By Angela Jones
Campus Eye staff
Are you ready for Vacationland?
Minnesota author Sarah Stonich will discuss her novel—which is set in a Minnesota resort town—on May 8 on the Cambridge campus as part of the Cambridge Community-Wide Reading Program.
In her book, Vacationland, Stonich aims to break the Minnesota stereotype. Stonich explains that Minnesota-based writing often focuses on the north woods and the beauty of the land but “not many people write about the people.” She wants to give the readers the chance to “get to know the resort owners, bait shop owners, people pumping gas– everyone behind the scenes.”
“I think this book is a testament to, you can learn a lot of things in school but at the end of the day you just have to write,” says Stonich of her novel. “At the end of the end of the day it’s about sitting down and writing and creating; getting your characters, getting your story together. Then you can use those things you’re learning in college.”
Stonich says the best way to get into writing is to just get started. “I would say to define your direction might be the thing that’s going to make you the most happy in the long run.”
She says aspiring authors should ask themselves, “Who would you like to be like in twenty years? Why not start being it now?” There are many things to be doing in the present to get involved in the field as well. “Get involved in your library and do volunteer events … Just throw yourself out here. Go to readings. Visit bookstores.”
She herself regrets waiting so late in life to begin her career as an author. Her writing career began after working for the New American Writing program. “After reading so many of these stories that came across my desk I just thought, ‘Hell, I could do this!’ So that’s why I started. I just felt like I had some stories and I just started.”
When asked where her inspiration comes from she simply asks back, “When you dream at night, where do your dreams come from?” She explains that finding inspiration is much like dreaming. “They come from all these little things that have happened in the last couple days. … It doesn’t always make sense but all those elements are there. … You kind of have to sort them out and figure out what’s meaningful. And then make a story out of it, all those hundreds of little elements.”
“I know I’m really writing when the characters take over.” For the author, writing is something that comes naturally and can’t be forced. “You sort of let go and let the story take over for itself …you look up and three hours have passed and you have three pages. Your characters did something that maybe surprised you or you went someplace darker than you might have gone or you said something funnier than you really are.”
Stonich feels she has accomplished her goal as a writer when she can put forward something that the reader can make a connection with. “When people are relating to my characters then I really feel like I’ve offered something up that’s worthwhile. … Writing is just play, until you can get it in the hands of people to whom it means something.”
Currently living in North Minneapolis, she also edits and works for ad agencies to support herself. Her current work includes a project on Minnesota inventions. Other published books of hers include her memoir, Shelter, and fiction novels These Granite Islands and Ice Chorus.
Vacationland was selected by the One Book Cambridge Community-Wide Reading Program where the campus will be hosting their event for the fourth year in a row.
English Instructor and coordinator of the author’s visit, William Breen says “There is a lot of buzz about this book, people really like it.” He is excited for students to have the opportunity “to hear an accomplished author who really has gone through the process.”