The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, January 27, 1999, Page 9, Image 9

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'News’ flash:
UNL professor’s
novel earns praise
By Diane Broderick
Staff writer
The evening news often highlights modem tragedies: guns
accidentally firing, children getting shot people dying.
But the stories behind the stones - those of individual family
members dealing with tragedy - are often lost as stones pile upon
stories, and newer news becomes the new focus.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln English Professor Marly
Swick explores the conflicts that get lost in the shuffle in her newest
novel, “Evening News.”
“I’m drawn into these really emotionally complex situations
where you son of ask yourself, ‘How does somebody get through
something like that?’ It’s interesting to try and imagine,” Swick
“Evening News” explores one family tragedy in which a
womans 9-year-old son - her current husband’s stepson - gets hold
of a gun and accidentally fires it, killing his 2-year-old stepsister.
The emotional difficulties in handling such a situation as a par
ent, a stepparent and a surviving child were what fascinated her.
The complexities it spawned involve grief, guilt and anger, cou
pled with the smuggle to iove and forgive.
The novel was embraced by New York publishing house Little,
Brown and Company, which officially releases it Monday. Already
“News” has amassed much critical acclaim, including praise from
the New York Times Book Review and Newsday.
And from March 2 to 17, Swick will go on a national book tour
- her largest to date that includes Chicago. San Francisco, Los
Angeles and Seattle.
The novel is her second; her first, “Paper Wings,” was pub
lished in 1996 by HarperCollins.
This kind of success could send some authors’ egos sky-high,
but a UNL colleague says the opposite is true of Swick.
“Marly’s received the kind of success that happens to very few
people in the arts, and she’s man
aged to maintain a kind of eerie
levelheadedness throughout all
of this,” said Associate English
Professor Gerry Shapiro.
“What’s amazing is that
as she becomes more and
more successful, she
becomes more and
more humble. It’s just
not the way people
normally respond to
success,” he said.
Swick, 49, has
been living and teaching
in Lincoln for almost 11 years,
and she has been writing since child
hood. Her choice to go into professional
writing was the only one she had, she said.
“It wasn't really a decision,” Swick said. “I really
don’t think I ever, for five minutes, debated what I was
going to major in.
“I don’t even think it occurred to me I could do anything differ
Her education included receiving a bachelor’s degree in cre
ative writing from Stanford.
She later got her master’s and doctorate degrees, and then head
ed to Iowa City, Iowa, for the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop,
which has been led by such authors as Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and
Raymond Carver (who also graduated from the program).
The program is quite challenging, Swick confirmed, and she
said it’s not for everyone because of its competitive edge.
“I tell my students that if you’re looking for a nurturing place to
go - forget it. That’s not what it’s about,” Swick said.
But there was a thrill to being in a community where everyone
was interested in what she was, Swick said, and that helped her
writing immensely.
The workshop accelerated her progress because the other par
ticipants’ capacity to write well forced her to push herself to do bet
She spent three years at the University of Iowa, a year longer
than normal for the program, because of a grant she received to stay
an extra year.
“But it just seems like no time at ail before you're back in the
cold, cruel world,” Swick said.
But now, it seems the harsh realities of starting out in the writ
lif where she wants
If to be in life.
And apparently.
If Lincoln is that place.
Having lived in several
,,,,,,,,, locations since she was
if born, the author had never
lived anywhere for more than
four or five years until she
came to Lincoln. She is content
here. And she has no plans to per
manently leave town anytime soon.
Lincoln even found its way into
Swick’s writing in “News.” Her pro
; tagonist is a Nebraska native who
attended UNL.
5 Swick, however, was born in
§| Indianapolis - even though she stayed there
only a few weeks.
Her use cf Lincoln as a setting in the novel
isn’t exactly autobiographical - she didn't move
here until she was in her 30s.
She used Lincoln because of its familiarity, so
she wouldn’t have to fly out and research a brand-new
location, and because its wholesomeness was perfect
for the plot’s progression.
The only actual autobiographical aspects to the novel are that
she attended school in California, as the protagonist does, and that
she has a stepson. The rest is pure imagination.
As Swick scans the goals that she has left to fulfill in life, only
one comes to mind: to publish a story in the famous literary maga
zine the New Yorker.
The author has published in magazines before, including
Redbook, where her first story appeared in print, and Playgiri,
where three of her works were published over about three years.
There was an excellent fiction editor at Playgiri who published
serious literary fiction, Swick said, and that’s how her stones ended
up there.
“It was sort of a drag, in a way, because nobody I knew read that
magazine, and it’s kind of an embarrassing magazine,” Swick said.
But as she prepares to embark on her book tour, it is easy to real
ize that Swick’s latest publishing endeavor is anything but a burden.
She says she’s ready to enjoy the fancy hotels - the kind of
hotels she’d never stay at on her own.
But her greater pleasure will lie in her return home, getting
back in the classroom and, of course, resuming work on her next