’s all. It’s legitimate to write about a disease, loss, death, all these things that happen, but it has to matter to you.”

In addition to his busy writing schedule, Carlson fits in time to teach as well. For Carlson, the call to teach is as strong as the call to write. “Teaching is an active investigation, as capturing as the investigation of writing a story,” he said.

Following the program, guests had the opportunity to purchase signed copies of Carlson’s books and talk with him one on one.