Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Thanks That's Almost 30 Years Overdue

I often get asked who my influences are...

The answer includes many important mystery and thriller writers such as Raymond Chandler, Robert Parker, and, of course, John D. MacDonald. Other important influences are writing teachers, and one stands out for me.

Back in 1986, a debut novel titled Red Earth, White Earth was published to critical and commercial acclaim. Written by a creative writing professor in Minnesota named Will Weaver, Red Earth, White Earth was about two young friends, one white and one Chippewa, and the way they coped with the struggles of Native Americans in a largely white society.

The novel, which was made into a movie, was an impressive story. It has stayed with me to this day, thirty years later. At the time it came out, I'd written a couple of novels, both of which are still in a drawer. When I learned that Will would be teaching a week-long workshop on novel writing at the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota, I was probably the first to sign up.

The workshop was great, and Will's insight was so helpful that I remember many of his comments to this day. He was also kind enough to give me post-workshop input on one of my manuscripts.

Not long after that workshop, Will published a short story called A Gravestone Made Of Wheat. It was the story of a young woman who emigrates from Norway to Minnesota to marry a Norwegian American farmer. I've revisited this story many times and I still think it is the single most powerful short story I've ever read. A Gravestone Made Of Wheat was also made into a movie called Sweet Land, which was also good.

Will's other novels are great, too, and one of them, Memory Boy, has even been turned into an opera! (Just try to imagine Owen McKenna and Spot-meets-Verdi - Oooh, I'm envious.)

I've attended multiple workshops and writing conferences over the years. The week I spent at Will's workshop is still the high point of those experiences.

Will continues to teach outside of the classroom with his blog In The Write. In it you will find helpful tips on writing, an insider's look at the business, and trenchant observations about changes in the publishing industry.

Will Weaver is a serious writer of literary fiction. As a writer of entertainment fiction, my work is substantially different. Yet, I've always considered Will one of my major influences. I still hear his sage advice, I still remember his helpful critique, and I still value his early support of my writing.

My hat's off to Will, a great novelist as well as a great writing teacher.

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