By Karlie Flood

Richard Hartshorn teaches English 101 and 102, as well as a public speaking class at Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy, New York. He is the recipient of the 2011 Bausch Short Story Prize, and advisor of the theater club.

On October 11th, the fifth installment of “An Evening with Local Writers” series took place in the Bulmer Telecommunications auditorium at HVCC. I was given the opportunity to interview Hartshorn, the initiator of this event.

KF: What did you set out to do with this event?

RH: “It was partly to expose our students to the literary community and get them involved in more. We wanted to show them that their voices matter. We are also trying to show [students] that there is something between them and the franchised writers (like the J.K Rowlings); we wanted to show them the real literary community, who are down in the dirt and doing work. There are so many local writers.”

KF: What made you want to become a writer?

“It wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted to do, it was more of a hunger for me. I found the attraction at a very early age.”

KF: What genre do you write the most?

RH: “Fiction—and essays occasionally.”

KF: How do you begin a piece of writing?

RH: “I try not to think too hard before and plan it all out, because I just never do it because I get bored or it’s too daunting. Often, I’ll think of a character and find something for them to do and write around them. I don’t know what the story arc will be or who the other people will be until I start writing.”

KF: Does inspiration for your stories come from real-life?

RH: “Sometimes; things I am afraid of or worry about sometimes bleed into the story. I wouldn’t say I base characters on real people necessarily other than real parts of myself.”

KF: If you had to describe writing in one word, what would it be?

RH: “Vital.”

KF: What makes a successful writer to you?

RH: “I don’t know if consistency is the right word, but somebody who is doing work consistently or always thinking about it—because not everybody can sit down and write every day—but something keeps bringing them back to writing.”

KF: What do you do when you have writer’s block?

RH: “I play video games. Sitting there in front of a blank page for three hours doesn’t really help, it just makes me feel like more of a failure,” he said laughing. “I do something unrelated then come back to it later.”

KF: What is your best advice for writers?

RH: “Don’t write what you know. Write from what you know, write into what you want to know.”