We are storytelling people. This is the message author Timothy Egan shared during his visit to Case Western Reserve University on March 19 as a part of the Writers Center Stage series.
An award-winning author of eight books, Egan has a long history in journalism and is an opinion columnist for the New York Times.
Egan’s early life helped to set him up on the path to becoming an author. Growing up in a poor Irish Catholic family, his mother worked to instill in him a passion for reading and writing from a young age. It was through writing he found his ticket to see the world.
“I had no money, no connections, nothing. Journalism was a way I could go out and explore the world,” Egan shared.
Egan stays true to his roots and his love for travel by doing all of the research for his books himself.
“I put myself into the shoes of my characters so that I can bring them to life,” Egan said. “A graduate student couldn’t do that for me. Some of the things I find are soul stirring.”
The room had a mix of students from many different interests, ranging from physical sciences, social sciences and the humanities. Egan spoke directly to the students, stating that no matter what they do in life, they need to be able to write.
He explained that our society is based around the stories we tell and how we tell them. “Ireland understands that, they have statues all around honoring writers.”
Egan also added bits of humor to his answers. When asked about the editing process for his opinion column, he said, “Most editors are morons. But you still want to keep them on your good side, because they’re the final barrier between you and your intended audience.”
The conversation then ended on discussions about his column and the polarizing world of opinions. Egan’s column generally focuses on topics that cause contention between different groups—ranging from analyses of political figures to global events.
In a world as divided and opinionated as ours has become, Egan shared the sentiment he keeps in mind when writing:
“You do not change someone’s opinion by argument. You change it by storytelling.”
The Writers Center Stage has two author visits left. Lynda Barry will be visiting on April 16, and Jennifer Egan on May 1.