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Author relates puzzles, mystery, magic to writing process

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Sept. 1, 2016 at 10:45 p.m.
Updated Sept. 2, 2016 at 6 a.m.

Peter Turchi

Peter Turchi   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Peter Turchi provided students with a fresh perspective on the writing process as the first presenter in the University of Houston Victoria/American Book Review Reading Series.

Turchi gave an illustrated talk based on "Maps of the Imagination" called "The Virtues of Getting Lost" and read paragraphs from his work.

Turchi said he does not have a favorite of the six books he has written.

"They all represent different things to me and I've tried to explore a lot of different interests," Turchi said.

His most recent work, "A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic," grew from lectures he's given at Warren Wilson College.

"I was interested in the idea of the strategic arrangement of information in any kind of writing," Turchi said.

When addressing the subject, Turchi realized one metaphor applied to the different ideas: the notion of puzzles.

Puzzles are arrangements of information designed to lead to a solution eventually but mislead the puzzle solver to some extent.

"There isn't an answer or solution to most good poetry and fiction," he said. "Instead, it leaves something for the reader to consider. That is why it is puzzle, mystery and magic."

Magic is rational on some level, but at the same time it seems transcendent, which can be seen in artistic writing, Turchi said.

"On one hand, we can understand how it's made, and on the other, it transcends our own understanding and has an emotional effect on us."

'A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic' made the New York Times bestseller for games and puzzles, which is interesting because it's not a book of that nature, he said.

One challenge he said he had was clarifying his metaphor to himself and readers and approaching the subject in individual essays.

"I like those books about writing to be fun, and 'Maps of the Imagination' is filled with images of maps and some discussion of Looney Tunes and other things," he said.

He knew he wanted to have actual puzzles in the book.

"I talked with puzzle composers and people at OnTRACK at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center and tried to see what those kinds of people are thinking about," he said. "A lot of the issues for writers of narrative and game designers and puzzle makers overlap in interesting ways."

He said his current project will either be a novel or collection of stories.

"They are all stories told in the first person by a man more or less recounting a history of his family life," he said. "It is an interesting narrator, so we will see where that goes."

St. Joseph High School Junior Kelsey Ellett, 16, was among attendees Thursday.

"I enjoyed the new perspective he brought to the writing process using maps and cartography," Kelsey said.


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