Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Prize-winning author imparts life's insights to Colorado Springs students

February 2, 2018 Updated: February 2, 2018 at 5:12 pm
0
Caption +
George Saunders, author of the 2017 Man Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo, talks with Michelle Frausto, 15, left, and Flor Rodriguez, 15, after speaking at Harrison High School on Friday, February 2, 2018. (Nadav Soroker, Gazette)

In the same way George Saunders' printed word was powerful enough to earn him the 2017 Man Booker Prize, the author's spoken words to Harrison High School students on Friday left an indelible impression.

"He was really inspirational," said sophomore Siam Fisher, who read aloud a piece she wrote on anorexia after studying Saunders' 2013 convocation speech on the need for kindness.

"I've always wanted to be a writer, and when he gave me advice it was positive and made me feel really secure and happy and more capable," she said.

Saunders, who teaches at Syracuse University, stopped by Harrison High School to shoot the breeze with about 50 English students, answer their questions and impart life lessons about writing, perseverance, heroes, self-love, failure, power and unfairness.

Saunders was in town to speak at the Converge Lecture Series Friday night, in a sold-out show of 300 at The Pinery. The nonprofit started one year ago to bring prominent writers to Colorado Springs, and for the first time, is working with students. Six Harrison students will be selected as fellows and be paired with mentors at local colleges and universities and provided scholarship money.

"He's done a great job of defining the human experience," Sam Stephenson, founder of the Converge Lecture Series, said of Saunders, whom he invited to Colorado Springs on a blind query because he's one of his favorite authors.

Growing up in a blue-collar family on Chicago's south side, Saunders said he enjoys talking to high school students because a teacher changed his life.

"This high school teacher saw something in a piece of writing I did, and he got me to go to college," Saunders said.

He attended the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. As a student, he was sick for a year after he contracted a virus from swimming in polluted water while working on an oil rig in Asia, giving him a "sneak peek" at old age.

"It's a Christian insight - Jesus knew what it was like to suffer and be weak," Saunders said. "If we could understand the world better, we'd be kinder."

Walking in the shoes of others helps tell stories from the inside out, not vice versa, he told students, and the spirit of play that arises when children goof around and build something using blocks is "what art is all about."

"When I'm writing, I try to get in that playful space," Saunders said. "Inspiration comes in the doing."

He describes his material as "working-class stories that are fast, a little naughty and funny."

Freshman Amelie Blackham said she will remember Saunders' comments about how human beings are born with a mind, but you don't have to be stuck with it your whole life.

"It reminded me of your destiny and fate and how people are born a certain way but they can change that," she said. "It relates to me because I'm awful at some things I'd like to be good at, and that doesn't have to be the way it is."

Education expands the mind and provides "a better chance of succeeding," Saunders told students. Having positive energy and faith in yourself also help, he said.

"Perseverance means giving yourself a chance over and over again," he said.

Saunders has written numerous essays and short stories. His surreal, experimental first novel, "Lincoln in the Bardo," which depicts a grieving Abraham Lincoln as he visits the crypt that holds the body of his 11-year-old son who died of typhoid fever and the ghosts who appear, was cited as being unusual and innovative in winning the British equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in October.

Harrison freshman Jose Loa said Saunders imparts "a lot of good advice."

What will he carry with him?

"There's times you really want to give up, but you don't, so keep going and strive for the best," Jose said.

Amelie said the experience made her see a famous person "more like a real person."

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

or
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 

Exclusive Subscriber Content

You read The Gazette because you care about your community and the local stories you can't find anywhere else.

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber? Get Access | Already a digital subscriber? Log In
 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.