The Common Read program at Sierra Nevada College featured Tobias Wolff’s “Old School,” as its fall novel, culminating in an evening with the writer and a workshop the following day.
Tobias Wolff speaks at the first of this year’s Writers in the Woods series.
At 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6, in the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, Tobias Wolff presented his work as the first author of the year for Sierra Nevada College’s Writers in the Woods series.
Over 110 students, faculty and community members attended, with several seats being added right up to when English Program Chair June Saraceno took to the microphone to introduce the author.
Saraceno began by listing Wolff’s accolades, which include his novella, The Barracks Thief winning the Pen-Faulkner award for fiction; the Story Prize and three O. Henry Awards for his short fiction; his memoir, This Boy’s Life, which was later adapted into a film, winning the L.A. Times Book Prize; his memoir, In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War, a National Book Award finalist; a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, where he later returned as a professor and continues to teach in the Creative Writing program.
An audience member looks over future Writers in the Woods participants.
In spite of the plethora of prestigious awards, Senior Business Major Andrew Casey said, “he seemed to be humbled and willing to talk on a personal level, rather than someone who’s better than themselves, which always makes for a better presentation.”
Wolff spoke mostly about his personal influences as a writer, spouting off names such as Ernest Hemingway, Jack London and Ayn Rand to name a few.
“At some moment in your life you fall in love with books to the extent, as I did, that you’re stuffing towels under your door at night to keep the light from leaking out at two in the morning, so your folks don’t know you’re reading so late, and you store up extra batteries for your flashlight,” said Wolff on his love for reading at an early age, citing that every author must first be an avid reader to succeed.
“Tobias Wolff’s presentation gave the audience a rare chance to look inside the creative process of a writer at work,” said Saraceno. “He was a captivating speaker, making him an ideal opener for the Writers in the Woods series.”
Like the reading, the morning workshop on Saturday, Sept. 7, in TCES was also highly attended with 26 participants. Of those in attendance, 11 were students and six were faculty members.
Junior Chris Muravez, who attended both the reading and the workshop, was especially excited about Wolff’s presence on campus.
“Both the evening event and the workshop the following day were exceptional,” said Muravez. “Having one of the living storytellers come to our school and not only give us inspiration and insight, but also praise the work that students in our undergraduate programs do, was truly outstanding. Without trying to sound conceited, he gave me kudos at my own work during the workshop. Praise like that from someone so esteemed renewed my drive as not just a student, but as a writer as well.”