Southern Utah University featured author Matt Bell for the fifth Ask. Ponder. Educate. [X]. event of the semester on Thursday, Oct. 14, to talk about his latest book, “Appleseed.”
Bell is an acclaimed writer, with his works appearing in The New York Times, Tin House, and American Short Fiction. Bell also teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.
SUU English professor Todd Petersen and A.P.E.X. director Dr. Lynn Vartan accompanied Bell as they talked about writing style, pace and language. In between discussions, Bell read passages from his novel that prompted analysis and questions about the writing process.
“Appleseed” was published in July 2021 and tells a compelling story with three different plotlines spanning over 1,000 years that spread light about issues like climate change, manifest destiny and capitalism. Bell emphasized these forces do not exist in just one place, thus shaping history.
The novel is a combination of genres, but it is prominently speculative fiction, which Petersen describes as, “science fiction for people who don’t think they like science fiction.” It allows readers to think about environmental ethics and its possible consequences.
In Bell’s early career, he spent a lot of time online, talking with other writers on message boards and blogs. He advised aspiring writers to find the same audience and connections.
“You build the communities you want to participate in,” said Bell. “People want to hear from you, and people do want to connect with you.”
Bell admitted most of his writing gets thrown away, but none of it is a waste; it’s essential to the process. He’s also open to influence from all over to keep the image bank full.
“Every sentence you write is practice for the ones you’ll publish,” said Bell.
In early 2022, Bell is excited to release “Refuse to Be Done,” a craft book on novel writing and revision. He encouraged writers to bring several versions of themselves when creating and editing their work.
After the event, students could go into the lobby to buy a copy of “Appleseed” and get it signed by Bell. The author was happy to chat with students in line and thanked everyone who came to hear him speak.
A podcast continuing the conversation between Bell, Petersen and Vartan, along with other event information, can be found on the A.P.E.X. website.
Story by Addie Horsley
Photos by Katie Englert