David Ulin shares advice with aspiring writers
Los Angeles Times book critic is latest guest of Los Angeles Writers Reading Series, designed to bring students face to face with members of the literary community.
A student follows along reading in the foreground as Los Angeles Times book critic David Ulin reads from his book, 'Cape Cod Noir,' at the Los Angeles Reading Series held at Glendale Community College on Wednesday. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / March 28, 2012)
“Mediocre artists imitate; great artists steal,” Ulin said, quoting an adage familiar to members of the creative class.
The comments came during an appearance Wednesday at Glendale Community College, where the Los Angeles Times book critic and literary heavyweight was featured as part the Los Angeles Writers Reading Series.
Launched nearly three years ago by English professors Jocelyn Heaney and Claire Phillips, the series is designed to bring students face to face with stars of the Southern California literary community and has attracted the likes of Janet Fitch, author of “White Oleander.”
“What we really wanted to do is expose a traditionally unexposed audience to the best literary voices in L.A.,” Heaney said.
In addition to his criticism for The Times, Ulin has penned two of his own books while also editing five others, including “Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology.”
He has become a familiar face at Glendale Community College, making large group presentations and meeting with individual classes several times, Heaney and Phillips said. On Wednesday, he read aloud a short story he wrote for “Cape Cod Noir,” a collection of short stories by multiple authors published last year.
He typically doesn't plan out how the story will unfold before he starts writing, Ulin said.
“What I try and do is figure out the frame of the story and write my way into it and see what emerges,” Ulin said. “But I am constantly going back and changing things and pulling things out and combining them.”
Responding to a student question about the emergence of products like the Kindle, Ulin said he believes hard-copy books are here to stay.
“I think that the great lie that we are being told largely by corporations like Amazon is that somehow print books are going away, and we are all going to be reading digitally all the time, and that is the evolution arc of published literature,” Ulin said. “I think they are both going to coexist.”
While writing presented in a digital form is changing reader habits, a strong market will remain for hard-copy books, including art books and trade paperbacks, Ulin said.
“What is more interesting to me is, how does electronic publishing change writing, and what can we do with it?” he said.