Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford offered insights on his writing process and the inspiration behind his stories during his April 23 appearance as part of the 2019 Bexley Community Author Series.
Ford's visit included an evening keynote address at Capital University and an afternoon session with selected students from Capital and Bexley High School.
Since the 1970s, Ford has written a series of critically acclaimed books. He won the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Prize for his novel "Independence Day," and received the Rea Award for the Short Story for outstanding achievement in that genre, according to his Facebook page. Ford's novel "Wildlife" was adapted into a 2018 movie that marked the directorial debut of actor Paul Dano.
In a conversation with novelist and Ohio State University English professor Lee Martin on the stage of Capital's Mees Hall, Ford shared how he persevered through rejection and failure early in his career. A Jackson, Mississippi, native, Ford said he made a conscious decision not to write about the South in many of his works to avoid being pigeonholed.
"I don't believe that where you're from becomes who you are," Ford said. "If that were true that where we're from determines who we are, I wouldn't be here today."
Many of the pieces in Ford's short-story collection, "Rock Springs," have been published in anthologies and magazines such as The New Yorker. Ford said he defies literary conventions in his short stories in order to maintain originality.
"I don't want any rules that say what a short story is or isn't," he said, "except for the rules that I invent for each short story that I write."
Ford's most recent book, "Between Them," from 2017, is a memoir of his late parents, Parker and Edna, reflecting on before and after he was born.
Ford said growing up as an only child is a major factor that led him to become a writer.
"I was always the one child who was listening while the adults were talking," he said. "I didn't have any brothers or sisters to share any of this with. I didn't have anybody to deflect my attention away from those older people. It made me an observer. It made me a recorder."
The Bexley Community Author Series is annual event is a collaboration among the Bexley Public Library, Capital, the Bexley City Schools, the Bexley Community Foundation, the Drexel Theatre, Gramercy Books and WCBE 90.5 FM.
A selection committee that includes representatives from the sponsoring organizations and other community members chose Ford because of his extensive body of work, said Ben Heckman, director of the Bexley Public Library.
"He's got quite a canon of books," Heckman said of Ford. "He was a great 'get' for us."