By Michaella Lesieur, Staff Writer
Visiting UMass Dartmouth from her local Westport home, Dawn Tripp spoke out to students and staff at the University Club on Wednesday, November 9.
Fans, writing and literature majors, and the UMass Dartmouth community gathered together to enjoy this special guest’s book talk, with light refreshments and a whole lot of excitement.
This event marked the first installment of the Living Literature speaking series, courtesy of the English Department.
“It took me six years to write Georgia,” Tripp said of her current national bestseller. She is also the author of Moon Tide, The Season of Open Water, and Game of Secrets.
This most recent book, Georgia, takes place in the year 1916 and follows the life of Georgia O’Keeffe.
As Tripp’s website states, the plot follows a young O’Keeffe, an “unknown art teacher [that] travels to New York to meet Stieglitz, the famed photographer and art dealer, who has discovered O’Keeffe’s work and exhibits it in his gallery.”
Tripp was “inspired by life and the art of Georgia O’ Keeffe,” since she revealed that she was already sixty pages into another novel when she stumbled upon this idea.
She loved the abstract art that O’Keeffe presented and the various shapes within it, but she also saw a story of what she was going through.
Over the course of several years, Tripp took her time to make sure each word connected to the other and each page flipped just right before she was ready to publish Georgia. She even kept hold of the book for one more year because, as she stated, “I had to make sure everything fit.”
When the questions and answers time began during her visit, the eager crowd asked many questions of the aspiring author. Tripp happily answered any questions the crowd had, acting as the perfect role model for young writers.
She stressed how it is not just innate ability that creates a book, but that “passion, persistence, and drive is what it takes. Not talent.”
When discussing the more difficult parts of writing Georgia, Tripp said, “The trickiest part was finding the voice; it took me a year.”
She then told the crowd about the day it finally clicked for her. Tripp was by a river with her two sons one April day when “it hit me as I was lying on the dock,” she described.
Tripp remembers spending countless hours living and breathing O’Keeffe’s art and photographs, carefully trying to construct O’Keeffe’s story the way it needed to be told.
Of O’Keeffe’s life, Tripp mentioned that “she made bold choices and kept pushing the boundary.”
Writing this book has changed Tripp and it is still changing her, especially since this is the first time Tripp has written a novel in first person.
Sometimes she found it difficult to word certain parts of the story or to make sure it was truthful, saying that she had to be a “time-sensitive writer.”
When going through the editing process, Tripp not only listens to her editors but also listens to her gut when receiving advice from them.
Something that also makes this process special for her is that her first reader is her husband, followed by two of her close friends.
One of Tripp’s favorite parts of the process is the research. “I love to research. For Georgia, I read twenty and zeroed in on four.”
She also follows a certain formula when writing. Tripp describes her first two steps as “Drive-by Research” and “Front Load Research.” Next, she aims to “write as much of the novel as I can then go back and add more in between.” Finally, she has to “cut things when I get too much into research.”
Tripp reminds all the aspiring writers out there to have a relationship with the stories they are writing, as well as a relationship with empathy.
For more information on the author, or to stay up to date with all her events, visit her website. Copies of Georgia can be found on Amazon or through local book retailers.