Kephart discusses the writing process as part of Lit. Festival

Carmen Ruiz-Castenada

Award-winning author Beth Kephart read from her recently published book “Still Love in Strange Places: A Memoir” Tuesday evening as part of Villanova’s Fifth Annual Literary Festival.

Students and faculty filled Room 300 of the St. Augustine Center as Kephart told her story of falling in love with a man from El Salvador and eventually coming to love his homeland. She described the country of El Salvador from its indigenous beginnings to its present state through the story of her husband’s grandfather.

Kephart also read two excerpts from her upcoming book, tentatively titled “One Precipitous Leap.” The first excerpt described the creative process, while the second illustrated both the pain and pleasure that accompany writing.

A question-and-answer period followed the reading in which Kephart discussed her views on contemporary memoir writing. Kephart was soft-spoken, but grew animated when discussing what constitutes good writing.

“She spoke with biting honesty,” said Rosemont University sophomore Tara Spitzen.

Kephart criticized exhibitionist memoir writing that fails to develop themes that resonate with others. She also criticized narcissistic and uncompassionate writing.

“When you find a book that just seems like it couldn’t be held back, that is good writing,” Kephart said.

Speaking of the writing process, Kephart emphasized the importance of reading for the creation of good fiction and nonfiction.

However, she said she does not write on days when she is reading, to avoid having her voice tainted by the voices of others.

“Story rises out of story,” Kephart said. “We stand on the shoulders of others and reach up.”

Kephart, who lives near Devon, is also the author of National Book Award finalist “A Slant in the Sun: One Child’s Courage,” “Into the Tangle of Friendship” and numerous essays and articles.