Painting a Story: The Writing Process of Salvatore Scibona

Salvatore Scibona reads "The Kid", recently published in The New Yorker. Photo by Codi Gugliuzza for The Writers' Bloc.

By Molly Morris

Staff Writer

Salvatore Scibona recalled his beginnings as a writer at the age of 15 to students and professors Wednesday.

“I had just finished reading a John Irving novel for five straight hours,” he said. “Which was five times longer than anytime I’d ever read before.”

While taking a break from reading, Scibona went to the kitchen, where he dove into his avocado-colored refrigerator and got a glass of water.

“After a few seconds I paused and realized I had been narrating each of my actions,” Scibona said. “I looked around the room and noticed that every object I saw had a word attached to it.”

Now, Scibona is an established author, with a Guggenheim Fellowship and finalist title for a National Book Award.

Scibona and poet Patricia Smith read from their works for the Writer’s Here and Now series in Ulrich Recital Hall, located in Tawes Hall.

Scibona, one of the authors in The New Yorker’s 2010 “Fiction Writers to Watch: 20 under 40,” read his recently published The New Yorker short story “The Kid.”

The story takes off from a true event in Scibona’s life. He encountered a crying young boy in a German airport who was alone and speaking a language no one could understand. Scibona watched the boy and flight attendants disappear behind closed doors and never saw him again. In his story, Scibona tries to imagine and create the boy’s life before he got lost in an airport and how he became lost.

“This story is my attempt to finish that experience.”

Scibona read the entire story to a full room of undergraduate and graduate students, some of whom were scattered across the back of the hall, the stairs, and even the stage.  His slow, pressing drawl stood in comparison to the loud, rambunctious reading of Patricia Smith.

Scibona answered Writers’ House students’ questions before the reading in the Dorchester Hall basement classroom.

“I try to avoid the Baltimore area,” the Cleveland native said. “I never come near the Ravens nation after what you did to my people.”

Scibona had come a long way from his beginnings in Cleveland.

“Until college, I had never seen a grown man reading a book outside of church or school,” he said. “I wanted to read, but the television was always on.”

But after his incident with the John Irving novel and the avocado-colored refrigerator’s water dispenser, Scibona said he realized this was the start of something he would never stop doing.

“I thought, man, this is what I want to do with my life.”

View more photos from Writers’ Here and Now here.

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