“Burning Bright” author visits campus

Author Ron Rash made a special appearance at Southeastern Louisiana University to speak and answer questions about his book “Burning Bright” and to share a few personal accounts of his life and how they translate into his writing.

Students and professors gathered in the Vonnie Borden Theatre, March 17, to listen to Rash speak about his novel. He began the conference by complimenting Louisiana.

“I love coming to Louisiana because there is great talent here.” Rash said. “You know, some of the greatest writers come from urban areas. Oh, and the food is pretty great too.”

He proceeded to explain the inspiration behind the novel and answered questions asked by students. “Burning Bright” is separated into 12 short stories each one telling a different tale and with a different time setting than the one before and after.

One student was curious about the novel’s chapter setup.

“I was just experimenting, really,” Rash said. “I am always trying new layouts for my novels and this one just seemed to fit for the tone [of the story] I was going for.”

Rash explained how most of his stories came to be, growing up in Appalachia. Most of the short stories in “Burning Bright” come from stories he remembers his family sharing. He described how people living in Appalachia are stereotyped as heroin addicts and having very poor living standards.

One short story, “The Ascent”, was a real event.

“There was this plane crash in the woods and no one found the plane for 6 years,” Rash said. “Six years! So, I thought, what could be better than a search team finding this lost plane. Of course, a little boy with a horrible home life who thinks that a dead woman and man in the plane is better than his own two parents.”

Rash’s short stories are famous for strong commentary on Appalachian poverty and some are very related for the author.

Rash was then asked which stories he related to most and why. Rash contemplated the question thinking aloud.

“I think the first, middle, and last stories,” Rash said. “All three of these stories have actually all taken place down the road that I grew up on. They are all at different times in history and all have different characters that have grown up in different time periods and have different struggles. I think it gives Appalachia a good variety.”

Afterward, students were impressed with the visiting author.

“He is a very inspirational author,” sophomore Beaux Champagne said. “He took from his personal experience and didn’t try to choke us with too much fiction. His writing is very easy to relate to.”

Rash’s answer to the last question of the conference left the audience and Rash himself with a chuckle. A student asked why Rash doesn’t use semicolons in his writing.

“I don’t think any of the characters are capable of using semicolons…so I didn’t.”

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