Award-winning author and professor of black horror and afrofuturism, Tananarive Due, visited the UCA campus last week spending a total of two days sharing her expertise with students and staff.
Due is known as a “leading voice in black speculative fiction for more than 20 years” according to a pamphlet promoting her appearance. She’s won multiple awards that include an American Book Award, a British Fantasy Award and an NAACP Image Award.
On Friday, Sept. 6, Due held a lecture in a conference room in Win Thompson Hall where students aspiring to be prose writers, playwrights, poets and screenwriters filled the room. Several professors and the dean of the college of liberal arts was also in attendance. Due, with only 50 minutes, managed to provide an abundance of influential information and advice.
Due stressed the importance of the opening line and outlining a story ahead of time to avoid “writing by the seat of your pants.” She said the outline stage is essential in order to “diagnose issues before you’ve written 200 pages.”
She told the audience that when writing a scene to ask themselves, “has every scene earned its real estate in your story?” followed by her introduction of the “Oh Crap!” method which is the introduction of a conflict or challenge in the story. Due made a point of this being not only in the opening scene, but every scene.
Due kicked off the college of fine arts and communication’s artists in residence program as the first artist of the year. She has written several novels and several short stories over the course of her career, as well as some screenplay. She talked about how she had received several calls from producers trying to auction her books and decided that she wanted to be more involved in the process. Currently, she is about to sell a script written with her husband.
At a reading Due held on campus she read an excerpt from her book of short stories, Ghost Summer: Stories, stating beforehand that when writing this particular story she “imagined a world that isn’t quite” in order for it to be set in the near future. The story featured video-chatting, something that wasn’t a thing yet when the story was written.
She started out as a journalism and creative writing major and spent 10 years at a newspaper before leaving to pursue prose writing full-time, stating it took her a long time to find her own voice as a writer.
In the Q&A that followed, a member of the audience asked how she incorporated supernatural elements into her works. Her response was to use impeccable details as a way to hook the readers. Someone else asked for advice on handling writers block to which she declared that she doesn’t believe in writer's block so much as a disengagement from the story because of emotional issues surrounded by it.
Her final advice to aspiring writers in the audience was, “write your bliss” and make sure what you’re writing is, “something you’re absolutely in love with.”