Fiction writer Alison Espach holds reading on campus

By Brian Figurski

Fiction writer Alison Espach visited the Oakland Center April 9 to do a reading from her debut novel “The Adults.”

The author, who currently teaches creative writing at Providence College in Rhode Island (I couldn’t find her on the college’s faculty list), answered questions and read chapters from her novel at the event sponsored by Oakland’s Department of English, among other OU sponsors.

Associate Professor of English Rob Anderson introduced Espach and spoke highly of her take on the coming-of-age experience of young girls in “The Adults.”

“There’s a growing cultural interest in the social lives of children,” Anderson said. “The brilliance of Espach’s novel is the messy line that separates adult from adolescence.”

Espach then read sections from chapters four and five in her novel, preempting the reading with “I did try picking a section that wasn’t riddled with profanity and dirty language, but it actually is quite impossible to find in this book.”

The crowd laughed as Espach skimmed through excerpts from the novel that discussed the life of 14-year-old narrator Emily and her clique of freshman friends.

Espach then answered questions by students and faculty about being a first-time novelist, the experiences leading up to publication and the promotion of the book, including drawing upon her own experiences growing up to craft the protagonist Emily.

“A lot of teenagers have these split sides that are very extreme (who said this? Espach?).”

(Needs a transition.)

“It probably took up until the date of publication for me to understand who I had created,” Espach said of working on “The Adults” for three years, starting during her senior year of grad school at Washington University in St. Louis.

Espach said she was flattered at the praise she had received from kids around the age of her central narrator and the accuracy of the dialogue.

“The response from the young people has generally been, ‘Thank you for showing how vulgar and filthy it can be to be a teenager,’” she said. “A lot of teenagers portrayed by media don’t include that part of being a teenager.”

Rebecca Reichenbach, a senior studying creative writing, agreed that Espach’s take on adolescence rang true to reality.

“Teenage girls do talk about their bodies,” Reichenbach said. “(The reading) was real and very funny.”

Before she left, Espach thanked the crowd for attending and said being able to speak on her writing experiences is one of the overlooked perks of being published.

“I’m really honored to be here,” she said. “I love visiting universities and meeting other students across the country. It’s really one of the great joys of being a writer.”

“The Adults” was published in September 2011 by Scribner and is available in major bookstores, including the campus Barnes and Noble for a limited time.