HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State Community College recently had the opportunity to welcome best-selling author Garth Stein to campus.
Stein’s “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” is Wallace State’s campus-wide Common Read selection for the 2016-17 academic year, and for the second year in a row, Wallace State was privileged to have the Common Read author speak to students, faculty and staff and the community.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a New York Times best-seller, was published in 2006 and is narrated from a dog’s perspective, making it a unique novel. The dog’s name is Enzo, and from Enzo’s point of view the reader follows the ups and downs in the Denny Swift family. In the novel, Swift, Enzo’s owner, is longing to be a professional race car driver.
Stein, a racing fan himself and Seattle native, said he initially drew inspiration to write from a dog’s perspective after encountering a poem written by Billy Collins, also penned from a dog’s world.
After completing “The Art of Racing in the Rain” and sending the manuscript to his first agent, Stein received less than glowing comments and eventually decided to fire his agent because of the lack of support. Despite additional critics, Stein believed enough in the book to persevere and ultimately found a publisher interested in his work.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” went on to spend 156 weeks on the best-seller list, was translated into 35 languages and adapted into a play. It’s also being adapted into a movie.
“The moral of the story is if you really believe something in your heart, you’ve got to make sacrifices to make it work. Everybody is going give you their opinion, and it’s not all positive. If you find something is true to your heart, make the sacrifices and put in the hard work,” Stein said. “I could have easily given up on the book when agent didn’t like it.”
During Stein’s presentation at Wallace State, he read a couple of excerpts from the book and answered multiple questions from the audience, ranging from his favorite authors to his style of writing.
“Part of what we do as writers is deal with our issues through fiction and the characters we write about. I don’t have to love every character that I write, but I have to see something redeemable in every character. Every character has problems and every character has challenges,” Stein said.
Stein commended Wallace State for devoting time each year to engage the campus with the Common Read selections.
“I love community reads because it’s about community and discussion. We can find progress through discussion. It’s OK to agree to disagree. That’s how our society moves forward,” Stein said. “Everyone who reads the same book experiences it individually. Everyone is reading it from his or her ideals and values and looks at it differently. You might like it, love it or hate it. If it doesn’t work for you, there are a lot books out there that do. The main thing is we respect each other’s opinion.”
Wallace State’s Sally Warren, an English instructor and Common Read committee member, said the college was honored to have Stein visit Hanceville.
“I thought the event was great. What a fantastic opportunity it was for students to hear firsthand how a best-selling author’s writing process works. That personal insight into the creation of the novel was informative, entertaining, and funny,” Warren said. “I’m glad Mr. Stein was able to visit Wallace State and share his stories with us during his talk and one-on-one during the book signing.”
Previous Common Read selections at Wallace State included: “Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Zeitoun,” and “Tuesdays with Morrie.”
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
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Wallace State Community College
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