A guest post by Kristy Evans, from Professor Charlotte Hadella’s ENG 298 class
The anticipation for Barry Lopez’s free student workshop on Friday, April 20th was tangible in the air. Students from the university as well as from various Ashland high schools had been reading and studying the author’s many works for weeks now. The curiosity and excitement rang through the crowd to see what this man, who is so articulate and expressive in his writing, looks like and whether or not he could come across in person with the same intensity and speaking style as he did on paper.
As many of the students and professors in the room could immediately divulge: yes, he could. Not only was his talking voice as captivating as his writing voice, but his many stories and experiences excited just as much intrigue in person. With rapt attention, the audience waited with baited breath to hear about Lopez’s experience on an Arctic cruise some years ago seeing an unusually large group of polar bears on the ice, gathered to feast on beluga whale carcasses. Or to hear about how he traveled to around at least seventy countries with wildlife encounters in Africa, Australia, and even Antarctica.
The most interesting aspect behind Lopez’s exceptional storytelling skills was his explanation for why exactly he does it. Describing his own exhilaration of experiencing profound events in the wilderness, Lopez explained that he feels responsible to pass along this experience, not for the sake of being famous or remembered, but for the enjoyment of seeing people come alive or “awaken” upon reading or hearing his stories.
Lopez ended the workshop with some high-quality advice to future writers: we each “have a voice,” so we should use it to our best capabilities, we should always write notes and be organized no matter where we go, and finally, we should be persistent with our work no matter what. All these things, he explained, added up to his immense success, as well as his concentration not on trying to get the biggest audience but on becoming the best he could be. One thing is for certain, every single person who came into the workshop expecting something worthwhile did not leave disappointed.
Kristy Evans is a sophomore studying English at Southern Oregon University in the hopes of becoming a writer or editor