—story by Emily Dressing
Saunders’ entry into nonfiction occurred when GQ asked him to travel and write about it for the magazine. Though he wasn’t sure about the work, he wanted the “Dad points” that he would earn with his daughter, who was in favor of the idea. The nonfiction excerpts he read were those that initially appeared in the magazine—pieces about visiting Dubai, driving the Mexican border, and spending time in a tent city in Fresno. Some of this work has been collected in Saunders’ book of essays, The Braindead Megaphone, which has received critical acclaim and landed him spots on The Charlie Rose Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Colbert Report.
After reading, Saunders responded to questions from the audience, offering details about his appearances on television, his work with editors, and his ideas about both fiction and nonfiction. The full house in attendance listened intently, laughed enthusiastically, and left the reading with an understanding of the challenges and rewards of undertaking nonfiction projects.
When asked what he seeks to bring to the page, Saunders responded that he tries to offer readers a human presence that they can "lean into" when reading, letting readers sense someone there on the other end. Saunders explained that as he has written more and more he has come to believe that this presence is ultimately what is most important in all kinds of writing. "I think there is value in that, whether it is fiction or nonfiction."
Green Tea and Advice
—story by Samantha Paige Stark
Four wide-eyed and curious women, including myself, sat down to dinner with George Saunders at Panda West following his book reading. I had a million questions swirling through my head and a belly rumbling for some rice.
As we began chatting, the questions started flowing. I waited my turn as the eager freshman beat me to the punch, asking questions about his travels and experiences. Finally, it was my turn and I jumped on the break in the conversation to ask Saunders how he ended up becoming a renowned author. He explained how he had always had this passion for fiction and would write all the time, on his own, as a child and young adult. However, when he and his wife met, got married, and had children at seemingly lightning speed, he put his dreams of becoming an author on hold in order to adequately support his family by becoming a professor.
He went on to explain how with enough practice, determination, and will, you will be on your way to being published. I thanked him for his advice in addition to a wonderful evening, and as we all energetically and meticulously picked our fortune cookies, I ended our talk by asking how he felt about the bloggers of today and if he felt that blogging would kill the professional writing world. Saunders smiled and responded with a distinct "no—everyone can write but not everyone can be read.” His almost Mona Lisa smile suggested he did not wish to discuss this matter any further. I respected both his opinion and his swift response and cracked my cookie in the silence. The cookie crumbled and out came the tiny white paper with five powerful, small, words. As my eyes scanned the text I knew it was the perfect way to end a perfect evening: "You have a bright future.” With that I put my trusty pen and paper in my bag, shook Saunders' hand, said goodbye to the others, and exited the restaurant into the pouring rain of Marshall Street.
Copyright © 2010 Syracuse University. All rights reserved.