In Brown Bag, Plum to address writers’ ‘fundamental question’: Where to start?


Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

With the multitude of paths people can take their writing in, they may ask “How to Start?” Chautauqua Writers’ Center Week One prose writer-in-residence Hilary Plum will deliver her Brown Bag lecture covering this topic at 12:15 p.m. today on the porch of the Literary Arts center at Alumni Hall.

“I thought it was a nice emphasis on inspiration and doing something really generative that would help people start a project,” she said, “also, to work on that fundamental question in writing, ‘How do you find inspiration?’ and then, ‘What do you do with inspiration?’ ”

In her Brown Bag lecture, she said she plans to talk about labor questions around writing, the Writers’ Guild of America strike, and writing as work.

“I just went out to visit a friend who is in the writer’s strike in the TV world in L.A., and I ended up writing an essay about that strike in relation to some labor issues happening in higher ed, which is where a lot of writers work on the literary side,” Plum said.

Plum is the author of several books, including the a forthcoming book of poems, Excisions, from Black Lawrence Press; a collection of essays titled Hole Studies; the novel Strawberry Fields, which won the Fence Modern Prize in Prose; the essay collection Watchfires, winner of the 2018 GLCA New Writers Award for Creative Nonfiction; and the novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets. A professor in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, or NEOMFA, program at Cleveland State University and associate director of the CSU Poetry Center, Plum took over as Week One’s prose writer-in-residence after a last-minute change in scheduling.

The original prose writer-in-residence was Beth Loffreda, and Plum chose to stick with Loffreda’s original workshop theme for continuity purposes.

As a longtime editor, Plum said she likes to help writers, including herself, with what their questions are and what answers they’re trying to get.

“Since I work with writers who are writing fantasy novels, there’s some things I don’t know as much about,” she said. “If we can start with their values and aims and questions, and what they’re looking to do in that genre, then that can help me ­— as a teacher or editor — figure out how to support them.”

Plum’s prose writing tends to be more on the experimental side, so she enjoys working with writers who aren’t always writing in the same genre as she is.


The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.