Robin black

“We’re all beginners every time we look at another blank page,” said author Robin Black to a crowd of faculty, students and fans during her visit on the evening of Sept. 18 in the JPL.

Black’s visit was part of the UTSA Creative Writing Reading Series, a public event created by the Creative Writing Program that features various international authors throughout the school year that read their own works.

Many of Black’s works have received praise from publications such as Vogue, People, O: Magazine, and The Guardian. Published works include her novel “Life Drawing” released earlier this year, and articles in The New York Times, New York Times Magazine and The Chicago Tribune.

Black read an excerpt of “Harriet Elliot” from her short story collection, “If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This,” an O: Magazine Summer Reading Pick and finalist for the Frank O’ Connor International Short Story Prize.

Black followed with a short essay titled “Varieties of Fiction” from her upcoming collection of essays to be released in 2016, “CRASH COURSE: 52 Essays From Where Writing & Life Collide.”

The crowd of 40-plus sat in silence during the readings, but were lively in response to Black’s sharp wit and warm candor. Black was happy to answer questions and offer advice to students.

When one audience member asked if she inserts herself into her fiction writing, Black explained, “If you read my books, you will know everything about me, but you will not know what I have done in my life. When it’s fiction, it’s fiction.”

Showcasing fiction was more personal for Black than presenting her creative non-fiction. “With fiction, it’s like showing people your dreams.”

Black recounted the best advice she received as a young writer: what works for one writer will not work exactly the same for another writer. “There’s this notion of ‘You must get up at 5 a.m., and then pour a cup of coffee on your feet and then type with your toes because that’s how they wrote their book,’” Black laughed. “And the thing is, that’s not how you’re going to write your book.”

“The ones to listen to are the ones who like your work,” Black explained, “because they’re really the ones who know how to help you the most.”

Black turns to books for inspiration when dealing with writer’s block. “The imaginative act of being a reader kicks in the imaginative act of being a writer,” Black explains.

Filtering out “at least 80 percent” of what she writes, Black attests that “you cannot write the good stuff unless you write the bad stuff.”

The Creative Writing Program will be hosting the second installment of this year’s Creative Writing Reading Series on October 16, featuring UTSA faculty giving readings of their original works.

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