Carnegie Mellon University
March 14, 2017

NY Times Bestselling Author Lauren Groff Stops By CMU English Classes

Award-winning author Lauren Groff visits CMU English students

Author Lauren Groff visited Carnegie Mellon University and advised students to find in classmates what she found in Kevin González, assistant professor of English.

“Find the brilliant readers and writers that you know, put your little claws into them and never let them go,” Groff said. “They will end up being not only a source of amazing critique for the rest of your life, but a source of inspiration.”
An hour earlier, Groff— who penned the best-selling, award-winning novels “Arcadia,” “Delicate Edible Birds,” “Fates and Furies” and “The Monsters of Templeton” — shared her journey as a writer with current CMU English students.
Groff revealed the motivation behind her latest novel “Fates and Furies,” saying it began as two separate books. She also shared that part of her creative process involves writing her drafts in longhand, then tossing them and never looking at them again.
“It sounds really crazy, but you can be so in love with your prose that you can’t see the foundation of flaws and the foundation of the story that you’re working on,” Groff said. “So if I throw as much as possible onto the page, then throw it away it starts to teach me what the story is that I’m telling and who the characters and how they interact.”
This struck both David Frank and Brittany Brown.
“When I’m revising a work I get so attached to my first, second drafts, but I need to learn to throw it away, burn it in a bonfire and say ‘This doesn’t work,’ and try again,” said Frank, a senior majoring in creative writing.
A graduate student in Literary and Cultural Studies, Brown’s work doesn’t often involve the same process as creative writing students, but she took note of Groff’s advice.
“When authors like Lauren Groff come to visit, it’s important for students like me to have that creative exposure,” Brown said. “Being able to throw away your first drafts and learn the rules of everything master of fine arts (MFA) and non-MFA just to break those rules to become a better writer is important to hear.”
“It was a great experience for students to hear how a living author spoke about writing,” said Jeff Williams, professor of English and director of graduate studies. “Groff clearly is absorbed in writing, not as a magical activity but one that she works on relentlessly. She told us about the series of drafts she does— even famous writers don't write perfect drafts.”


by Stefanie Johndrow