This semester, I am taking CRW (Creative Writing) 300, which is Living Writer Series, and the primary activity that the course involves is listening to writers speak and asking them questions, and today, I had such an opportunity. I listened to a writer named Jon Chopan speak. Jon grew up in Rochester, NY, which, as I’m sure you know, isn’t too far from here, and in an effort to blend fiction and non-fiction together, he is publishing a book called Pulled from the River. In preparation for the speech, I read the first thirty (or so) pages of the book, since it has not yet hit the market (it’s due on the eleventh of December), and I really enjoyed what I read, so I was really excited to listen to him speak tonight.
Jon shared a lot of interesting viewpoints, such as his belief that the job of a writer is to capture the world around him and then to interact with what he or she has captured. He also said that in order to be a good writer, you have to love everyone (you can’t hate anyone), and although I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that (just because I know as a fact that not every writer, such as J.D. Salinger, for example, is a “people person,” if you will, yet they are still considered great writers), I think it’s interesting that it’s a viewpoint that he holds. The last point that he made upon which I would like to touch is his viewpoint that fiction and non-fiction need not be regarded as being such different worlds, because it isn’t necessary.
Jon explained that Pulled from the River is highly autobiographical. All of the characters in the book were and/or are real people, and most of what happens in the book actually did happen, but a few “plot” points were either slightly altered from reality or fabricated completely, but what’s especially interesting is that enough of “the truth” remains to think of the book as a work of non-fiction, yet the alterations and the fabrications are still there, however minimal they may be, which means that the book, obviously, is not wholly non-fiction; it is also fiction. This is very unique, because it certainly isn’t something that a reader comes across every day.
What I will especially never forget, however, is the opportunity that I had to sit down with Jon for dinner after the speech. Anyone that wanted to go to the Water Street Café after the speech was welcome to do so, and I opted to do so. My reasoning was that it certainly isn’t everyday that one has the opportunity to have dinner with an “up and coming” writer with a book on the way, and I seized the opportunity. Much to my delight, the group that had opted to have dinner was very small, which allowed for a lot of conversation. He is a really fun, funny guy, and I am really glad that I was presented with and took this opportunity, and my only regret is that I didn’t bring a voice recorder to capture the speech. If you’re at all interested, again, his book is titled Pulled from the River; it is due in December, but it can pre-ordered now via Amazon.