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American Book Review series kicks off with creative writing guru

By APRILL BRANDON
Aug. 30, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.


From "Love Warps the Mind a Little" by John DufresneLove is anticipation and memory, uncertainty and longing. It's unreasonable, of course. Nothing begins with so much excitement and hope and pleasure as love, except maybe writing a story. And nothing fails as often, except writing stories. And like a story, love must be troubled to be interesting. We crave love, can't live without its intimacy, though it pains us. Judi told me that every person in therapy has a love disorder: never felt love, can't find love, trapped by love, unraveled by love, thinks love is lust or love is lost, fears love, loves too much, uses love for profit, jealous in love, lost in love, love affairs, unrequited love, love sick, doesn't love Mom, won't love Dad, can't love the kids, can't love the self, hopeless love, self-absorbed love, love as a crutch, love as a truncheon, love in ruins, crazy love, love that eats the heart, careless love, drowning in love, love that dares not speak its name, blind love, consuming love, obsessive love, conditional love, dangerous love, first love, last love, fickle love, love an marriage, love lost, secret love, love on the run, love that hates, dutiful love, borrowed love, thief of love, love in embers, love in vain, love in shackles, love maligned, love that warps the mind a little.

And the man who would love all women couldn't seem to the women in his life. At least not adequately. If Proust was right, if the only paradise is the lost one, then perhaps the only love is lost love. If love means compassion and concern for another, if it means easy intimacy, comfort security, and grace, then I was once in love with Martha. But if it means desire over time, if love abides, then I was not.

When we were courting early on, I could not be distracted from Martha. I often felt as if my head and my heart were carried away. My whole body felt lifted from the ground, and so I would ask her to hold me. I spoke her name when I was alone. I looked for her in everything, and found her. Ours was a courtly love, an attempt to prolong the passion, the aching uncertainty, to maintain the romance. This was love you read about in fairy tales. Young love, timeless love. Immutable and true. And so it was a lie. Romance turns out to be a shallow sea. Romantic love like ours is meat to the teeth of time.

Upcoming American Book Review speakers:Sept. 23 - Diana Lopez, Corpus Christi native and author of pre-teen novel "Confetti Girl"

Oct. 21 - Amelia Gray, whose book, "Museum of the Weird," is being released in September by Fiction Collective Two based at the University of Houston-Victoria

Nov. 4 - Ann Weisgarber, author of "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree"

Dec. 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller, literary activist and author of "In Search of Color Everywhere"

If you Go:What: American Book Review

Who: John Dufresne

When: Noon, Thursday

Where: Alcorn Auditorium on the University of Houston-Victoria campus, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

Admission: Free

As the fifth year for the American Book Review reading series gets under way, prolific author and creative writing guru John Dufresne will kick things off Thursday with a talk about how he got into writing.

Dufresne, who also teaches the Master of Fine Arts program at Florida International University in Miami, is the author of many books, including the short story collection "The Way That Water Enters Stone" and novels "Louisiana Power & Light," "Love Warps the Mind a Little" and "Requiem, Mass." He's also written two writers' guides: "The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction" and "Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months."

"Writing is something I was always good at. As a kid, I couldn't do much else," DuFresne said. "I started out as a social worker, but I think I became a writer because I was an avid reader. I always kept writing and kept working toward my career. I wrote about the world I was living in and decided I would be happier writing than I was at my current job."

Although he's happier, he's also much busier, he added. Although teaching writing is a good job if your writer, it does take time away from his own work.

"Sometimes I think 'man, I could be writing right now.' But I have two jobs and I have to do both. And I love doing both," he said. "To make time, I just don't watch as much TV and avoid parties."

As for what advice Dufresne would give other aspiring writers, the key is simple.

"You need to write continuously every day. Write until your fingers bleed," he said. "And read all the time. Always be reading and writing and learn to finish what you start."

Once you do finish, then it's all about revision, he added.

"There are 1,000 steps to getting a story done. You just have to keep at it," he said.

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