|Ed McClanahan holds court with Governors Scholars
RELEASED: July 14, 2005
In a course that encourages participants to generate, share, and discuss individual work, Foshee asks that students spend a few minutes each day completing the three "laps," or writing prompts, that he provides. Students later have the option to develop the more striking or absorbing of their initial scribbles into longer, more polished works. And when the laps have gotten students into a literary frame of mind, they spend the rest of their class time getting acquainted with Kentucky writers, both in print and in person.
"Five hundred years ago and five thousand miles away," Foshee says, referring to the tendency of English instructors to study Shakespeare or Milton while overlooking local contemporary authors. "Nobody believes it's right in their own backyard." A retired English teacher, Foshee's goal is to spread knowledge of Kentucky's fiction writers and poets to all of the students in Kentucky. Foshee believes that the discovery of this underappreciated body of work should empower young creative writers. "When they see it's here, they know they can do it."
In bringing a number of celebrated Commonwealth authors right into the classroom, Foshee gives his students an opportunity put a face and voice to the words on the page. His students are anticipating visits from poets Tony Crunk and Frank X. Walker, and recently had the chance to talk with and hear a reading by Ed McClanahan, author of The Natural Man and Famous People I Have Known.
McClanahan, who says he writes to give readings, was just as enthusiastic about reading for the students. He explained that writing for print publication, even with big-name magazines such as Esquire or Rolling Stone, is less satisfying to him because it can be "like dropping a story down a well." Giving readings, in contrast, gives McClanahan the technical benefit of hearing the flow and rhythm of sentences read aloud, as well as the opportunity to see an audience moved by his work.
Between readings, McClanahan allowed students to comment on his work or ask questions. Discussion topics ranged from details of his own writing process and career, to the development of a particular phrase, to specifics about the editing and publishing process. "Writing a novel is like trying to push a Cadillac uphill with a rope. It resists you at every turn," McClanahan warns students. Having spent 21 years on his first novel, The Natural Man, he is a natural advocate for perseverance.
Visiting Centre was a familiar experience for McClanahan, whose letters are housed in the college's Grace Dougherty Library. McClanahan has spoken to several classes on campus in the past, and his children, Caitlin '87 and Jess '89, are alums of the college.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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