Ron Hansen

Posted By Horizon Staff April 9th, 2013 in Arts & Entertainment : 0 COMMENTS

Allison Cole
Staff Writer

American novelist, essayist and professor Ron Hansen helped launch the Westmont Reading Series by speaking on Wednesday, March 27 in Fleischmann Auditorium at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.  He was also on campus Thursday, March 28to speak during an English class (WHICH CLASS???) and at a faculty lunch.

Hansen, a graduate of Creighton University, served in the military before earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1974 and a Master of Arts in Spirituality from Santa Clara University. He earned a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford University and fellowships from the Michigan Society of Fellows, the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim, Lyndhurst and Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundations.

Hansen has written numerous novels, including, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Mariette in Ecstasy,” “Atticus,” “Hitler’s Niece,” “ Isn’t It Romantic?”, “Exiles,” “A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion” and most recently, “She Loves Me Not: New and Selected Stories.”  He teaches courses in writing and literature at Santa Clara University, where he is the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. Professor in the Arts and Humanities.

When asked why he decided to visit Westmont in particular and how he felt about his visit, Hansen answered, “Actually, I’d never heard about Westmont prior to Paul Willis approaching me about visiting.  I was very favorably impressed with the beauty of the campus, the congeniality of the faculty, and the high quality of the student involvement in the fiction reading and the class.”

Hansen gains his inspiration from “what [he] reads and what [he] hear[s] or just from a state of imagination that’s very close to dreaming.” He stated, “I can’t predict what will grab me, and I write about a subject because it fascinates or compels me.”

Describing how his faith plays a role in his work, and—more broadly—in his life, Hansen answered, “I generally say that the difference in having a faith life or lacking one is the difference between seeing in color or in black-and-white.  Religious faith gives us a deeper, richer and more historically grounded sense of our lives.”

He added, “As a deacon, I’m involved in the peak experiences of people I may not know – at baptisms, weddings and funerals, or just in Bible study and times of questioning or fresh illumination.  It feels nourishing and even privileged to be in those situations when the Holy Spirit so touches people, and I try to invest my fiction with a sense of that same Spirit.”

It is obvious that Hansen finds writing to be extremely satisfying.

“To begin a project and finish it and know that it’s finally the best you can do and also a totally new thing is very rewarding,” said Hansen, “but there are also those frequent moments in the long process when you happen to create a sentence or image that feels exactly right and fitting, and you grin with pleasure and achievement.”

Giving advice to aspiring young writers, Hansen suggests, “Read as much as you can, of both high and low art, and write so regularly that something feels wrong when you’re not writing.”

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