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Richard Ford Demonstrates the Art of Writing


On Monday, April 5, the Loyola Writing Department invited writer Richard Ford to campus to give a talk about their writing in McManus Theater. The presentation was a part of the department’s Modern Masters Series, which allows the Loyola community to hear works from writers currently practicing the craft.

Richard Ford, a novelist and short story writer, came to read a piece that he was commissioned to write by the Toronto Globe. The task: to write a story about Canada.

The story he wrote focuses on draft deserters in the Vietnam era and the effect this transplantation has on one’s life. Upon learning her former lover’s dying wish was for her to visit him, the protagonist Dolores makes the trek through Michigan en route to the small Canadian village he lives in.

She meets several personalities along the way, including a cocktail waitress and a bartender at a local Native American Casino.

The story discusses how making a new life in a foreign place can cause a person to live in an “in-between” state. A balance must be struck to marry this new life with the old, but this comes with its own set of challenges.

As Dolores moves through the wilderness, she questions the meaning of a person’s death and legacy – and her place in it.

Ford expertly blends poetry into his descriptions, making his characters real and beautiful despite their many flaws. He is able to evoke emotion through his writings of forest landscapes and flashy casinos in a way that invites the reader into the story.

“I was enchanted by his ability to capture a moment of significance between unlikely characters that could be so surprisingly profound,” said Megan Holden ’20.

After his reading, Ford answered questions from the audience about his writing process. In short, he doesn’t have one. Ford explained that he’s a writer all the time; he’s learned that there is no ritual or method that will always produce inspiration.

Instead, Ford focuses on reading and taking notes, and he finds inspiration when it comes to him. He likened his process to a school of fish – sometimes the school moves in the same direction, sometimes it’s a jumbled mess.

Tyler Jonas ’19 appreciated the advice Ford gave.

“Some of the wisdom and advice speakers like Ford bring [to campus] can’t always be learned in the classroom,” he said. “[This] benefits students and faculty both.”

Holden was encouraged by the reading, and The Modern Masters Series as a whole.

“I think the Modern Masters give a lot of hope and encouragement to budding writers,” Holden said. “It reminds us that talented writers continue, and will always continue, to emerge.”

Emma Ditzel ’18 also loves attending events like this.

“It’s inspiring and informative to have readings like this because it makes writing tangible,” she said. “Having writers come to campus to connect with students is incredible. We get to hear them speak about and read their work, which is something we don’t get to do in the classroom.”


Feature Image: Richard Ford Photo, Courtesy of Facebook

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Richard Ford Demonstrates the Art of Writing