Nonfiction author Toby Thompson spoke last night in Foster Auditorium, as part of the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series through the English department’s creative writing program.
Thompson, an associate professor of English, has written four nonfiction books, including a look into the life of Bob Dylan called “Positively Main Street.” This “part biography, part memoir,” as Thompson describes it, has been highly acclaimed and is said to be one of the first in-depth and personal accounts of the singer-songwriter’s life.
Thompson’s latest book, “Riding the Rough String: Reflections on the American West,” is a collection of his essays, profiles and meditations compiled over the past four decades. In the book, he explores what it’s like to work, socialize and live in the West- pulling from his own experiences in Montana.
Standing in front of a small audience of students and professors, Thompson read an excerpt from “Riding the Rough String” called “Summer Wages,” in which he tells about his first summer job in Montana when he was fourteen and going through the adolescent transition.
Thompson also talked about his writing process, calling it a “great and maddening compulsion.”
“When I’m working on a book, if I don’t write everyday, I lose the thread,” Thompson said. “Even with nonfiction, the story is constantly being reworked.”
The Mary E. Rolling Reading Series, as well as other programs that bring writers to campus are important opportunities for both English majors and other students, Thompson said.
“It’s very beneficial [for aspiring writers] to be exposed to live writers, rather than just seeing their names on a page,” Thompson said.
Marissa Giuliano said that she admires that way that Thompson writing allows the reader to “live his life with him.”
Giuliano (sophomore-animal science) is currently taking a creative writing class and said that she attended the event for help on her own nonfiction writing.
“It’s hard to write about your own memories, and it’s very interesting and helpful to see successful writers talk about their process and inspirations,” Giuliano said.
Derek Moreno said that attending the various author talks given at Penn State throughout the semester have been beneficial to his own creative writing.
“As an English minor, it’s interesting to see different writer’s perspectives on writing, and I’m able to try to incorporate that into my own writing,” Moreno (senior-broadcast journalism) said.