FSU faculty members give a glimpse into their literary lives

English Professor Meredith O’Brien-Weiss and Sociology Professor Ira Silver shared their experiences in writing their latest books at FSU’s Author’s Event on Wednesday.

In the novel “Mortified,” O’Brien-Weiss tells the story of betrayal through online over-sharing. Maggie, the novel’s protagonist, creates an anonymous blog to release her frustrations about her life, specifically with her husband.

However, the smallest bits of information, such as her first name, the town she lives in and the information that she has two children and a husband, leads her husband to discover her identity when he accidentally stumbles upon her blog, leaving him heartbroken and betrayed.

According to O’Brien-Weiss, we are in an era of over-sharing through social media. She made it clear that she is not Maggie, but has a strong familiarity with the blogging world.

O’Brien-Weiss, who began blogging in 2004, described how, in the past, people would keep a paper diary to hold their deepest, darkest secrets. Unlike a diary, however, she emphasized how social media and blogging is open for everyone to read globally.

“Someone says something embarrassing at a cocktail party and the damage is pretty minimal – it’s limited to the people at the cocktail party,” she said. “But now, if you put your embarrassing life online, it’s there forever. It’s Googleable. It can go viral in minutes.”

Despite the negative consequences, however, O’Brien-Weiss said that social media can still serve as an effective outlet for personal expression.

English Professor Sam Witt said in an email, “What screamed from O’Brien-Weiss’ performance was raw passion for writing and an extreme curiosity about the new media we are inundated with as a culture.”

Sociology Professor Virginia Rutter said in an email that O’Brien-Weiss’ “personal story of how she came to become a freelancer, teacher, novelist, blogger and tweeter was inspiring. She had the intention of being a writer, and she let life take her many directions, but never away from writing!”

In the novel “Giving Hope: How You Can Restore the American Dream,” Silver portrays the hard truths after disaster, and the simple acts of kindness and charity that can overcome darkness.

Silver publicizes the stories of people who were left behind and alone after losing everything from a natural disaster, and the organizations around the country that have helped these people back on their feet.

Silver’s inspiration was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Generosity can change the outcome of these stories, said Silver. Katrina produced the largest disaster relief group.

“What this book became was a guide – a practical guide of helping people,” said Silver. “Helping people who are interested in learning how their generosity can be part of the solution.”

Rutter said that Silver’s activism “has been working. He had two letters in the New York Times this year, and his ideas about inequality are making a difference for students and readers.”

Witt said that there is less of a distance between a student and an author if that author is their professor. This connection, he said, “underscores the reality that writing, literature, journalism, sociology, whatever the discipline, is a living, breathing exchange of ideas that anybody can jump into by picking up a book, or trying their own hand. … It’s absolutely contagious.”

[Editor’s Note: Meredith O’Brien-Weiss is the Assistant Advisor of The Gatepost.]

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