By: NICK WORT
Author Joseph Bates entertained a crowd of IU South Bend students and faculty on Wednesday, Feb. 19, with a reading from his new short story collection titled “Tomorrowland.”
This stop was a part of his tour to promote the book.
“The stories were written over the past six or so years, while I’ve been teaching creative writing at Miami University of Ohio,” Bates said. “There are a few that are older than that, going back to my Ph.D. program, which is how I know[Kelcey] Parker. They’re kind of inspired by my love of kitschy B-movie science fiction in a way.”
“Tomorrowland” contains 10 short stories. Though most of them have been written within the past few years, Bates noted that the oldest story in the collection was written when he was pursuing his master’s degree. Bates now teaches creative writing at Miami University of Ohio.
“My students [keep me inspired]. One thing about teaching writing is that you’re constantly seeing students who are passionate,” Bates said. “Teaching is a hard job, Author Joseph Bates reads at IUSB you’re essentially doing 12 months of work in nine months. It’s just frantic, and easy to get tired and let your own work go. So the quality of conversation that you have in class and the quality of work you see come back to you ends up feeding you creatively, even when you don’t have inspiration yourself. I’m very lucky to be in a good place and to be working with such good students.”
Bates’ previous book, “The Nighttime Novelist,” is a guide to writing a novel in your spare time. Though the two works are very different, Bates noted that they’ve allowed him to reach a more diverse audience.
“Writing can be an awful lonesome thing, because you’re just isolating yourself most of the time, and trying to work most of the time,” Bates said during the reading. “You need a community around you to help you through.”
The reading was introduced by Kelcey Parker, director of creative writing at IUSB. Bates and Parker met in grad school and have remained friends. Parker began the reading by going over both a formal biography and a personal biography of Bates.
She said when she thinks of Bates’ fiction, she thinks all of his stories are somehow about the desire to “break on through to the other side.”
“And of course, about the impossibility of it. His characters long for things they can’t have,” Parker said.
Students reacted positively to the reading, though many noted that they were in attendance for both the reading and extra credit.
“I came as a part of my publishing and poetry class, but I like to check out all the readings on campus and support the different genres,” said Chad Forbregd, an IUSB student. “I absolutely [enjoyed it], I picked up a copy of the book and I’m looking forward to reading it.”
“I had the opportunity to get extra credit for two classes,” said Austin Veldman, another IUSB student. “But I also came to hear the perspective of a professional writer. It’s a great opportunity to learn something and maybe apply it to my own aspirations.”
Bates pointed out that aspiring writers need to have faith in their work in order to succeed.
“There are a ton of mediocre writers who publish all the time, because they don’t give up. And a lot of wonderful writers who never publish because they get discouraged. You can’t get discouraged, you’ve got to believe in your own work. You’ve got to believe in it enough to pursue it when times are tough, because the first break that you get, the first good thing that comes back to you, is gonna get you through everything.”