Stephen Graham Jones knew he wanted to become a writer after part of his tongue was cut off in a freak accident in the third grade, leaving him unable to speak for a time. Jones, an accomplished author and professor of creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, made an appearance at Portland State Wednesday night, reading from some of his works.
Stephen Graham Jones knew he wanted to become a writer after part of his tongue was cut off in a freak accident in the third grade, leaving him unable to speak for a time.
Jones, an accomplished author and professor of creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, made an appearance at Portland State Wednesday night, reading from some of his works.
About 50 people showed up the to event in the Native American Community Center, which was sponsored by the United Indian Students of Higher Education and PSU’s University Studies program.
Despite his childhood accident, Jones kept the mood of the event lighthearted.
“What I would recommend is to write one story a week and by the end of the year you should have 52 stories, and maybe 20 of those would be good,” he said about writing advice, garnering some laughs from the crowd.
Jones, a member of the Blackfeet Indian tribe, said he is a writer of many genres, and classified himself in the horror, thriller and science fiction categories.
“It’s my ultimate goal, actually, to write a book in every category, even though my editor doesn’t like it,” he said. “They want me to write for only one genre, but I want to do Western, sci-fi, Indian.”
Jones acknowledged the perceived notions many have about the science-fiction genre. He said sci-fi is often not taken seriously in the world of literature, but rather considered more of a “luxury class,”–something you write when you have the time to.
“People don’t equate Indian with anything luxury,” he said.
Jones read an excerpt from his newest published work, Ledfeather, a science-fiction novel about a Native American boy traveling through the past and present trying to change history.
“I cried twice, and I’m not the type to cry because of a book,” said event coordinator Grace Dillon about her experience reading Jones’ latest work.
Dillon also said she was excited to have Jones come to PSU because of the way he talks about sustainability.
“Stephen interacts with the sustainability issue in a way that is very fun, very humorous, so it’s both entertaining and educational. He’s just very funny,” Dillon said.
Michelle Sterner was among the 50 other students attending the event. A long time fan of Jones, Sterner said what she likes about the author is his ability to present his story in a way that makes the reader feel he is talking directly to them.
“His works make you feel like you are sitting at a table and someone told you a story that is so powerful and moving, you don’t want to step away,” Sterner said, which is why she jumped at the opportunity to hear the author read his work. “I want to see how he tells his story, it’s a lot more personal when you hear them read it.”
Jones engaged the audience with anecdotes about his experience with writing, which he jokingly said were used to “cheat himself out of class.”
Jones said he just finished work on a new novel, The Least of My Scars, which is awaiting publication. On writing in general, he said what makes a good writer is simply writing for himself–what he called a singularity of vision.
Although Jones has written books in various categories, he said his own favorite work is a book about Native American men struggling to break free of violence, alcoholism and broken families, called Bleed Into Me: A book of stories.
“Sometimes you write something and everything just clicks together so perfectly it makes you sit back and go, ‘Wow, did I just do that?'” he said.