On the Monday before Thanksgiving break, author Carrie Brown read from her latest novel The Rope Walk to a handful of students and faculty in the Ho Lecture Room. In addition, Brown paid a visit to a few classes in the English department to share her wisdom in writing.
The Rope Walk tells the story of a young girl named Alice, beginning on her tenth birthday. On this day, she meets two unique characters who consequently open up a new world for her. Theo is a mix-raced boy from New York City and Kenneth is a much older artist who is suffering from AIDS. Alice and Theo are quick to form a bond and begin to spend time with Kenneth, who is going blind. As a way to remind him of the beauties of the world and nature, Alice and Theo build a rope walk through the woods for Kenneth to follow.
“I had originally intended this to be a story about a child’s loss of innocence, but it turned out to be about happiness and achieving happiness,” Ms. Brown said during her reading. “I ended up writing a love story about ten-year-olds falling in love with each other the way most ten-year-olds fall in love, by bumping into each other.”
Certainly, The Rope Walk is all of the above: a wonderfully told tale of growing up, falling in love, and understanding the world from an adult’s perspective.
In addition to her reading, Associate Professor of English Jennifer Brice invited Brown to share her eloquent style of writing and knowledge as an author with Brice classes.
“Among her many gifts — for storytelling, for description, for characterization — is the rare gift of detecting the radiance of ordinary life,” Professor Brice said. And indeed, such a gift was present in the passages that were read by Brown. Filled with striking detail and an instant insight into the nature of the characters, the ability of Brown’s writing was clearly evident.
Intending to have her students learn from Brown’s works, Brice set up a workshop for her students.
“While here, she spoke to three of my creative writing classes.,” Brice said. In two, the students were work-shopping essays, and she joined the conversation. In the third, she was supposed to answer questions from the students. Instead, she turned the tables and asked them questions about themselves and how they write.”
The workshop proved to be very successful and greatly enjoyed by the students.
“It was really neat to her the perspective of a well respected author on the works of other students,” first-year Kathleen Hicks, who also attended Brown’s reading later that day, said.
In all, Brown’s visit proved to be well appreciated by both students and members of the community interested in her work. Brice’s classes received both insight and skill from an accomplished author and those interested got a chance to actually hear excerpts from The Rope Walk.
“The English department has a generous budget for bringing guest writers — poets, novelists, essayists, and journalists — to Colgate,” Brice said.