The New York State Writers Institute recently released its spring schedule, but in thinking about writers coming to the region this spring, my first thought goes to Darin Strauss.
His books include the memoir “Half of Life” (2010), in which he recounts how he killed a classmate in a car accident and its aftermath, which won a National Book Critics Circle award, and his 2001 debut “Chang and Eng” (2001), a fictionalized account of the famous conjoined brothers.
It was because of that book that I first heard Strauss give a talk in the common room of a dorm at Skidmore College. I was a student at the New York State Summer Writers Institute, studying with Marilyn Robinson and Russell Banks, and he was one of the alumni with a success story – the publication of his first novel. He said he had worked on the novel at the Writers Institute at Skidmore, and was especially impressed with the sharp-eyed Douglas Glover, who at that time would read manuscripts from students and offer a one-on-one critique that was both thrilling and terrifying.
What I remember best was how Strauss responded to the question of what it was like going from a writer working away, often alone, to having published a book. He said something like, “You know the saying, ‘the quiet before the storm.’? Well, it’s like the quiet after the quiet.”