CWS Author Thisbe Nissen offers a lens into her life at Craft Talk


Story by Nalana La Framboise, Reporter
Photos courtesy of Nic Simonton

Lively, resourceful and creative nationally-acclaimed author Thisbe Nissen, hosted a Craft Talk on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 12:15 p.m. in the Louit Room.

Thisbe Nissen has been published in various magazines and journals, including The Iowa Review, The American Scholar, Seventeen, StoryQuarterly, NANO Fiction, Quick Fiction, Vogue and Glamour, as well as many others. Not only that, but her work has been published in numerous anthologies and she has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Thisbe has also published three novels, with her most recent, “Our Lady of the Prairie”, receiving critical acclaim from The New York Times, Library JournalPublishers Weekly and The Chicago Review of Books.

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Students gather at Nissen’s lunch discussion

Never been to a Craft Talk? Don’t know what it is? It’s part of the Contemporary Writers Series, a yearly series of literary readings from writers of all genres. While the main event is an evening keynote, the writers also meet with Aquinas students for a more informal chat earlier in the day.

The Lunchtime Craft Talk is centered around the writing process of the featured contemporary writer and usually takes place in the Loutit Room. In the past, there have been structured talks, focusing on the author’s predetermined stories or topics regarding writing or reading. These talks eventually evolve into the writer opening the floor for questions. On the other hand, the talk can simply be an open time for discussion and questions. 

During Nissen’s talk, she provided each attendee with a manila envelope of artifacts. These “artifacts” included grocery lists, pictures, little kids’ drawings, snippets of letters, flyers, handouts, and many other papers. From here, she instructed students to use these artifacts as writing prompts and to make a story using one, two or all of the items.

The talk continued, and Nissen discussed her craft and how she uses artifacts to inspire her and allow a new lens into other people’s lives—therefore into the lives of her newfound characters. Nissen explained that by doing this—using artifacts to create a story—we can “recognize that we naturally create narratives with our surroundings.”

Nissen also talked about what she believed fiction writers were. She explained how fiction writers take little pieces—artifacts such as these—of a world that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and use them to make sense of the world in a slightly subjective, and yet objective, point of view. 

By the end of the talk, Nissen had thoroughly discussed her belief in the power of artifacts and had truly connected with all of the students in the audience. She even inspired some to snoop through a stranger’s grocery list—but, of course, for story-writing purposes.

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