Monday, April 2, 2012

Author Stephen Elliott Visits Bloomsburg University

The following was written by Stasi Golembiewski, a sophomore Psychology major with a minor in Creative Writing. 

Acclaimed author Stephen Elliott recently visited Bloomsburg University. Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the award winning novel Happy Baby and the widely acclaimed memoir The Adderall Diaries. In addition, Elliott is a film director, and he founded and edits the cultural and literary website The Rumpus. He came to campus on March 27 and 28.

Elliott’s visit kicked off with a small screening of his new movie, Cherry, which he directed and co-wrote. The audience, which consisted mainly of students from upper-level creative writing nonfiction and seminar classes, was surprised by the announcement that only about one hundred people in the US have seen the movie so far. The film stars James Franco, Heather Graham, Dev Patel, Lily Taylor, and newcomer Ashley Hinshaw. It debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in Germany last month and will have its US premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival later this month. Elliott told the audience that IFC Films recently picked up the North American distribution rights for the movie.

After the screening Elliott, a few professors and I headed to Marley’s downtown for a late dinner. Elliott’s humanity is startling considering his fame. He was soft spoken and listened intently to what everyone had to say. He jotted down a few thoughts to remember. He twitched every so often. He ordered soda water and ate someone’s left over mozzarella sticks. The only real difference between him and anyone else at the table was his collection of awards and, perhaps, his persistence.

Wednesday’s events began with an afternoon talk held in Kehr Union, focusing on writing in the new media. Around fifty wide-eyed students and professors sat in an intimate setting and listened to Elliott reveal the secrets to his success. His main point was that the current media world is fractured. Having a fractured media was beneficial, he said, because authors now had many different forms to write in and could really own how their words could be delivered. To explain, he told the audience that “where once everyone used to read a book together, now there is a smaller audience, but it's more intimate and more specialized.”

At 7 that evening, Elliott read from The Adderall Diaries in 1303 McCormick. He broke his reading into sections, with short questions and answer sessions between each reading. The audience sat in silence as the soft-spoken Elliott read his memoir, and aspiring writers asked questions about his writing. What made the reading special was the content of his book. The feeling of excitement was palpable among the member of the audience, most never having been this close to someone as acclaimed and involved in big media as Elliott.

There was another dinner following the reading, where eight students and three professors repaired to Rose Marie’s to talk with Elliott in a more intimate setting. He offered advice to a student who was struggling with her writing. The student knew that her experiences in the world would make good content for a memoir, but she was aware of the personal nature of her experiences. Elliott’s advice was to write what she knew would make a good piece, regardless that it was not the most polite of topics. When the evening ended, everyone paid for their meal, the students got their copies of The Adderall Diaries signed, and I watched Stephen Elliott drive away in the back seat of a small, black car.

Special thanks must be given to Professor Jerry Wemple, Dr. Claire Lawrence and the College of Liberal Arts for orchestrating such a memorable event.

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