Writer and professor Janet Fitch speaks at WSA event

first_imgWomen’s Student Assembly hosted Master of Professional Writing program professor and author Janet Fitch on Wednesday night at the University Religious Center.Women’s Student Assembly is one of the nine assemblies of the Undergraduate Student Government Program Board.“WSA is a space to be myself, but also explore what it means to be who I am, because there are so many cultural messages about the way women should be,” said Chelsee Bergen, a board member of WSA.  “It’s a space that I can process and build a community around people who are also interested in expressing themselves.”Wednesday’s event was the first time the WSA has hosted an author.Fitch studied history at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She won a student exchange program to Keele University in England where she decided on her 21st birthday that she wanted to write fiction.At the event, Fitch talked about and read passages from her novels, including a passage from her novel, White Oleander, which was featured on Oprah’s Book Club. Fitch described the 1999 novel, which was later turned into a movie, as a savage love story between a mother and a daughter. The novel is about a 12-year-old girl who must navigate the Los Angeles foster care system after her mother is convicted of killing her own boyfriend. Fitch said that the book was intended to be a coming-of-age story.“All stories are coming-of-age stories because you never really get there — finding the truth of life,” Fitch said. “You are always a beginner, always figuring out what sits well and what doesn’t sit well.”The novel’s protagonist moves from foster home to foster home and is told by different mothers how to live. Each of the houses she lives in is its own little world with its own truths and values. Ultimately, it becomes the protagonist’s responsibility to find out what she wants to believe and live by.“Looking at my own story, with every older woman who was interesting to me, I’d take a little something from,” Fitch said. “It’s like your own mother isn’t your only mother. They all give you examples of how you want to live.”Fitch interviewed girls in the foster care system who told her that the experience is like constantly auditioning for a part. According to Fitch, there is a relationship between this “auditioning” and the ways in which Americans live. Fitch believes that people aren’t given who they are; rather, they try different characteristics in developing their personalities.Fitch said that the idea for White Oleander came to her gradually.“It’s like you follow a little stream and you find another little stream that joins it and you follow a little further and something else joins it,” Fitch said of how she got the idea for White Oleander. “You start with a tiny little thing and other things that interest you join up. Then you have all these strands coming together.”She described her participation in a writer’s group as helpful to her creative process.“I was in a writer’s group where you picked a random word, usually very simple,” Fitch said. “And then you let that inspire you. You pick one idea and write two pages double-spaced. The word was ‘wind’ with White Oleander. I saw a full moon and a woman with white blonde hair on the roof of a building, and I wrote two pages double-spaced. It just started growing.”Students said it was interesting to get an inside look from an author’s perspective.“It was incredible because you read all the workings of her imagination without ever actually thinking about who wrote this, but you get to know these characters so personally and you feel so involved with them,” said Ashley Lukashevsky, a senior majoring in international relations and a fan of White Oleander. “So seeing her and meeting her and being able to speak with her about her thought process and inspirations — it’s an experience we are so lucky to have.”Fitch is currently in the process of finishing a historical novel about three schoolgirls during the Russian Revolution.“I’m interested in what it’s like to live in the repercussions of historical decisions,” Fitch said.last_img

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