Alex Kuo Comes to Campus
Sarah McQueen
smcqu643@uwsp.edu

Author and creative writing teacher Alex Kuo visited the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Tuesday to talk about creative writing and to do a reading of his own work.

The event was sponsored by the History, Political Science and English departments. Kuo gave two presentations. The first was a discussion on creative writing, during which Kuo gave the audience a chance to ask him questions about his writing and experiences. The second presentation was a public reading of two of Kuo’s poems and two short stories.

“My hope is that the best thing a creative writing course can do is get students into the habit of writing daily,” Kuo said. “Writers should read day and night, see all, remember all. Cut loose and take chances. Do not write about anything that is not important.”

Kuo has published more than 350 poems, short stories and novels. In 2002 he won the American Book Award for his book Lipstick and Other Stories. Kuo has been teaching creative writing for over 50 years at universities such as South Dakota State University, University of Colorado, and also in China at Peking University and Hong Kong’s Baptist University.

When Kuo graduated from Knox Collage in IL, only four schools offered a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Now there are over 245 programs for creative writing in the U.S. and over 2,500 creative writing graduates per year. Kuo said that the interest in creative writing is spreading to Asia, and many creative writing programs are being introduced in China and Japan.

At the first presentation, Kuo spoke about what he considers good writing and what writers should aim for when they write. Kuo encourages writers to pursue a second area of study so they can produce informed writing. He stressed the value of writing things that are important, not just self-reflective.

“Good writing will startle and astonish,” Kuo said. “We write to escape our narrow-mindedness. It should make me want to look again, maybe even piss me off. It should be something that someone else thinks is important. Something that is important for me to know about as a human being.”

Kuo used one of the poems he read aloud to relate to a real event that happened in Wisconsin in 2004 when eight hunters were shot by Chia Vang. His poem is titled “Sustenance.”

“I remember when the story about the hunters was in the news,” said Patricia Dyjak, an English professor at UWSP. “It was fascinating to be in the character’s head.”

Kuo said that he gets his ideas for writing from everywhere: book titles, news headlines, and so forth. He also does extensive research for the novels he writes. He once spent six years working on research for one book before finally writing it.

“I can’t remember the last time I was inspired. Writing is work,” Kuo said.

When asked why he wanted to be a writer, Kuo said, “You should never ask a fiction writer a serious question.”