BENNINGTON >> Over 30 people came out to the Bennington Library on Monday evening to hear a talk by Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher.
The talk, "Where Does Fiction Come From?" was sponsored by the Library and the Bennington Bookshop, and was part of Mosher's tour promoting his new book, "God's Kingdom." Karson Kiesinger from the library, during her introduction of Mosher, said he has been described as "The Mark Twain of our time," and read a quote from author Stephen King praising Mosher's new book, which was released in October.
Mosher began the talk by reading selections from the first chapter of "God's Kingdom," which is titled, "Blooded," although he stopped short of the chapter's climax, noting that they would have to buy the book to find out what happens.
"I don't have the faintest notion in the world where fiction comes from," said Mosher on the subject of his talk, although he said that he suspects it comes from a combinations of the writer's experiences, both what they have seen and what they have heard or read, filtered through their imagination. He said he had grown up surrounded by excellent storytellers. "Nobody in the Mosher clan had a penny of money, but they all had stories," he said.
Mosher put his own storytelling abilities on display, telling the tale of one of his grade school teachers, Mrs. Armstrong, whom all of the students referred to as the "battle-axe," for her harsh punishments. One day, he said, she saw him writing a short story, and told him that to have success as a writer he would need to do three things: Read the classics, revise his work, and write about things that he knew. "Nobody in all the years since has given me any better advice about writing," he said, "I know what she'd say if she were sitting here right this minute, 'Mosher, you still have a long way to go.'"
Mosher and his wife moved to the Northeast Kingdom, the subject of all of his 11 novels, in 1964, right after graduating college, to work as schoolteachers. Their first impression of the state, he said, was two drunk men fighting in the middle of the road, who helpfully directed them to the high school before continuing their fight. He described the region as, "a treasure trove of stories no one had told before."
Mosher said that listening to peoples' stories can be better training for an aspiring writer than any graduate program, and pointed out that, while it is easy to teach someone the basics of writing, it is very difficult to teach them how to take that next step, likening it to teaching a child baseball. "You can teach a kid to swing," he said, "but I've never had any luck teaching a kid to hit a 98 mile-per-hour fastball, let alone an 89 mph slider on the outside corner at the knees."