Simon Van Booy and the writer’s nine eyes

Simon Van Booy read excerpts from two of his works as well as a poem by Wilfred Owen and a few pages from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist on Nov. 11. Photo by Codi Gugliuzza for The Writers' Bloc.

By Colby Smith

Staff Writer

“I think a writer is like a spider,” author Simon Van Booy said Friday during his reading at a TerPoets event at the Hoff Theater. “Spiders have nine eyes, and writers are like spiders in that they can sense extra things.”

The British author was the featured speaker and read for about one hour.

Three other student writers opened the event. Junior Ryan Clarke read his poem “Portrait of the Artist at the Back of the Classroom,” and Mary Lynn Reed, an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Maryland, read an excerpt from the novel she is working on. Senior Brendan Edward Kennedy also read four of his poems, including one about his older sister, Lauren, who is mentally disabled.

Van Booy complimented the student readers.

“I really enjoyed that,” he said. “I heard some lines I might steal.”

Van Booy began by reading Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est.”

“To be honest, I don’t understand a lot of poems,” Van Booy admitted. “But I like hearing them.”

He also read an excerpt from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

“Many of Dickens’ characters are more real to me than my own family members,” Van Booy said. “Hopefully, they’ll never know I said that.”

Van Booy included both works in the book Why We Fight, one of three books on philosophy he created by including various poems and excerpts of fiction.

He also read his own work, including his short story “Little Birds,” about a teenaged orphan living in Paris, who was taken in by a man named Michele. He also read a selection from his recent novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, the second half of which was written in second person.

“I was very interested in the idea of you,” Van Booy said. “It’s very accusatory, isn’t it?”

Van Booy said he needed to keep experimenting, so he tried using second person in the novel. He said he still hasn’t figured it out.

“Hopefully, it works,” he said.

The evening concluded with a brief question and answer session. One student asked if Van Booy could see influences from other writers in his work. He replied by explaining the need for inspiration over influence.

“It’s important to stay inspired,” he said. “When you’re inspired as a writer, you feel like you can write anything.”

Van Booy also lead a discussion with 17 students on Saturday morning in Tawes Hall. He focused on coming up with story ideas, forming characters and finding your own tone.

Find out more about Van Booy at simonvanbooy.com.

View more photos of Simon Van Booy at TerPoets here.

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