Pulitzer Prize winner addresses students

A nearly full room of students and faculty members greeted Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and bestselling nonfiction author Rick Bragg as he took the stage last night in Olscamp Hall.

“I can’t put on any airs and pretend I belong on this stage,” Bragg said in his native Southern accent before beginning his speech. “I’d much rather talk with you than at you.”

The writer addressed his listeners in a friendly, casual manner, telling stories about his experiences and reading excerpts from his books “All Over But the Shoutin”’ and “Ava’s Man,” about his mother and grandfather, respectively. He stressed the importance of his family and its impact on his work throughout the lecture.

“I was able, through the power of writing, to do things for my family I never thought I could do,” Bragg said about writing about his family history.

In his speech, Bragg addressed students, giving them writing tips he has learned from experience.

“Learn to tell a good story, learn to use imagery,” Bragg said. “Show me, don’t tell me . . . paint me a picture.”

The journalist identified himself as mainly a storyteller, not a writer. “Writing is just the mechanical part of storytelling,” Bragg said. “It’s the only skill I’ve got – I don’t have any other skills.”

After the speech, Bragg took questions, including inquiries about his inspiration, his personal life and Internet journalism, from audience members.

Before stepping down from the podium, Dr. Catherine Cassara, associate professor in the department of journalism, presented Bragg with the gift of a University t-shirt.

“I’m kind of tickled,” Bragg said, receiving the gift with a grin.

As for his future, Bragg plans on continuing his public speaking.

“Talking to young people is a salvation for me,” he said.

He is also currently working on writing a book telling the story of former POW Jessica Lynch and has additional works about his family in progress.

The speech was well-received by audience members.

“I thought it was pretty interesting learning about his [Bragg] background and what kind of people he grew up with,” Eric Radabaugh, a senior at Bowling Green High School said. “I like how he based his stories on his family.”

Radabaugh’s fellow BGHS senior Greg Jenkins also enjoyed the speech.

“His [Bragg] storytelling was amazing,” Jenkins said, referring to Bragg’s reading from his novels. “I haven’t started the book yet, but I feel like I already know the characters.”

Bragg’s visit, a Florence and Jesse Currier Visiting Lecture, came mainly as a result of the combined efforts of the Department of Journalism, the School of Communication Studies, and the Great Lakes Interscholastic Press Association (GLIPA).

Bragg will also speak to visiting high school students and hold a book signing tomorrow morning as part of the GLIPA Fall Scholastic Workshop at the University.