ABR author provides fresh perspective about writing process

Aug. 18, 2016 at midnight

Peter Turchi

Peter Turchi   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Peter Turchi intended to write an essay about writing as the strategic arrangement of information from the largest level - plot and structure - to the smallest level - the arrangement of words in a sentence.

However, getting around to writing the essay wasn't happening - at first.

"While I procrastinated, I solved a lot of puzzles and felt guilty about wasting my time," Turchi said. "But, of course, puzzles are strategic arrangements of information, and I'm almost always thinking about writing, so it all came together."

The end result was the New York Times bestseller "A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic."

Turchi is the first author in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Fall Reading Series. He will talk at noon Sept. 1 in the UHV University West Alcorn Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. The event is free and open to the public.

In "A Muse and a Maze," Turchi draws out the similarities between writing and puzzle making and its flip side, puzzle solving. As he teases how mystery lies at the heart of all storytelling, he uncovers the magic - the creation of credible illusion - that writers share with the likes of Houdini and master magicians.

The book is a follow-up to "Maps of the Imagination," in which Turchi uses maps as a writing metaphor. He compares the way a writer leads a reader through the imaginary world of a story, novel or poem to the way a mapmaker charts the physical world. At his UHV reading, Turchi will give an illustrated talk based on "Maps of the Imagination" called "The Virtues of Getting Lost."

"These two books on writing aren't meant to tell anyone how anything is supposed to be done; my goal was to provide a new angle of approach, a fresh perspective, a different way to think about some of the things writers think about," Turchi said.

Turchi, a professor in the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, said "A Muse and A Maze" was written for writers and people interested in writing. During previous readings, audience members have asked Turchi if writing these books has changed the way that he writes fiction.

"They've certainly changed the way I think about fiction," he said. "I wrote both books to try to understand things that interested me. I'm inclined to make comparisons, to think in metaphors, so both books compare writing to other activities."

While he's no expert puzzle solver, Turchi said he is intrigued by puzzles.

"On one hand, there's a relationship between solving the New York Times Sunday crossword and trying to coordinate my mother's transition from a hospital in Baltimore to living with us here in Houston: in each case, the goal is clear, but there are numerous challenges along the way," he said. "On the other hand, crossword puzzles are a piece of cake compared to the life puzzles most of us face, so they can be oddly comforting. Your solution to the Sudoku is either right or wrong; there's no mystery about it. Life is seldom so clear."

Turchi has written six books of fiction and nonfiction and co-edited three anthologies for writers. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship and has served as director of the Master of Fine Arts in writing programs at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., and Arizona State University in Tempe.

"Mr. Turchi's reading will be a fascinating way to kick off our 11th year of the reading series," said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences and ABR editor and publisher. "He has a gift for finding connections between writing and everyday life. He'll be of particular interest to authors, puzzle solvers and anyone who wants to peel back the curtain on the methods of writing."

ABR is published six times a year. It began in 1977, moved to UHV in 2007 and has a circulation of about 8,000. The journal specializes in reviews of works published by small presses.

For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call the ABR office at 361-570-4101 or go to americanbookreview.org.



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