Last Thursday evening in the MUB, Sonya Huber was a guest in the UNH Writers Series. She read her book, “Opa Nobody” to an audience of more than 60 people packed into the small theater.
“Opa Nobody” introduces Sonya Huber’s life in comparison with her grandfather’s. The story started when Huber faced struggles in her own life as an activist that allowed her to find meaning and answers when researching about her grandfather, Heina Buschman, who was a committed anti-Nazi activist and German socialist.
Before Huber even started, comments to the author circled the theater: “Your biggest fan” and “I loved your book” was heard in the crowded room. People were walking in with their own copies of “Opa Nobody.”
“My friend is sick,” Cheyenne Brown said, she was holding a copy of Huber’s book. “She asked me to bring it to get it signed.”
Huber’s voice was soft and calm as she began reading from her book; there wasn’t any sign from the audience of boredom or impatience. When she was done reading, there didn’t seem to be enough time for the Q & A session as hands flew into the air, asking Huber for more information about her writing.
There was a lot of interest in Huber’s play with fiction and nonfiction as she introduced a nonfiction novel about a person she hadn’t ever met.
“As a fiction student, I found it interesting you can mix a little bit,” Brown said. “Nonfiction is almost relative, you can add a little bit of your own of what you think is the truth—as best you can.”
Another student in the MFA program for nonfiction was really interested in speaking with Huber after the presentation.
“I thought it was really interesting how she talked about what is truth,” Becca Van Horn said. “Like what is real and imagined in that line in nonfiction, that kind of slippery slope.”
Van Horn was interested in playing around with Huber’s technique of writing with fiction and nonfiction perspectives by using imagination. She knew it was important to make that clear to the reader that perspective was being played with from listening to Huber’s story and advice.
“That’s kind of fluid of a professional writer,” Van Horn said. “Saying ‘you know what, I might have done things differently’, I thought that was really fascinating.”
Another graduate student in the creative writing program for fiction had a different perspective on the writing style.
“I think that’s really fascinating,” Carter Foster said. “The way the structure of fiction can work into nonfiction and the sort of messiness that one encounters when they have to reimagine a scene that happened years and years ago.”
A senior English major student who was more interested in literary analysis writing became interested in taking a course on creative nonfiction.
“I really like the advice she gives on nonfiction writing,” Andrea Theriault said. “I definitely want to take a class in the future on nonfiction writing and apply what she said to it.”
Some advice Huber gave was to carry a small notebook and make it a job to fill it up in a week.
“I do these things called obsession notebooks,” Huber said. “You learn a lot about what you are interested in.”
Huber thinks the most important thing is to pay attention all the time, whether it be what people are saying around you or just what your mind is saying.
“The job of a nonfiction writer is to watch the mind at work,” Huber said. “Philip Lopate said that, even when your thoughts go on a tangent, the tangent means something.”
Losing focus on where your mind goes isn’t the only struggle a nonfiction writer can face. Like so many other writers, Huber explained she struggles with finding time to write.
“If you do even a half an hour a day, even in a journal,” Huber said, “you’ll discover you have a lot of really important things to say and write about.”
“I do an hour every day, almost no matter what,” Huber said. “I get really grouchy if I don’t write—like people who run if they don’t run.”
Sonya Huber was the last visiting writer for the fall semester. The UNH writers series will continue on February 11, 2016 with nonfiction writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis, author of “Travels with Casey: My Journey Through Our Dog-Crazy Country.”