There was no way I was about to turn down a free pizza lunch with the author of one of my favorite books from the past few years, so I cancelled my day off yesterday and came in. Totally worth it. I don’t know what I would’ve done anyway. Probably just spent money needlessly.

Jesse Ball is the name of the author, and he was actually pretty close to how I’d imagined him: very quiet, very wise, very imaginative. You’d have to be all of these things in order to write books like Samedi the Deafness and The Way Through Doors. Word has it that, during the writing of Samedi, he took up residency in a little room in a castle in Scotland, pasting the pages he’d finished on the walls and ceilings. An essay in Powells explains his process a little more.

The lot of us having lunch with him here in the 20th floor conference room took turns asking questions and getting really fascinating answers. Jesse teaches creative writing at the Art Institute of Chicago, but doesn’t so much teach writing. He teaches them how to be more in tune, how to be “lightening rods,” as he put it. He also teaches a class on lying, and told us a story of one “dangerous” girl who’d won all three lying contests he’s held in class.

All this, including the end of lunch when he turned over his paper plate and drew a little monster on it for us, was endlessly entertaining. Be sure to check into getting him to come read at your library if you are in the Chicago area!

-David

Jesse Ball: Lightening Rod

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