SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 18, 2013

Book Notes: 4 authors to discuss writing at Swampscott Library

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Writers can get advice and readers can enjoy the conversation as four authors talk about their work at a writers’ forum Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Swampscott Public Library.

“They’re all university professors and all accomplished authors,” said library director Alyce Deveau, who organized the forum. “They work in different genres, too. I thought that was nice, to spread it around.”

The panelists:

Gary Goshgarian, who writes suspense novels and teaches at Northeastern.

Elizabeth Graver, who teaches English at Boston College and was on the long list for this year’s National Book Award in fiction for her novel “The End of the Point.”

Nancy Schultz, a Salem State English professor who is currently working on a book about writing in graduate school.

Laura Harrington of Gloucester, who started as a playwright but recently published her first novel, “Alice Bliss.”

“My first decade I wrote plays, then I moved into musical theater,” said Harrington, who teaches play writing at MIT. “I’ve written three or four opera librettos.”

She grew disenchanted with trends in musical theater and turned back to writing plays, until she won a Kleban Award in 2008. The prize recognized her work in musical theater and gave her “two years of writing time,” during which she wrote “Alice Bliss.”

“I decided I wanted to be a beginner again and reconnect to the creative process,” she said of her decision to write a novel.

“Alice Bliss” won a 2012 Massachusetts Book Award, and Harrington was recently commissioned by Playwright’s Horizon in New York to turn it into a musical.

Despite MIT’s reputation as a science school, the university recognizes the importance of communication skills, she says — skills that are best learned in a humanities department.

Her students write a play each week in order to explore “a part of themselves” that may not be tapped by classes in math or physics.

“You can have the greatest idea on the planet, but it isn’t going to go far if you can’t communicate it,” she said. “If I have a message, it’s all about taking chances and reinventing yourself.”