A conversation with Kent Meyers

Erika Buiter—Staff Writer

 

kentmeyers_takenbyemi_stewart

Photos by Emi Stewart

Kent Meyers, author of “The Witness of Combines,” visited the Hulst library to talk with a group of students and community members.  Meyers, a retired professor who lives in Spearfish, South Dakota, writes both fiction and non-fiction, but his road to authorship was a slow one.

 

Meyers began his college education as a chemistry major, but lost his fascination in the sciences when math and more abstract concepts entered his chemistry classes.

“I had a crisis of education,” Meyers said.  He considered dropping out, but stuck with it and took general education classes—including an English course.

“[Writing] engaged my intellect and my emotions in a way that I didn’t know was possible,” he said.

Inspired by this new passion, Meyers changed his major to English, graduated and completed a master’s in English–but his road to authorship was far from over.  It wasn’t until he attended the Great Plains Writing Conference that he realized he could write fiction just as well as the regional authors who attended.  After the conference, he and a few friends formed a writing group, where Meyers could explore writing in a safe environment.

kentmeyeresgesturing_takenbyemi_stewart.jpgIt would be five years before Meyers published a short story.

“We tend to believe that we learn in this nice, level, 45-degree angle, building day by day, and it gets more and more, and then you reach some stage where you know,” he said.  “My experience has been that a quantum kind of jumping thing is a more realistic way to look at how you learn.”

After getting his first short story published, Meyers experienced a kind of “creative leap,” finding it easier to continue to write short stories and essays.  His non-fiction work, “The Witness of Combines,” contains a variety of essays centering on the death of his father, the land that he lived on as a teenager and the close-knit Midwestern community he was a part of.

Howard Schaap, associate professor of English, and his Advanced Expository Writing I class read “The Witness of Combines” in preparation for Meyer’s visit.

“My sister gave the book to me as a present right after I graduated college, and it so spoke to my experiences on a farm growing up in rural Minnesota,” Schaap said.  “I’ve read very few essays that express what it means to grow up on a farm in this landscape like the book does.”

In reading the book, Schaap wanted his students to think about writing on and about the Midwestern landscape.  “The book is a mix of narrative, more memoir-type essays and more complex, personal essays that jump around in time and weave in allusions and other things.  It’s a good example for developing essay writers,” Schaap said.

Schaap’s favorite part of teaching the book came after a student’s comment.

“A student said, ‘I didn’t know you could write stuff like this!’  That was the kind of experience I had with the book, and it was amazing to hear that reaction from a student twenty years later,” he said.

Senior psychology major Caleb Rowe attended Meyer’s event.

“I was really impressed by Kent Meyers’ humble and engaging persona,” Rowe said. “He gave a lot of great advice, provided several interesting quotes and inspired laughs from students and staff alike. He was even willing to sign several copies of his books for students who eagerly approached him.”

Rowe hopes Dordt will continue to bring authors to campus.  “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of meeting him,” he said.

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