Last week Roosevelt welcomed an important guest: acclaimed author Anthony Doerr came to talk about his short story, The Deep, as well as his latest novel, All the Light We Cannot See, which won the Pulitzer Prize last year. Doerr was born in 1973 and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He has six published works, including The Deep (2011) and All the Light We Cannot See (2014). He began writing when he was seven, after listening to his mom read The Chronicles of Narnia to him and his siblings. Doerr was inspired by the fact that C. S. Lewis “was dead and yet his voice still lived on… so much so that Narnia was almost more real to me than my own bedroom”. He continued, “That freaked me out and I immediately wanted to start imitating that”. Later in life, he attended Bowdoin College, graduating in 1995 receiving a B.A. He then attended Bowling Green State University, receiving an M.F.A. He currently lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and kids.
Doerr visited Roosevelt High School on Wednesday of last week as both freshman and sophomore LA classes read The Deep. However, he talked mostly about the more recent All the Light We Cannot See. He began his talk by recalling a particular train ride in 2004 from Princeton to New York City. There was a man sitting in front of him on the train talking to his friend on the phone about the matrix sequel. As soon as the train entered a tunnel, however, the call dropped and the man got very angry. “I thought: what he’s doing, really what we’re all doing is we’re taking for granted this miracle that we’re all doing where [we’re] using a little transmitter and receiver crammed into this package no bigger than a deck of cards and he’s using it to send packets of light rebounding at the speed of light between radio towers miles apart, maybe talking to somebody who might be a thousand miles away. And he’s using this magic to have a conversation about Keanu Reeves; It’s ridiculous!” Doerr went on to talk about how this had inspired him to write a book about these tiny waves of light and how deeply they affected us.
Overall, Mr. Doerr had many inspiring words for aspiring writers. He suggested keeping a journal, to note things that happened around him, describe the images he saw. When asked what advice he had for writers who were struggling for imagery he said, “a lot of students get started–they say, ‘I want to write about love and feeling lost – I want to write about big things.’ They’re working up in the clouds, but the way to deliver your reader into those clouds is through the dirt and specific particularity of a character’s life. It’s the crack in the window of the Nissan thats going through the KFC drive-thru that’s gonna make somebody feel what it’s like to be in love or lost… It’s seeing the world around you and learning to translate that experience into language.”
Featured Photo: Anthony Doerr spoke in Roosevelt’s theatre about his award-winning book, All the Light We Cannot See. Photo by Ruby Hale