Visiting Writer Matt Bondurant Offers Advice, Sheds Light on Hollywood
On Thursday, Nov. 8, the Whitman Visiting Writers Reading Series continued with a visit from novelist Matt Bondurant, who read from his latest novel, “The Night Swimmer.”
Currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Texas at Dallas, Bondurant is the author of three best-selling novels: “The Third Translation,” “The Night Swimmer” and “The Wettest County in the World,” the latter of which was adapted into the summer big-screen hit “Lawless.” He has also written numerous short stories and is currently working on a fourth book to be published next year.
Bondurant was happy and eager to share personal advice with the students in attendance. He emphasized the importance of revision, offering stories of his own struggles with “trimming the fat.”
“I think I have 16 or 17 versions of ‘Night Swimmer,’” said Bondurant. “I had a year. I would print it out and read it aloud to myself in a private room … I’m a firm believer that a first draft should be a great sprawling thing: anything you want. But then you cut it down. Start big and then revise.”
Bondurant was also very open about his creative writing process, suggesting a unique tactic to get the ball rolling.
“It’s all about moments in time. That’s what poets attempt to do, to capture a moment, and I think fiction writers are the same. A woman coming out of the water or a man poring over artifacts in the bowels of a museum, you just follow the image,” said Bondurant. “Too often, I think, young writers come to me with an idea, something they want to write about like gene splicing of animals or bioengineering, and I tell them, the meaning will come. It will be there. It will make sense. But start with an image, meaning comes after.”
On his short time working with Hollywood, he was gracious, if a little cynical.
“It was an amazing experience. I’m lucky Nick Cave and John Hillcoat were interested in my opinion and let me be involved in the process as much as they did,” he said. “But it gets in your head. You think, ‘could I write another?’ and ‘can I do that again?’ It’s going to take some time before I don’t have that looming over my writing. I’m trying to get away from that right now.”
The next installment of the series will feature novelist and Adjunct Assistant Professor of General Studies Johanna Stoberock on Thursday, Jan. 31.