Reading into new territory
Daniel Orozco, University of Idaho English professor and recent winner of the fifth William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, read from his untitled novel-in-progress Wednesday at BookPeople.
Orozco’s previously published short story anthology “Orientation” earned him the Saroyan award and $5,000. He said what audiences take from his work is less important than the fact that they read it.
“The fact that it’s simply out there, it’s circulating, is good enough for me,” he said. “That’s really a great thing … to put work out there and have people engage it in some way.”
Tim Berge, UI alumnus, said he liked hearing a passage from the novel instead of the short story collection because he has already read “Orientation.” He said Orozco’s writing skills kept the reading interesting and he didn’t fall “in and out” like he does at other readings.
Kelly Roberts, UI MFA student and thesis advisee under Orozco, said she was very excited that Orozco decided to read from the novel.
“I think that he’s somewhat protective of his work, and so the fact that he opened up and read a portion was really exciting,” she said.
Orozco said he isn’t enjoying the writing process for the novel as much as he does the process for short stories. He wants to write one novel in his lifetime, he said, and he had to do it to sell “Orientation” anyway. The longer narrative is untested territory for him, and he said he wants to figure out how to make it work.
Orozco said narrative writing is problem solving, and working at a problem until the solution pops into your head is a common author’s scenario. He said his favorite parts of writing are finding those solutions and starting fresh with each tale.
“The great thing about writing is that every time you approach a project, it’s a whole new thing,” he said. “But that’s also the worst thing about writing because you never feel that you’ve grasped it and figured it out entirely.”
Roberts said Moscow has a literary culture that continues to grow through such public readings. The city’s connection with good writers is part of its charm for her.
“We have really good writers — and some of them big-name writers — who both live here and come through town,” she said. “For me, it’s part of what makes this town special.”
Matt Maw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org