Pulitzer-winner delights, shares insights during Merrimack residency
Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and best-selling author Gail Caldwell offered insights and advice to students recently while serving as writer-in-residence at Merrimack College’s Writers House.
Caldwell met with writing and poetry classes, as well as the writers , during her residency.
“I love to be around students,” she said. “They are so smart, so willing and free, so full of ideas and knowledge.”
She read from her memoirs Strong West Wind, Let’s Take the Long Way Home, New Life, No Instructions, before holding an engaging question-and-answer session with students, faculty, and people from the surrounding communities.
Caldwell started her professional career as a teacher at the University of Texas at Austin, but in 1981 relocated to Boston where she worked as a freelancer then for The Boston Phoenix and The Boston Review before joining The Boston Globe.
She won the Pulitzer in 2001 for distinguished critiques on contemporary life and literature.
Caldwell was at The Boston Globe about 25 years before retiring in 2009. She had already written two books by the time she left, so the transition from journalism seemed easier, she said.
She likes to write in longhand now, but when she was on deadline for the paper she used to write on a computer, Caldwell said.
Whenever she gets writer’s block, the best way to get past it is to walk away from the desk and do something else, even the dishes, she advised.
“I remember writing in longhand on the kitchen floor and that did it,” Caldwell said.
She also uses cluster maps to track her ideas, and trusts in her unconscious to steer her in the right direction.
“I have learned to respect my unconscious a lot more than I used to,” Caldwell said.
She revels in a cluttered desk. “I will never have a clean desk,” Caldwell said. “That is proof of an empty mind for me.”
Sally Wallace, Diane Rusckowski, Rita Cashman of Andover, and Gail Woolford of North Andover are members of a book club and fans of Caldwell’s who sat in on the reading.
“She did not disappoint,” Cashman said as they left the reading.