Bates College President A. Clayton Spencer, right, talks Monday night with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout about her new book, “Olive, Again” at the Olin Arts Center on the Lewiston campus. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — For Elizabeth Strout, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author born and raised in Maine, her writing routine involves “making a mess.”

Every seat at Olin Arts Center on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston was full Monday night as College President Clayton Spencer, right and Bates grad and Pulitzer Prize winner, Elizabeth Strout, author of “Olive Kitteridge,” talked after Strout read a segment from her newest book, “Olive, Again.” Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I think if you write a book from beginning to end, it comes across too wooden,” Strout told a sold-out audience Monday night at the Bates College Olin Arts Center. “I write by scenes. If I can make a scene that’s real, I leave it on the table. If I don’t, it gets tossed on the floor. Eventually, the scenes that have a heartbeat will start to connect.”

Strout read three pages from her new book, “Olive, Again,” a sequel to her 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Olive Kitteridge.”

The first half of the evening was dedicated to a conversation between Strout and Bates President A. Clayton Spencer, who asked about her new novel, her writing process and why she decided to return to the character of Olive Kitteridge 11 years after she introduced her to the world.

Strout said she was at a cafe in Norway, “the country, not the town,” when “Olive just showed up to me.”

“I said, ‘Wow, look at you!” Strout said as the audience laughed. “I wrote it down, because I know enough about Olive that she needs to be dealt with immediately, once she shows up.”

Later Monday night, while taking questions from the audience, Steve Meister asked Strout how she “becomes another person” while writing.

Every seat at Olin Arts Center on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston was full during Monday night’s conversation between Bates College President Clayton Spencer and Elizabeth Strout, the Pultizer Prize winning author of “Olive Kitteridge,” during her reading of a segment of her newest book, “Olive, Again.” Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Strout said since she was young, she has always wanted to know how it felt to be another person.

Every seat at Olin Arts Center on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston was full Monday night as College President Clayton Spencer, right and Bates grad and Pulitzer Prize winner, Elizabeth Strout, author of “Olive Kitteridge,” talked after Strout read a segment from her newest book, “Olive, Again.” Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I was really young when I realized I’ll only see things from my own eyes,” Strout said. “I was so frustrated by that, and I still am. It’s become the engine that propels me forward. I’ve always listened and observed people unbelievably carefully.”

She said fiction “gives us a chance to understand what it’s like to be another person.”

Gov. Janet Mills, seated in the front row, next to Strout’s husband, Jim Tierney, asked Strout if she had advice for young, aspiring writers who may be in the audience.

“If you really want to be a writer, you just do it, and you keep doing it, and you never, ever stop doing it,” Strout said. “I would also keep my mouth shut about it, because I don’t think people take you seriously if you say, ‘I’m going to be a writer.’ People just look at you like, ‘Oh.’”

She said aspiring writers should “write, and read, and write, and read, and don’t stop.”

For the final question of the evening, a woman fittingly asked Strout how she knows she has finished a book.

“I just know,” Strout said without pause. “So much of what I do is intuitive. I just know.”

 


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