By Adina Pernell
City College English professor Julie Young featured author Calla Devlin for the first installment of the English department’s “Visiting Writers Series” event on Sept. 12 at the Ocean Campus’ Rosenberg Library.
“I am so happy to bring Calla Devlin to City College, because Calla is part of the community that I joined as a writer. We used to go to graduate school together,” Young said as she announced Devlin to the podium.
Devlin walked to the front as if she was one of the well-timed characters in her newly debuted work of fiction “Tell Me Something Real,” which contains themes of mortality, loss and cancer.
The author is a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the Best of Blood and Thunder award in 2012. She explained that the road to your first published work can be a rocky one.
Having lost her mother-in-law to cancer and with three close friends diagnosed with the disease, Devlin stated in her essay “Behind the Book: Tell Me Something Real” that her novel is not another “cancer book.”
“It isn’t really about illness. More than anything, I wanted to show how no matter what, we all deserve to be loved,” Devlin said.
Devlin’s first fiction was a culmination of hard work, and one that she didn’t come by easily.
After reading the first chapter of “Tell Me Something Real” aloud, she opened up the floor for questions.
One man in the audience asked Devlin if she had to be inspired to write, to which she replied, “I do not believe in writer’s block. I’ve spent 36 hours straight in a chair. Sometimes it’s just butt-in-the-seat every day.” The crowd laughed.
“You have to sacrifice,” she added. “I have friends in my writing group and they get up at four thirty and five in the morning.”
When working on “Tell Me Some Real” Devlin admitted, “I wrote this book four times. Just four drafts from start to finish, and each one is unrecognizable from the other.”
Once a completed draft is formed, Devlin said it’s “important to persevere and to not internalize rejection. Small journals, small houses can equal a great writing career.”
When the event came to a close, a few of Devlin’s colleagues gathered around her, including City College English professor Jacquelynn Davis-Martin and the former chair of the English department, Jessica Brown.
“I really wish I could have her in my [English] 1B class to explain what it really takes to get published,” Martin said, while Brown enthusiastically told Devlin “‘Tell Me Something Real’ is such a great title, because you’re real.”
Three more writers will be hosted by the “Visiting Writers Series” at the Ocean and Mission campuses throughout October and November.