Emily Henry, the first writer in this semester’s Visiting Writers Series (VWS), is a Hope alumna who graduated in 2012. Less than four years later, she has become an author with her debut novel “The Love that Split the World.” Currently she is halfway through her second book, “A Million Junes,” which will be released early next year. As is usual of VWS, Henry spoke in Martha Miller at 3:30 p.m. for a Q & A session and then read excerpts from both books in Jack H. Miller at 7:00 p.m.
Hope College hosts VWS for anyone interested in writing, reading or finding new authors. “The goal of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series is to help make the art of writing vibrant and alive in our lives,” Pablo Peschiera, director of the series, said. With books filled to the brim with energy, tension and witty dialogue, Henry certainly splashes vibrancy into every crevice of the reading experience.
For anyone unfamiliar with her work, attending the Q & A session and reading was a big question mark. But with a charismatic and entertaining personality, it is difficult for one to walk away from an author like Emily Henry and say anything negative.
At her Q & A session, Henry touched upon a variety of topics, including where she found inspiration for her story, her intriguing choice of blending genres and the process of publishing a book. The audience—comprised of students, loved ones, professors from her time at Hope and community members—soaked in her every word with eager appreciation.
Henry also displayed gratitude towards her liberal arts education, thankful for the modest teachers who influenced her work ethic. “Stay humble and work hard,” Henry said, in a final statement, which resonated well with the audience.
“She didn’t profess to be the final word on the how-to’s of fiction,” Grace Hulderman (’18) said. “She didn’t carry herself in a way that conveyed she was in any way superior to anyone else, which was really nice.”
Even more people filed into the small recital room in the music building later that evening to hear Henry read. Before she delved into chapter three of “The Love that Split the World,” Henry touched on hallucinations she experienced over the years, where her body was awake, but her mind wasn’t.
She incorporated this idea into the novel with her protagonist Natalie, who interacts with people like Grandmother—someone only she can see. “Even though the book started out just like almost any other young adult novel, it quickly took a turn for the bizarre,” Hulderman said.
While reading, Henry energetically voiced different characters and eloquently set the scene with descriptive prose. Audience members hung on to Henry’s words and laughed at the dialogue, which matched her personal character so distinctly.
“Students can learn from her dedication and her many hours spent at the desk, honing her craft,” Peschiera said. Writing is definitely not for the faint of heart. The process of publishing a book can be a lengthy journey, but that never stopped Henry. Sometimes all it takes is personal confusion after college to spur a book idea. From Henry’s questions came a beautiful piece of literature. Peschiera summed it up well: “It’s always terrific to see a former student succeed! Everyone in the Department of English is very proud of her.” Keep your eyes peeled for her name on bookshelves in the spring.
The next writers VWS will host are Brian Barker and Nicky Beer on Oct. 20. Just like Henry, the Q & A will be at 3:30 p.m. in Fried-Hemenway and the reading at 7:00 p.m. at Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.