As the crowd settles down, Andre Dubus III sips from his water patiently. He soon goes into an announcment to outline his detest for cell phone use while he is speaking, asking that anyone needing to use theirs please leave the room to do so.
“Everyone’s addicted to these little crack gadgets. I have such a heartbreaking hatred of these gadgets, I think they’re ruining human contact,” Dubus said.
The author of six books, Dubus has won several awards for literature and his writing has been featured in multiple anthologies. He is a native of Massachusetts and a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, but came to UNH on Thursday, Feb. 23 to share his knowledge and read his works.
“He’s written a lot of books, he goes on a lot of tours, so we’re really lucky that he came. He’s very gracious. He likes talking about writing. He’s here for a thousand dollars and he probably commands 30 times that elsewhere, so it’s a real gift. That’s why we’re lucky to have him,” associate professor of English Sue Hertz said. Hertz, along with the other UNH Writing faculty, organizes the Writers Series.
Dubus spent a good part of the presentation reading some of his work to the audience. Afterward, he answered questions about his writing process.
“I just learn to trust my instincts about what I’m curious about. All you need is just a slimmer of character and a slimmer of trouble. What I find time and time again is if you just write with authentic curiosity, the story starts to write itself,” Dubus said.
Dubus was less certain about his advice toward the publishing end of writing.
“Our lives have changed so fast in such a short period of time and it’s almost all technological. I teach a 14-week semester class, three hours once per week. We don’t talk about the business part of writing, publishing, until the last 30 minutes of the last class in the 14th week. All I can say is write the best book you can write and then use the internet, Google unsolicited manuscripts, and just write a letter,” Dubus said.
Dubus went on to give advice about when to write something, using many quotes of others throughout his lecture.
“I truly believe that just because we want to write something doesn’t mean that it wants to be written by us,” he said.
One audience member asked how he is able to balance writing with spending time with his family, since he’s married with three children, to which Dubus replied, “I think it’s really important that we be with someone who will respect what we’re doing.”
Another question he answered had to do with how he can write so well the mindset of a character he seems not to have any way to relate to, such as female characters.
“Women have shown up a lot in my imagined world. I was raised with two sisters, I’ve got two half-sisters. What I find remarkable about creative writing is that the same way you can’t choose who you fall in love with, you can’t choose what you’re curious about,” Dubus said. “I might be just a bit more curious about women characters than men.”
Dubus also emphasized the importance of considering writing in new ways, that don’t involve outlines.
“It always seems to go better for me, not when I’ve been gripped by a story to tell, but when I’ve been gripped by a story to find,” Dubus said.
“I just wish more students would take advantage of this. The graduate students come, but the undergraduate students would really like it too,” Hertz said.