Author Ann Claycomb gives students insight on writing process


Photo credit/ Margaret Scott

Margaret Scott, Asst. A&E Editor

Author Ann Claycomb came to Marywood to discuss her novel, “The Mermaid’s Daughter,” in the Learning Commons on Nov. 9.

The book focuses on what really happened to the fairy tale character, “The Little Mermaid.” Claycomb describes it as a re-imagining of the original tale in “the real world.”

The main character in the book, Kathleen, suffers from a variety of ailments, from stabbing pain in her feet to the sensation that her tongue has been cut out. The only thing that soothes the pain is the touch of seawater. The story focuses on Kathleen’s journey as a student discovering her family’s history and tracing it back to where it began: Ireland. It also touches on how far someone can go for love and the power of music.

When discussing her inspiration, Claycomb described a number of authors who re-imagine or create their own fairy tales. One of the authors she talked about, Hans Christian Andersen, created the original story of “The Little Mermaid.”

“‘The Little Mermaid’ bothered me a lot. It’s about this girl who gives everything up for this guy, who then betrays her without even realizing it and she continues to give up everything for him, including her life,” said Claycomb.

She wanted to create her own character that was everything the original mermaid Andersen created was not.

Claycomb also discussed the challenges she faced while writing her novel. The main characters in the book are opera singers and composers. Claycomb found that writing to describe this type of music was something difficult to do.

“I think as a writer, writing about sound is one of the hardest things to do. There’s such wonderful visual writing, but writing about music is really hard,” said Claycomb.

Erin McDonald, a junior pre-physician assistant major, read the book for her English course.

“I like during Ann Claycomb’s presentation how she went into why she started writing fairy tales and where she pulled her inspirations from,” McDonald said. “I think her story and presentation was really interesting and gives a more in-depth look about the books we’re reading in class.”

Robert Falletta, an illustration major, respected the creative process Claycomb went through while writing her novel.

“I think students benefit a lot from presentations like these. They’re seeing someone that’s a professional at their best. It’s a precedent for whatever major these kids are doing, to push it as far as they could go, so maybe one day they could open the minds of other people or students around them,” said Falletta.

Claycomb answered questions from students at the end of her talk and gave insight on her writing journey and what she hoped to achieve.

“There have been stories that made a difference in my life just because it’s a book I’ve read over and over again,” explained Claycomb.

One thing Claycomb was adamant about was the importance of a great book. She hoped to bring someone happiness through her writing.

“That would be the greatest thing ever, if I wrote a book that could help someone, just because it became something they could turn to. It doesn’t need to be a book that saves the world,” she said.

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