DePauw assistant professor to speak at library tomorrow

Monday, May 2, 2011

This Tuesday, the Putnam County Library will host a DePauw associate professor as a part of its "Conversation with the Author" series.

Greg Schwipps, who teaches creative writing, will be at the library at 7 p.m. to discuss his first novel "What This River Keeps." Schwipps said there is an element of improvisation to his talk.

"I always say that I don't know what I'm going to say until it comes out," Schwipps said. "I try to talk about the book but I also talk about the process.

"Usually you have people in the audience who are interested in writing or writers themselves. A lot of times they're curious about the act of writing a book or the editing process or publication process," he said.

Schwipps said he would read a short passage from his book and then take questions from the audience. He said that allows him to tailor the conversation to his audience.

"I'm never sure exactly who is going to show," he said.

Schwipps' first novel won the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award for Emerging Author. "What This River Keeps" is set in southern Indiana and deals with an elderly couple that fears their farm will be taken from them or the river near it will be dammed. Schwipps said he drew on his childhood in Milan for the story.

"Those are the stories that I know how to tell because those are the details that I've lived," he said. "I tell my students that when you write something you know well, you should include the details that you've earned because other peoples haven't earned those details so they can't write that story the way you can."

Schwipps said part of the reason he wanted to write this novel was the ability to write rural characters without resorting to stereotypes.

"These are rural people in this book and they're sometimes doing dumb things or things we think they shouldn't do, and we're all guilty of that," he said. "I want to tell that story with some kind of respect, in any small way I could."

Schwipps said the experience of writing a full novel was "long and challenging." He called the process of writing a novel a leap of faith.

"You're working without sharing your work and you only have your own belief that this story is worth telling. I just worked for about six years," Schwipps said. "I was working that long on a project that I really didn't know if it was worth the paper it was printed on."

Schwipps said he would work primarily in the summers while he wasn't teaching. He developed a way of writing that let him know he was making progress.

"A technique that would work for me is to try and write one chapter every day, writing mostly in the morning. Then at the end of that chapter I would print it. I would see a stack of pages accumulating. I knew progress was being made," he said.

In addition to teaching at DePauw, Schwipps also attended the school for his undergraduate degree, before going to Southern Illinois University for his master's. He lives in Morgan County with his wife and two dogs on 10 acres of woods.

The talk will be followed by a book signing and reception, with copies of the book available.

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