A class that was started over 30 years ago by New Mexico author Tony Hillerman continues to bring local writers to UNM campus.
This semester, the lineup includes poet Hakim Bellamy, Western writer Melody Groves and comedian Eddie Tafoya.
The Honors College class "Meet the Authors" invites 10 New Mexico authors over the course of the semester so students who are studying their work have the opportunity to ask them questions on everything from the publishing process to their childhood experiences.
The lectures take place Mondays at 9 a.m. in the Honors Forum (bottom floor of Student Health and Counseling) and are open to the public.
“I’ll be your tour guide this semester through the creative mind,” said Steve Brewer, the class’s instructor, as he opened class Monday.
After a career in journalism, Brewer has authored 27 books, most of them crime novels, he said.
Brewer said the public lectures typically don’t have a large turnout.
“I hope we get more people to come because it’s really interesting, and that first hour we cover a lot of the biographical stuff and a lot of the basics (like) how they ended up in the creative field,” he said.
The course, which was created by Hillerman, has had a range of different professors including a mystery writer, a poet and current Honors College Chair Leslie Donovan.
Despite the course's longevity, the free lectures seem to be a well-kept secret, Brewer said.
“It’s usually pretty small, usually retired people because they can be there in the middle of the work day like that, and in the middle of campus which is not that easy to get to," he said. "So we’re not gonna get people who can just run over from their job. It’s just not physically doable."
However, Brewer said attendance might increase now that the lectures have been moved to 9 in the morning.
Brewer said there are key reasons to feature New Mexico authors.
“One is to recognize what an amazing place New Mexico is for artistic people and it always has been. It’s attracted artists from the very beginning, and writers from the very beginning,” he said. “The whole relationship these writers have with New Mexico is always an interesting topic. It gives the students a chance to learn more about where they are. There’s a mix here of fiction and non-fiction and a lot of it is set in New Mexico or applies to New Mexico in different ways.”
Although the class is a rare opportunity for aspiring writers, the students enrolled are pursuing a wide spectrum of career paths, Brewer said.
“There’s always a range of people that are just interested in creativity, or they love to read,” he said.
Brewer said he attempts to gather a diverse group of writers for the course. This year, he was able to find many of them through the local writing organization SouthWest Writers.
“We have such a great bunch of local authors to choose from so there’s always fresh blood, you know, and new faces,” he said.
There is one thing the authors all have in common.
“They’re all working writers. They’re people who have been published, who are being published, who are writing something right now. They’re not dabblers,” Brewer said.
Social media and the new prevalence of e-books have expanded the topics students talk with the authors about.
“Authors are now being asked to be business people and social media gurus and all this other stuff that we didn’t used to have to do, so that has broadened the job and therefore the class,” he said.
Still, one thing about the lecture series hasn’t changed -- the endless variety of ways writers approach the creative process.
“Everybody does it differently. There’s some people who outline everything, and there’s some people who fly by the seat of their pants and everything in between, and it’s fascinating to me, and it’s fascinating to these students,” Brewer said.
Brewer said he is most excited for the authors he’s never heard speak before.
“Betsy James, our first speaker, who has been a part of the writing community here for decades, I’ve never seen her speak. I don’t know how that happened,” Brewer said.
The first lecture by speculative fiction author Betsy James will take place Sept.12.