Spokane native Sarah M. Hulse is the author of “Black River,” selected for the 2017 Everybody Reads community reading program. This week she will visit the region to speak about the book.
“Black River” was inspired by the 1959 riot at the Old Montana Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana. During her studies at the University of Montana in Missoula, Hulse visited the area and was struck by the juxtaposition of the enclosed prison space against the big, open Montana sky. The story — which explores grief, guilt and the search for grace — emerged from her fascination with how an event as significant as the riot would affect not only those involved, but also the community as a whole.
The novel is Hulse’s debut and won praise as a PEN/Hemingway finalist, Seattle Times’s Best Book of 2015 and as an American Library Association Notable Book.
Hulse began writing as a child. Her mother was an English teacher, and her father was a journalist.
“With that kind of pedigree, it’s not a real shock that they got a novelist,” Hulse said.
She earned a master’s degree from the University of Oregon and was a fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hulse lives in Reno, Nev., where she is an assistant professor of English at the University of Nevada.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Everybody Reads author S.M. Hulse
WHEN and WHERE:
1 p.m Monday, Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, Uniontown
7 p.m. Monday, Neill Public Library, Pullman
Noon Tuesday, Whitman County Library, Colfax (optional lunch available for $13 by calling (509) 397-4366)
7 p.m. Tuesday, 1912 Center Great Room, Moscow
10 a.m. Nov. 8, Clarkston High School, Clarkston
7 p.m. Nov. 8, Nezperce Library, Nezperce
Noon, Nov. 9, Asotin County Library, Clarkston
7 p.m., Nov. 9, Lewiston City Library, Lewiston
Sarah’s Writing Tips
Noting November is National Novel Writing Month, we asked Hulse for advice for would-be scribes:
- Be willing to take risks with your first draft. “We’re not marble sculptors,” Hulse said. That means you don’t have to get it right the first time around, so there’s no reason to put limits on yourself. Those risks often produce something valuable — and when they don’t, they’re easy to change.
- View revision as an opportunity and not a task. Revision is where the good stuff comes, Hulse said, so approach it with the same energy and mindset as your first draft.
- Analyze what makes a book work. A self-described analytic, Hulse sometimes finds a book she likes and does the writerly version of “taking it apart and seeing how it works.” Identifying what she loved about the book and its techniques, she gains ideas for her own writing.
- Write the book you want to write. Too many of her students focus on what they think readers want to read, Hulse said. But writing a book is a lot of work, and you’re not going to get through all of those stages if you don’t love what you’re writing.
- When it comes to establishing your writing habit, try out different strategies. Deadlines force her to get the work done, Hulse said, but in their absence it can be hard to establish a writing habit. Hulse doesn’t write every day but works on her writing in some way — through revisions, research or the like. The specifics of when and how to write vary. Some people prefer writing in the morning, others do better at night; some like to write by hand and others compose on the keyboard. “You don’t know what works for you until you try it,” Hulse said.