When Ann Hood was asked to do a TED Talk a few years ago, she blanked. She spent a lot of time thinking about what she could possibly talk about and what really mattered to her.
Eventually, inspiration struck.
“I landed on this idea — why do I even do this?” Hood said. “Why do I write? Why does anybody write?”
Hood is the prose writer-in-residence for Week Three at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. What started as a TED Talk has now become her Brown Bag, called “Why Write?” Hood will speak at 12:15 p.m. Friday on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Hood is the author of multiple novels, the most recent of which is The Italian Wife. She’s also the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes.
Hood said in her Brown Bag, she wanted to explore why writers put books out into a world that’s so busy and distracted.
“We live in a culture where there are so many distractions from reading and writing,” Hood said. “Whether it’s a video game on our iPads, watching every season of The Wire in five days — they sound frivolous, but every time I talk to people, they talk about more TV shows I haven’t even heard of. I’ll never catch up.”
These all serve as diversions from the “more archaic-seeming but more important pursuits of reading and writing,” Hood said, but they’re pursuits she thinks still have importance.
There’s also a personal spin to her lecture, Hood said. She went through a three-year period in her life where she felt she couldn’t write. But when she was able to start again, she said she rediscovered the “happiness and joy of language, words and books.”
Hood said that idea is very connected to her forthcoming novel, The Book That Matters Most, which focuses on how reading and writing can save people. She referenced Joan Didion’s famous line from The White Album: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
“That’s a pretty heavy statement, but I think in many ways, we read and write for that,” Hood said.
Hood said she’s given different versions of her lecture in different environments, and she tweaks it for each place. She said she’s excited to present it to Chautauquans, and hopes they’ll come away reinvigorated by what she has to say.
“I already know they have an appreciation of books and language and writing, or they wouldn’t be at Chautauqua,” Hood said. “I’m preaching to the choir.”