It took Hillary Jordan 15 years to imagine the 31-year-old comedian who would see his wife electrocuted to death by her underwire bra in the short novel “Aftermirth.”
The work is more comedy than tragedy, Jordan told a crowd of more than 100 people Sunday morning at Bud Werner Memorial Library to raucous laughter.
Sitting next to Jordan, author Naomi Benaron's literary anecdotes received equally jovial reactions.
Benaron told the crowd that she doesn't shy away from clicking the link that tells Amazon.com that she doesn't find a personal attack on her as an author a “helpful” review of her award-winning book.
The two authors and their anecdotes, some of which were more serious than others, were well received by the large crowd that attended the library's event billed as a bonus to Steamboat's 20th annual Literary Sojourn.
The authors talked about their battles to keep their desired book titles, the power of their words, and about evolving plot lines and the meticulous research needed to write from the point of view of another race, another gender or in a different time.
Several audience members left feeling like they got a rare chance to travel deep inside of the minds of accomplished authors.
“I really like the fact this became a gateway into someone's mind,” Steamboat resident Beverly Lehrer-Brennan said after the talk. “It was good to hear where their stories came from.”
Many in the audience also were fans of Jordan and Benaron's dedication to writing to promote social justice.
The authors both said words are well positioned to bring about positive changes in society.
“Literature has a unique power of showing you another person's world to create empathy, the kind of empathy that over time does promote change,” Jordan said.
Jordan and Benaron are recipients of the Bellwether Prize, a literature award founded by Barbara Kingsolver in 2000 that is awarded every other year to work of socially engaged literature.
Jordan received the award in 2006 for her book “Mudbound,” and Benaron received the award in 2010 for her novel “Running the Rift.”
“Mudbound” follows a woman struggling to raise her children on a Mississippi Delta farm in the Jim Crow Era.
“Running the Rift” follows a Rwandan boy who aspires to earn Olympic gold for running.
The authors' discussion Sunday was attended by literary enthusiasts, English teachers and some community members who just wanted to know a little more about the awards they see on book covers.
For nearly two hours, the writers talked about their books, how they title them and how they still prefer paperback to Nook.
“I need that feeling of a book on my hands,” Benaron said when asked what she thought of the publishing going digital. “I want to dog-ear the pages. I want to mark it. I want a book. I want to make that book mine.”
Each author said they received plenty of rejection letters from literary agents before their books earned the prestigious award.
They then talked about how the Bellwether Prize has dramatically changed their lives.
“It changed the trajectory of my publishing career,” Jordan said, adding she didn't set out to become an activist writer.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com