Robert Lowe, Staff Writer
On Sunday, March 12, author Zach Powers returned to his hometown of Savannah to host the lecture “Writing Out of Savannah: How Hometowns Shape Fiction Set in Other Places” at the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home in downtown Savannah as part of the Armstrong English Department’s Spring Lecture Series.
Zach Powers spent his childhood living in Savannah, before moving to Atlanta in his teen years. However, he would return every holiday keeping the city a consistent part of his life. Powers would eventually move back to Savannah after college, where he remained for fifteen years before relocating to Fairfax, Va this past January.
During his lecture, Powers discussed how the influence of hometowns manages to sneak into one’s fiction writing. He began with a Flannery O’Connor quote, stating that “anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” Powers explained that this quote exemplifies the life long impact that is left from one’s childhood and hometown. He noted that while none of his fiction writing takes place in Savannah, living here has influenced everything he has ever written.
Powers proceeded by sharing excerpts of writing by both Flannery O’Connor and Claire Vaye Watkins, giving examples of the influence from their hometowns that managed to creep into their fiction. He read a small passage from Watkins’ novel “Gold Fame Citrus” in which the post-apocalyptic setting of the novel was being described. Powers described how the setting of the novel greatly reflected Watkins’ hometown of Pahrump, Nev.
“The scenery of her childhood is becoming the scenery of her fiction” he explained.
Powers took a slightly different approach with his writing. “While authors like O’Connor and Watkins wrote about the absurd parts of their childhood, I took what was banal about my childhood and added absurdity to make my experience unique,” he stated.
Throughout the lecture, Powers read excerpts from many of his own short stories and connected them to specific memories from his childhood in Savannah. He explained that his short story “Gravity Changes” was influenced by memories of playing with friends in his childhood neighborhood Quail Run.
His memories of Lake Mayer made their way into his story “Children in Alaska,” and his story “When as Children We Acted Memorably” contains memories from a childhood friend’s swimming pool. With these examples Powers explained how having lived in Savannah continues to shape his fiction.
“I write weird stuff…Perhaps that’s why I don’t write explicitly about my hometown. I’m interested in what I don’t know and writing is a way of expressing that,” he said.
The lecture concluded with Powers reading an excerpt from his short story “Cockpuncher” and then allowed time for questions from the audience. After the lecture, he had copies of his new upcoming book that had not been publicly released yet, for sale. He also held a book signing which audience members quickly jumped in line for.
Powers’ book “Gravity Changes” will be officially released on May 9. For more information on Zach Powers and his new book, visit his website http://www.zachpowers.com.