A Different Kind of Truth

By Sam Zalutsky, Spalding MFA Screenwriting Faculty

NYTIMES

I used to read the New York Times cover to cover, every day. I’d start with the Sports pages (no lie!) and then move on to business, and then arts, and finally open the first section. Sometimes it was a challenge to take in all the events happening around the world, but I was raised by parents who saw the Times as the great American truth-teller, the arbiter of the news that mattered. And despite its many biases, it really is a great paper.

We got the daily subscription in Portland, Oregon, when I was in high school as soon as it became available, and since college I’ve subscribed pretty consistently. My father still reads it cover to cover every day. For both of us, it is a type of addiction, a feeling of absence when we don’t read it. But lately I’ve needed a break; reading the news is too much to bear. And it’s not even the “fake news.” I like to know what’s going on. But I also realize that the truth can be hard sometimes and that I need to protect myself and put a buffer between me and the news. But it doesn’t mean that I am not interested in the truth. I think I’m just more interested right now in other kinds of truth, the truth that we writers know a lot about. It’s the truth of art, the truth of connection with others, the truth of nature, the truth of shared experience. It is something I think we do at Spalding really well and I think it’s something that is even more important when basic norms of our society are being upturned daily.

One reason I love the Spalding MFA so much is that our residencies are intense times where these other truths prevail. And I encourage everyone to find other times and places to experience these truths as well.

In September I participated in two events that reinforced my need for these truths. First I went to Ft. Collins, Colorado, where I had a photograph in a group show called Center Forward at the Center for Fine Art Photography. I had never been to Fort Collins, a beautiful town full of college students, wide streets, bars with live music, and outdoor enthusiasts. I randomly chose an Airbnb where my host is an adventure photographer, so we spent mornings on her back porch drinking coffee and talking about photography. She and her adorable dog spend months at a time camping and hiking around the West, taking photos (her, not her dog). I loved breathing in the clean air with her in the mornings and I loved hearing about her life, which is so different from my own in New York City.

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Meat Rack – Couple by Sam Zalutsky

At the show were probably ten other photographers from many different places: New Jersey, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Boston, Boulder. We ranged in age (I think) from our 20s into our 60s, straight, gay, men, women, mainly white and Asian. We all met the night of the opening when hundreds of people came through as part of the city’s first Friday celebration. Two college students enthusiastically interviewed me about my work for their photography class. And the following day the other photographers and I were able to share our work with each other (kind of like a workshop), opening a larger discussion about our processes and goals. Each artist’s work was very different, but it was exciting to share our themes that we were working and the similarities and differences in our work. Although it was just one weekend, I felt a strong connection to the other photographers and know I have expanded my community further. Those connections might be fleeting, but they were real and they were true.

After Ft. Collins I attended the Klamath Independent Film Festival in Klamath Falls, Oregon, for a special screening of Seaside. Despite growing up in Oregon, I had never been to Klamath Falls, a sweet little town near the California border. I drove up from San Francisco with my husband and two friends. We stopped at the Lava Beds National Monument near the Oregon border and spent an incredible day visiting Crater Lake, which has some of the bluest water I have ever seen. To say something looked like a movie feels increasingly cliche yet these blues looked like they had been digitally enhanced. But it was real and it was true.

KIFF18

But the film festival was the real reason I was there. There were all types of films, features and shorts, documentaries and fiction, but everyone there had a connection to Oregon and were making work about Oregon. The opportunity to show my work to local Oregon audiences and other Oregon filmmakers was a real gift. There were filmmakers of all ages, from high school into their sixties and local film fans who don’t have many opportunities to see independent film on the big screen. What brought us together was a love of storytelling and art and a very special part of the world.

After just a few days of sharing our work, we returned to our regular lives and I returned to New York, a very different place. But my time in Southern Oregon was real and it was true. A different kind of truth from the constant news cycle and a truth that feels more essential today than ever.

 


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Sam Zalutsky recently completed his second feature, Seaside, a thriller set on the Oregon Coast. For his first feature, You Belong to Me, he was shortlisted for the Independent Spirit Award’s Someone to Watch Award. The film, available on iTunes and Amazon, and won the Audience Award, Best First Feature at San Diego FilmOut. Sam has directed second unit on two true crime shows, including Emmy-winner A Crime to Remember. His short film How to Make it to the Promised Land premiered on Shortoftheweek.com. He also directed and produced the comedy web series The Go-Getters. Sam earned his BA in studio art from Yale and his MFA in film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is on twitter and instagram @zalutsky. He teaches screenwriting in Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing program. Visit Zalutsky’s website here.


 

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The Story outside the Story in Totem: America*

By Debra Kang Dean, Spalding Low-Residency MFA Poetry Faculty
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Paul Gauguin – “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”

When the Hawaiian Renaissance, a cultural revitalization movement, began in 1970 in my home state, I was a sophomore at a large public high school attended by students from the University district of Manoa Valley and two others between which I lived: the largely middle-class Asian district of Pauoa Valley and Papakolea, an area referred to as Hawaiian “homestead land.” A few months into the school year, I found myself in the company of an ethnically diverse group brought together by a common interest: track and field. Outside the schoolyard, Japanese investment and tourism were on the rise, and, a couple of years later, Ferdinand Marcos would declare martial law in the Philippines, which would bring an influx of Filipinos. I understood only in retrospect how this confluence of events had knocked me out of my comfort zone in the Islands. Continue reading “The Story outside the Story in Totem: America*”

Writing with Art

By Roy Hoffman, Spalding MFA Fiction & Creative Nonfiction Faculty

With art nearby when I write – from our Georgia O’Keefe kitchen calendar to the paintings, sculpture, and ceramics, many by friends, throughout our house – I find myself inspired, as a word person, by the color, shape, and texture of the visual. From the time as a college freshman I taped up a poster of Henri Rousseau’s “The Sleeping Gypsy” on my dorm wall, to trips to New York where, ritually, I visit the Metropolitan Museum’s Rembrandt room to gaze into portraits where time creases faces, I find, in art, places to lose myself, to dream, to learn, ever more clearly, to see. Continue reading “Writing with Art”

Being a Writer

By Jason Hill, Spalding MFA Coordinator of Student Services & Marketing

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This past winter I led a pair of workshops at the Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s a great place, full of people who come to learn and look for someone to help guide them. When I proposed the two workshops (one of which I co-led with my wife, Kelly) I did so thinking it would be good experience and could open the door for other workshops or similar opportunities. But as I prepared and then held the workshops, I realized something else: This too is something writers do. Continue reading “Being a Writer”

Writing Rooms

By Maureen Morehead, Spalding MFA Poetry Faculty
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George Bernard Shaw’s Writing Shed

 

For twenty years I have written in the first floor family room of my house. I have an office on the second. It’s a spacious room with manila-colored walls, a vaulted ceiling, a large palladium window, an antique desk, a trestle table with baskets and writing magazines, a magnifying mirror I use for putting on makeup, two red chairs, a filing cabinet, a printer, and a black three-drawer bow-front dresser in which I store paper and envelopes, folders, paper clips, staples, rubber bands—the stuff of a writer. Continue reading “Writing Rooms”

Why Write? Bearing the Weight of Fear in the World.

By Eleanor Morse, Spalding Low-Residency MFA Fiction Faculty
Burdened Children 1930 by Paul Klee 1879-1940

Burdened Children (1930), Paul Klee

Last week, the day after seventeen students were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I received an anguished email from one of my students, which began like this: “Yesterday was a day of terrible loss…and writing or creating feels pointless to me, at this time. I’m just reaching out…How do you keep going on days like this? I am struggling…the lofty notions of making the world a better place through storytelling are just falling flat today.” Continue reading “Why Write? Bearing the Weight of Fear in the World.”