Sunday, November 16, 2008

Visiting Writer: Matt Harpster

Matt Harpster resides in Medina, Ohio where he teaches night classes at the Medina County Career Center. He grew up on a dairy farm in rural Ohio and is still comforted by the scent of manure freshly spread onto a field. In his former lives he has been a farmer hand, waiter, maintenance man, construction worker, security guard, youth minister, counselor and coach. He loves to sit down and learn the story of other people’s lives. Occasionally, Mr. Harpster writes primarily for his own amusement. He is loved by his wife Ingrid, daughter Ellie, and Springer Spaniel Susie.

Matt Harpster visited my fiction class on Friday. Matt read a family piece that was loaded with symbolism and sensory language. When Matt had finished reading I asked if there were any questions. Tim (pictured below) said that the story answered all of his questions. We asked Matt about his process and he said he started drafting the piece by writing all the powerful memories associated with his uncle. The story is chocked full of symbols. For instance, we pass over a bridge under construction in the very first paragraph-an indication that we're traveling to the past, yet the landscape of the past has changed. Harpster uses something as simple as a sand dollar as a way to bring gradations of death and hope into the story.

Harpster's Creative Non-Fiction Writing 101

1) Have fun.
2) Don't be afraid to embelish on memory.

Portals into Memoir-

Write two pages of something you can’t deny.

Write two pages of what got left behind.

Write two pages of something you wrote or did that you no longer understand.

Write two pages of apologizing for something you didn’t do.

Write two pages about a physical characteristic you are proud to have inherited or passed on.

Write two pages of what you had to have.

Write two pages of humiliating exposure.

Write two pages about a time when you felt compassion unexpectedly.

Write two pages of what you have too much of.

Write two pages of when you knew you were in trouble.

Thanks for your reading, Matt!

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