Award-winning novelist reviews student writings, reads own work

Bret LottAward-winning author Bret Lott presented a workshop and reading April 24 in Harvey Auditorium at Union University.

Lott is a best-selling novelist and professor of English at The College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. He has written 14 books.

Lott’s best-known work is a novel based on the life of his grandmother, titled “Jewel.” This book catapulted  him to further fame when it was a  featured  selection on Oprah’s Book Club in 1999.

“Oprah called and said ‘Bret, we’re going to have so much fun.’” Lott said. “That was eight years after the book came out so I had to re-read it.”

Lott’s most recent work is a collection of essays titled, “Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian.” In the book, Lott shares several personal stories and observations.

“The word Christian was never meant to be a modifier,” Lott said. “That’s kind of what the thesis of this book is about.”

Lott said he is an anomaly among his peers because he is Christian, but he is a secular writer who publishes with secular publishers.

“I’m treated sort of like a savant,” Lott joked.

He said being Christian influences all of his work, but he does not classify his books as Christian books.

At the reading, Lott read passages from both “Jewel” and “Letters and Life.” He also gave insight into the process behind his writing and provided a time for questions and answers.

Bobby Rogers, professor of English and Writer in Residence, worked alongside Roger Stanley, assistant professor of English, and the Lyceum committee to bring Lott to campus.

The event was hosted by the Lyceum Committee, a group tasked with bringing cultural events to campus. Those events might be literary readings, musical events or theater events that bring outside speakers and presenters to campus.

Past artists who have been featured by the committee include other novelists such as Betty Smartt Carter, ceramics artist Ron Meyers and Charles Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

“I think that it’s crucial to bring in the best people we can to Jackson, Tennessee, and give our students access to them,” Rogers said.

Rogers said what makes Lott stand out are “his excellence and gifts as a storyteller.”

About 20 students attended the workshop hosted by Lott in Penick Academic Complex. Lott had read four short works by different Union students, and he discussed the writings in detail at the workshop.

“He used them as an occasion to bring up things to teach the whole group,”  Rogers said. “It’s clear he’s a gifted teacher. He did an excellent job.”

Lott has been well-known as a novelist for more than two decades.

“I’m at the point in my life where I can just come read what I’ve written,” Lott said. “I’m old enough to do that.”

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About Nathan Handley 30 Articles
Nathan Handley is News Editor for the Cardinal & Cream. He is a journalism major at Union University and also has a history minor.