Sparking inspiration

GVL / Courtesy -
Professors Amorak Huey (left) & Caitlin Horrocks (right)

GVL / Courtesy – Professors Amorak Huey (left) & Caitlin Horrocks (right)

Kyle Doyle

A great idea can come and go in a single instant. It may be the start of a new mystery novel, the plot point that finally gets the story off the ground or the inspiration for a limerick about socks. Writers know the spark of inspiration can be the only thing keeping them from achieving their dreams. Without it, many face the dreaded mindset known as writer’s block.

For Caitlin Horrocks, associate professor of writing at Grand Valley State University, and Amorak Huey, assistant professor of writing at GVSU, that spark of inspiration is one of the factors that helped them create and publish their work.

Both Horrocks and Huey will present pieces of their work during the January installment of the Grand Valley Writers Series Tuesday, Jan. 31, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Cook-DeWitt Center.

The Writers Series is a collection of talks and book readings put on by the GVSU writing department in order to bring both distinguished and up-and-coming authors to the GVSU campus to visit classes and interact with students, in addition to reading samples of their work.

In the past, the writing department has hosted a multitude of different authors, each with a unique background that helped shape their writing. With that, co-presenting authors’ themes have sometimes been similar to each other’s and sometimes not.

Horrocks and Huey will center their readings on a common theme.

“Professor Horrocks and I, we sort of decided that we were going to loosely organize the reading around a theme of place and maps because my chapbook is all about place and the farm where I grew up, (and) it refers to a map,” Huey said.

While Huey will be focusing on events and items from his past, Horrocks is not entirely sure yet what she will be reading. However, she said she will probably be reading from her work-in-progress historical fiction novel inspired by the life of late 19th-century French composer Erik Satie.

Both authors have spoken at previous installments of the Writers Series. Horrocks was a planner for one and a speaker for another. and this is Huey’s first in roughly four years, he said.

As well as being past speakers, both Horrocks and Huey have published several works and achieved a number of awards and honors from several different publications. Horrocks’ debut story collection, This is Not Your City, has been honored in several ways: It was named a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, one of the best books of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle and a Barnes and Noble Great New Writers selection.

Huey’s works of poetry and essays have appeared in such publications as The Best American Poetry 2012, The Cincinnati Review, Poet Lore, The Southern Review and many others, both in print and online.

Although these accomplishments may be considered impressive, both authors are more proud of their more recent accomplishments. Huey recently won a creative writing fellowship for poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, and Horrocks said she is proud of the pieces with which she has had the most difficulty.

“I feel proud of pieces that are really hard that I have really struggled with,” Horrocks said. “I recently published a piece in an online literary magazine. (It’s) a piece that originally came from a story that I started and abandoned 10 years ago.”

The Writers Series serves a similar purpose for both authors: to show students, faculty and friends what they’re like outside the classroom and how they write and see the world. It offers them an opportunity to loosen up, share their work and connect more with the people they see on a daily basis.

“The different parts of the writing life can feel very separated, where there’s being a teacher in the classroom, and then (there’s) being a writer by myself at a computer and then there’s publishing my work other places,” Horrocks said. “This is a really fun night where those parts of my life get to come together. We get to share what we do and be teachers and writers and performers.”