By Shannah Cotton, Editor
Published fiction writer Adelle Waldman and nonfiction writer Evan Hughes gave a reading and answered questions on the writing life as english invested people, in an afternoon event titled, “Literature for a Living,” that was held in the Landing on January 30th, 2014 at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF).
Waldman’s first published novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., follows the life of New York writer Nate Piven and was published when she was 37. “I wanted to fuse elements of a 19th century novel into a very contemporary story with contemporary language,” said Waldman on her influences when writing the novel.
Hughes nonfiction book is called Literary Brooklyn and is a hybrid of an urban history literary biography through writers. His book tells the history of the place and it’s growth as a writing community.
“I was surprised that this book didn’t exist already,” said Hughes, who went on to write it himself, as a writer who had experience with reading Brooklyn literature.
Waldman admitted that, “You don’t need an MFA to get published,” a phrase that resulted in murmurs of agreement and interest throughout the room.
In honor of the 150th anniversary of UMF, President Kathryn Foster requested that several departments create forums on their specific disciplines to celebrate them as a community and university.
Kristen Case, an English professor at UMF, who organized the Why English event, along with co-organizer Eric Brown. “We wanted to have some contemporary writers to showcase our interest as a department in literature that is being produced right now,” said Case. Hughes knew Case from childhood and Hughes happens to be married to Waldman. “I like literature because it’s fundamentally who I am and there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Waldman.
Although the overall forum was based on a questioning and display of the reasons behind choosing an english undergraduate degree, Waldman and Hughes weren’t English majors.
“Neither of us did a major that logically leads to a career. But your education isn’t just a step to your career, it’s about learning how to think and learning what it is to be human. That’s what literature is about. And also learning to being committed to learning for the rest of your life,” said Hughes.
Gia Pilgrim is a UMF student who recently switched from a Secondary English Education major to English with a minor in Spanish. “I enjoyed being able to ask them questions and hear them answer to the publishing process, their inspiration for writing, and seeing them interact in person,” said Pilgrim in a recent online interview.
After college, where Waldman majored in history, she moved to NYC to work as a waitress with the hopes of writing a novel. This didn’t work for her so she quit both attempts and started financial journalism as well as freelance writing. “It would be many more years before I was able to write a novel,” said Waldman.
At that point she went back to school to get an Masters in Journalism while tutoring high school students. At 29 Waldman decided to write a novel, which did not end up getting published. “I credit Evan for being the one at a certain point to be like ‘you know it’s too bad your book didn’t get published, but you’ve gotta get over it and start a new one’. That was huge for me,” said Waldman.
Hughes didn’t know he wanted to write in college; he was a philosophy major with an interest in film. After college he became an intern assistant for the New York Review of Books. While writing his nonfiction book Hughes worked as a magazine copywriter and editor as a side job.
“She always sees everything I do before I turn it in,” said Hughes. Both Waldman and Hughes agreed that they sometimes get into tiffs over each other’s writing opinions. “But I think the reason we have the tiffs is because we take it seriously. It hits close to home when she says something because I know it’s a close reading,” said Hughes.
While writing the second novel Waldman worked as an SAT tutor, which allowed her to focus all her writing skills on that one project. It took her five years instead of the five months the failed novel had taken her to write. “It took me a long time to read my book more objectively,” said Waldman.