MACMLA 2013 Lee Gutkind
Post written by Caitlin Pike, a recent library school graduate from North Carolina Central University and this year’s MAC Scholar Award winner.
Despite my post on all the things I did outside the conference, rest assured I was there for most of it! One of the main reasons I wanted to attend this year’s conference was due to the interesting mix of speakers, specifically Lee Gutkind.
As it happens, my undergraduate degree is in creative writing, so he struck a chord with me as a published author and more importantly, as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction.” I was concerned, however, that he wouldn’t be very relevant to a group of librarians, especially medical librarians, who tend to be more practical and focused on the cutting edge. I imagined the inner monologues of my colleagues as we waited for Mr. Gutkind to take the podium: Why isn’t the speaker on EHRs or something useful? I can’t search a story using MeSH! This guy would be fine for a talk at the public library, but what’s he doing here? Luckily, though, my fears were entirely unfounded; no one chucked their handy copy of Doody’s Core Titles in protest, and in fact, as I looked around the room, everyone seemed genuinely interested! Mr. Gutkind demonstrated one of his main points by following an adage most creative writing students quickly tire of hearing. “Show don’t tell.” Beginning with a story about a past student’s struggles to achieve the coveted publishing contract, he segued at a pivotal, but seemingly meaningless chapter, leaving us to wonder at the point of his lecture. Then, just about the time we thought we’d never learn the fate of the student’s contract, he returned to her story briefly to remind us he had told it, before heading off again in another direction entirely. In the end, of course, we learned the identity and the fate of his former student, Rebecca Skloot. Ultimately, though, he made his point in a way that resonated because we had all just experienced it: that often, it isn’t the story that keeps people interested, only how you tell it.
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Caitlin Pike is a recent library school graduate from North Carolina Central University, and is this year’s MAC Scholar Award winner. She is currently employed by CenterScope Technologies as a Library Fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, NC. Her career interests include medical and embedded librarianship, continuing education, and integrated technology. In her time outside the stacks, she enjoys traveling to foreign lands, Boston Terriers, and coming up with ideas for (but not actually working on) the next great American novel.