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