“Flurry of little stories”


A portrait of the author Ru Freeman holding her book “Sleeping Alone.”

Lucy Severson, Reporter

This year, faculty and students involved with the Hamline Creative Writing Program were honored to host Ru Freeman on April 11 as this year’s visiting author. Every year, one author is invited to the Hamline campus to share their work and to be interviewed by one MFA student. Freeman read passages from multiple of her works and on April 12, Freeman was interviewed by Hamline creative writing professor of over twenty years, Sheila O’Connor and graduating MFA student, Mubanga Kalimamukwento. 

Freeman shared a lot about her unique writing process. 

“I send emails to myself when I come up with story ideas, so I don’t forget,” she told the audience. “And I scribble little notes for short stories and keep them in a cigar box.” 

Then she detailed her experience being a creative writing professor. 

“You give them everything,” she said. “Your life experience. Advice you’ve learned. You wonder what on earth you can tell them so they can help do something good in the world and make it a better place.” 

Freeman answering questions from the crowd after she finished reading an excerpt of “Sleeping Alone.”

Freeman also emphasized how she wants to see more new literature being published, inspiring audiences to be better people and make a difference in the world. 

“It’s essential for apprentice writers to learn from a range of published writers,” O’Connor told the Oracle in an email. “Each writer has their own aesthetic, as well as a highly individualized process.  What inspires one writer, might not inspire another.  The more diversity students encounter in terms of practice and form, the more likely it is that their ideas about art are transformed.” 

She emphasized how much of a gift it is for any Hamline students interested in literature to be able to learn from visiting authors. 

“Ru had valuable things to say about not only the writing process, but the power of literature—ideas and beliefs that are uniquely her own, and yet there were writers in the audience who felt a deep connection to her words,” O’Connor said. 

Ru Freeman has four published works of literature including “A Disobedient Girl: A Novel,” “On Sal Mal Lane,” “Sleeping Alone: Stories” and “Courage: Essays on Inheritance, Citizenship, and a Creative Life.” At the reading, Freeman talked in depth about “Sleeping Alone” and about how each story is inspired by a true event big and small. 

“Everything I’ve written about is fiction, but it is inspired by something or somebody that existed,” she said. “I see these people walking around and there’s this flurry of little stories constantly floating around them.” 

She explained that she intended for several short stories to be full novels, but each time she sat down to write them, they ended naturally, much sooner than she had planned. On her trip to Yaddo (a retreat for artists and writers in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), she decided to put all the short stories together and create “Sleeping Alone.” 

According to their official website, “Yaddo is the leading nonprofit retreat for artists and writers, who come from all nations and backgrounds to live and work in our supportive community.” 

Freeman also began working on two novels during her time in Yaddo. She recommended the retreat to other writers, who would like a space to practice and explore their creativity. 

Author Ru Freeman talking with professors Angela Pelster-Wiebe and Katrina Vandenburg.

“I am new to Ru Freeman’s work and loved reading her novels and short story collection,” Mubanga Kalimamukwento told the Oracle in an email. “As a writer, I loved ‘On Sal Mal Lane.’ But, as a reader, ‘Sleeping Alone’ stayed with me.” 

Kalimamukwento is also a published author, along with Sheila O’Connor. During the interview, all three participants encouraged aspiring writers to read, read and read some more. 

“My only advice is to read every day and write every day,” Kalimamukwento said. 

O’Connor told the Oracle more about how students can become more involved in Hamline’s creative writing programs. 

“I encourage students to enroll in our Intro to Creative Writing course which is designed for both majors and non-majors. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore literary arts across genres,” she said. “And the Inferno Art Collective meets weekly at CWP House to exchange ideas, share writing and other creative projects from a variety of art forms. Everyone is welcome! If students are interested they can write to professor Richard Pelster-Wiebe.” 

When asked what impact she hoped “Sleeping Alone” would have on her audience, Freeman replied, “I hope it makes people want to believe more and write more. My hope is that when you read the stories, you start to say to yourself, “Maybe this person I’m meeting has more to them. Maybe there’s a bigger story here.”