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Writers’ Week Presenter: John Dalton

Featured+Speaker+and+Author+John+Dalton+speaks+to+MHS+students.
Featured Speaker and Author John Dalton speaks to MHS students.

Featured Speaker and Author John Dalton speaks to MHS students.

Featured Speaker and Author John Dalton speaks to MHS students.

Ben Hughes, Managing Editor

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    Professor John Dalton, a published author and successful professor at the University of Missouri Saint Louis, made an appearance at this week’s writers convention. Mehlville English students gathered in the auditorium on Wednesday to gain helpful insight in their own writing skills.

    Dalton began his writing career by publishing his work in multiple literary magazines, until he was discovered and got an agent to help sell his work. He is the author of the novel, Heaven Lake, winner of the Barnes and Noble 2004 Discover Award in fiction and the Sue Kauffman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His second novel, The Inverted Forest, was published in 2011 and selected as a best book of the year by The St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Wall Street Journal-Book Lover. The Inverted Forest is currently being adapted as an independent film. Dalton is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He often teaches one on one literature courses as well as holding writers workshops to help his students improve.

    Dalton’s third novel is currently a work in progress. A good majority of his lecture pertained to his writing process and what he does to consistently improve his writing, which mainly includes constantly reading and writing. The two ways to improve as a writer are to write about what interests you, and to be an avid reader. An easy way to help improve your writing skills is to read the work of authors who are better than you.

    “If you want to be a writer of anything, you must find time to write and read on your own. Whatever interests you, it doesn’t matter. It will help you improve,” Dalton said near the end of his lecture.

 One large aspect of his writing is sentence structure; Dalton stressed the importance of varying sentence lengths, and finding various ways to surprise the reader with each and every sentence. Dalton hangs his hat in that area; he loves the art of storytelling. He loves to search for stories that are mostly unheard of and don’t necessarily take you to comfortable places.

    “I have a constant awareness for the complications of life, which is what makes compelling stories,” said Dalton.

    Dalton’s writing style is very interesting in the way that he incorporates his own life experiences. Many authors have blatant similarities between their writing and their own life, whereas Dalton uses situations from his own life that are important to him, but he presents them under completely different circumstances with completely different characters.

    Dalton read excerpts from The Inverted Forest and kept the students of Mehlville interested with his funny, quirky style of writing. He left the auditorium with one final note for any struggling writers in the audience.

    “You can not be afraid of trial and error as a writer. Big, extravagant mistakes happen all the time. They are the best way to improve as a writer.”

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