Writers in the Woods: Lidia Yuknavitch

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Writer Lidia Yuknavitch lives her life in the open, sharing the full range of her experiences through her work.

Lidia Yuknavitch

She spoke to Sierra Nevada College students and community members at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, in Prim Library at the Writers in The Woods event. Writers in the Woods bring successful authors, poets and novelists from all over the world to discuss and to read their work, and to help writers.

“Lidia is an award-winning, best-selling author whose books have had profound effects on readers, and generated significant critical acclaim. She is a courageous, unconventional writer and human. I respect and admire her work enormously,” said June Saraceno, English program chair and humanities professor. She coordinates the annual writers series.

Yuknavitch’s work includes two bestselling novels: The Small Backs of Children and The Book of Joan. She won the 2016 Oregon Books Award Reader’s Choice and Ken Kesey Award for Fiction. Other books she has written include: The Misfits Manifesto, The Chronology of Water, and Dora: A Headcase.

Yuknavitch shared short stories about her personal experience of violence, connecting them with the theme of water. She writes about the spirit of water from personal experience. When she was a child, her Lithuanian grandmother told her a folktale about the water spirit Laume. The way Lidia connects to her readers through her writing, allows the readers to feel connected to the story and feel like they have a support system.

“I loved how passionate she was about her work and the emotion that came through,” said SNC sophomore Nikki Sardell. “The way Lidia talked about the short stories being the makeup of our lives was an interesting concept. That we are just a collection of fragments from experiences and stories. It is a really cool way to look at life.”

Yuknavitch recently gave a TED Talk referencing her book, The Beauty of Being a Misfit.

“Her words during her presentation are full of inspiration, and not in a bland ‘Go get ‘em, kid’ kind of way,” Saraceno said. “She has dealt with real adversity, with extreme trauma, including the stillborn death of her first child, a daughter. She is evidence we can rise from our own ashes. When you talk to Lidia, you feel with certainty that she is rooting for you. She wants you to survive and thrive.”

For college students and aspiring writers, this event provides a writing workshop with the speaker the next day, where
attendees are able to share and improve their writing skills.

“Workshopping with people is a great opportunity because everyone approaches writing differently,” Sardell said. “Hearing about others’ process helps me finds new ways of approaching the stuff I am working on.”

Yuknavitch has not only impacted the lives of her target audience, but she has prompted the students at SNC to persevere and to ignore self-doubt.

“After the reading I told her I had previously been feeling stuck in my writing, and she looked at me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Don’t Be. The world needs you,’” SNC sophomore Lauren Rose stated. “Lidia’s ability to share her wisdom through the uses of short stories is remarkable. The students were able to get a sense of her genuine personality, and feel comfortable enough to share their own writing experiences.”

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