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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Author Debra Monroe: Talking about 'normal'

Nov. 10: Good Thunder Reading Series

The mechanics and emotion of writing will highlight the theme of the next installment in the Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State Mankato, when author Debra Monroe comes to visit Thursday.

2011-11-11
By Adam Pulchinski, Free Press Correspondent [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 11/2/2011]

The mechanics and emotion of writing will highlight the theme of the next installment in the Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State Mankato, when author Debra Monroe comes to visit Thursday.

Monroe is the author of four fiction books and one memoir, “On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain.” The memoir is named as one of Best Ten of 2010 by Barnes & Noble Review.

On some level, Monroe said she’s always written about family and how family can make you feel like you belong or don’t. It was a feeling of not belonging that inspired the memoir. Monroe, originally from Spooner, Wis., lives and teaches in Texas, where a single woman with a career felt rare.

The feeling of being on the outskirts is the emotional conflict of Monroe’s memoir. While the memoir is a slice of her life, Monroe said she had to apply the same principles as writing any other book. Whether writing a memoir or working on fiction, the central conflict should get more interesting and more intense as the book gets longer. Both require a writer to select and omit details to make a story.

One thing Minnesota State Mankato students and other audience members might take away from Monroe’s Good Thunder visit is that process of selection, whether by the author or those who are editing and publishing a book. She likened the process to an actor auditioning; it can be a simple crap shoot of the mood of the person who is reading it and when.

One piece of advice she does offer is to not take all revision suggestions to the letter. The trick is to learn to rewrite the work to say what needs to be said, but so the same criticisms can’t be made again. Once through the process of getting work published, and moving on to the next project, Monroe said it gets to the point where it’s in the past.

The other works from Monroe’s past include two collections of stories, “The Source of Trouble” and “A Wild, Cold State,” and two novels, “Newfangled” and “Shambles.” They have been widely reviewed and won many awards, including The Flannery O’Connor Award, an annual prize for short fiction awarded by the University of Georgia Press.

  • What: Good Thunder Reading Series presents author Debra Monroe
  • When: Thursday, Nov. 10. Talk on craft, 3 p.m., Ostrander Auditorium; reading, 7:30 p.m., CSU Room 284, Minnesota State Mankato.
  • Admission: Free and open to the public

For the complete Free Press story, see the Nov. 3 print edition, or go to the e-edition at http://mankatofreepress.mn.newsmemory.com/.

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