Sean Bernard, professor of creative writing, had been scheduled for the weekly faculty lecture series on March 24. But when the lecture was canceled – with all on-campus events when the University closed and migrated online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – Bernard posted his slides online.
Bernard, who is also a fiction writer, is currently working on a novel, “Project Gemini.”
His work in progress was the subject of his slide show.
He said he set out to write something that he would love to read, and the novel in progress incorporates “telescope, space and race.”
He added that his “inputs” also reflect curiosity, anger, regret, lonesomeness and love.
Bernard’s previous novel, “Studies in the Hereafter,” was published in 2015.
That novel focuses on the narrator, a government worker in the afterlife, who keeps track of people’s lives in the physical world. In keeping their records, he analyzes who is best fit to come into his world, but ends up falling for a woman named Tetty in the process.
“I think I was a little insecure as a writer, or at least differently secured than I am now,” Bernard said of the process of writing his 2015 book. “I wanted to write something that would be published, and that sort of eye-on-the-audience was a pressure on the work…. Now concerns about a general audience preoccupy much less and I think my work is much stronger for it.”
Tabitha Lawrence, a former student of Bernard’s, read the 2015 novel and said his depiction of discontent influenced a deep thought process for her.
“There’s definitely a sense of, like, is this all there is for me?’ Lawrence said. “There’s just such beautifully captured moments between characters, and fascinating relationship dynamics. You’ll read a phrase and it will be stuck in your head for days. I couldn’t put it down.”
Al Clark, professor of humanities, also read “Studies in the Hereafter,”and said it was thoughtful and amusing.
“I would recommend this book to a type of thinking person who also likes humor and good fiction writing,” Clark said.
These days, besides working on “Project Gemini,” Bernard is hard at work adapting to teaching online, which her reports as a fairly smooth transition.
“In some ways, the transition… is a little easier for creative writing,” Bernard said in a recent phone interview. “Writing and reading are solitary activities, after all.But I think we’re all missing out on the community and collaborative aspect, so I’ve tried to incorporate more personal elements to all my classes.”
He added that it can be difficult to know how students are doing and what their situations are because he does not know how they’re receiving his help and how he could better it.
He said he has completed a draft for Project Gemini and is now hoping to get feedback from a few readers over the next months before revising in order to pursue the end goal: publication.
Noelle Blumel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.