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Author encourages young writers at PSU

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PITTSBURG, Kan. — Writer and former Pittsburg State University gallery director S. Portico Bowman visited PSU once again to read from her debut novel, “Cashmere Comes from Goats,” on Monday evening, as well as to talk to students during writing classes on Tuesday. 

The reading, sponsored by the PSU Distinguished Visiting Writers Series and the Student Fee Council, took place in the Governors Room of the Overman Student Center and was open to the public. Bowman read from her novel “Cashmere Comes from Goats” and discussed how she fell into writing. 

Bowman then spent Tuesday visiting Dr. Chris Anderson’s Intro to Creative Writing class, during which she spoke about using metaphors, as well as Dr. Chase Dearinger’s Fiction Writing and Editing I class, during which she gave examples of her process of focusing her stories and gave advice to students aspiring to be writers.  

“Real life is nothing like here,” Bowman said in the Fiction Writing and Editing I class. “The protections and the kibble that we get from doing and receiving grades and then the careful monitoring from one step to the other, never happens when you leave this place.” 

She encouraged students to absorb their time in school and listen to their professors. 

“You all are so brave and so courageous as writers,” Bowman said. “And we are polar bears on the ice flow. The ice flow is shrinking. There are very few safe places for us to be. We are an endangered species, and know that. Save the writers and the whales!” 

Bowman read a few excerpts from the book “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott, which gives abstract and emotional advice about writing, especially when writing drafts of stories or novels. 

She also told students to strive to obtain jobs where they could carve out time to write, but that will still make money, because, unfortunately, making money is necessary. 

Bowman said she wrote an awful first draft of her debut novel, but at least she got it down onto paper. Her feedback from a publishing company said it wasn’t an actual book, and it was just a bunch of pages, but that she had a strong, unique voice. So, she kept going.  

Part of Bowman’s process was outlining each chapter of her book on huge pieces of newsprint. She said one of the most important parts of writing is to figure out what you are truly writing about and be able to articulate it.  

One of the students in Dr. Dearinger’s Fiction Writing and Editing I class, Allie Zornes, said she appreciated Bowman talking about the harsh realities of being a writer.  

“It’s absolutely true,” she said. “Coming to college and getting my first baby steps of workshop was hard to choke down. So it was nice to hear her talking about that and how you’ve got to get ready for that in the future.” 

Another of Dr. Dearinger’s students, Lilliana Black, said she liked that Bowman talked about the different drafts like the “down draft,” which is when the writer just needs to get it down on paper, and the “up draft,” which is when the writer fixes up the draft.  

Overall, Bowman said she wanted to encourage students to take risks and plunge into writing.  

“Risk taking is elemental to your future,” Bowman said. “The only way you will gain confidence is by taking risks and feeling the fear. […] It’s very hard to write about overcoming fear if you’ve never overcome fear.” 

Bowman will also be visiting Pittsburg’s local bookstore, Books and Burrow at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5 to discuss her book “Cashmere Comes from Goats” for the store’s monthly book club discussion. The author will be answering questions as well as reading excerpts from her book. Light refreshments will be provided, and attendees will be entered into a drawing for a door prize. The book club is open to all adult readers, and it is free and open to the public.  

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