Marlon James, the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Fiction Winner for The Book of Night Women, visited MVS today to speak to upper school students and faculty. In addition to addressing this award-winning novel, James discussed his writing process, referred to literary inspiration, and gave advice to hopeful future professional writers. “A writer doesn’t create, a writer finds,” he said. To remember unexpected inspiration or “findings,” James records moments, quotes, and descriptions with his iPhone. He emphasized the importance of capturing one’s surroundings and committing to an organic writing process, “You write to discover how you think,” he said, “You don’t think to discover how you write.”
James, born in Kingston, Jamaica, is a noted author and professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Book of Night Women takes a deep look into the history of slavery in Jamaica from the perspective of a half-black and half-white woman. Kathereine Vaz, 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize judge says of the book: “This is work of the most supreme literary quality, daring to transform language into such an original realm that readers come away haunted, short of breath, and staggered with the sort of visceral impact that reminds us why we read: Not merely to understand other lives or worlds, but to feel them.”
After his initial presentation, James visited upper school English classes for question and answer forums. He encouraged students to write and reinforced that excellent writing happens after multiple drafts or versions. “Editing a first draft is a waste of time,” he said, “always write multiple drafts. “The Book of Night Women was draft 7-B.” This evening James will discuss his novel and upcoming works in an intimate setting as part of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Authors Series events.