Robert Olmstead on His Life as a Writer

Between the Covers
program date: 
Thu, 08/27/2009

 Jim Schumach talks with Robert Olmstead about his life and writing, including Stay Here with Me, a Memoir.  Olmstead's most recent book is Far Bright Star, and is the author of six previous books. Coal Black Horse was the winner of the Heartland Prize for Fiction and the Ohioana Award, was a #1 Book Sense Pick, and was a Borders Original Voices pick. Olmstead is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and an NEA grant, and he is a professor at Ohio Wesleyan University.   Kirkus Reviews on Far Bright Star:  "Another meditative, beautifully written novel from Olmstead . . . Olmstead is wondrously attuned to the natural world and the realities of war; he uses sand, heat and distant mountains as a stage set, and his narrative unfolds with all the formal rigor of a Greek tragedy . . . Brutal, tender and magnificent.”


Far Bright Star

 One might be charmed by the writing, by the words and their affected demeanor, but to experience the story one must face the violence and misogyny that inhabit all of his work.  His men are boyscouts, his women creatures. 

Dr. Olmstead at Sacramento State University.

I used to be a student in Prof. Olmstead's class at Sacramento State Universtity in 1993-1994.  I remember him as being very strict, (paradoxically) traditional, and extremely feminist.  Dr. Olmstead is the only Proffessor who disclosed the University that he graduated from--Stanford.  And I remember how hard it was to pass his class. 

He didn't really come across to me as a student's teacher.  He seemed to be more interested in showing rather than telling.  What I mean by this is that he was very interested in expectations, study skills, writing skills, and results.  I remember learning from him.  I remember developing skills with him. And I remember a call to something more than potential.

"To exist in the world of potential is to remain in the world of nothing actual," he stated on more than one occasion.  He was calling us to reach our potential; however, through his attitude, his expectations, and his unwillingness to adjust to the issues of life he failed to reach his students in many ways.

For example, I remember that I was in a mentally abusive relationship with my girlfriend at the time that was causing me to have problems with managing time, tasks, and reading assignments.  I eventually overcame my problems; however, Dr. Olmstead was assuming that I was a normal kid who really didn't really care.  I am a man, so I had a hard time telling another man that I was being mentally abused.  It seemed like he was so interested in understanding women, that men really didn't matter.  I didn't really know how to deal with it at the time, however, I could have used a little understanding, a little listening, and a little consideration as a human being.

He really didn't give his students the time they needed.  I remember him turning me away on more than one occasion when I was looking for understanding, encouragement, and direction.  Nonetheless, I am really glad to hear that his career as a "Writer" or "Proffessor at a University that has SMART students attending," however I really wasn't worth much more that ten minutes of his time.

Eric Fields

PS.  I am now getting an MBA and holding a 4.0.  So how is that Dr. Olmstead.  Thank you for the D, and I will always be a watching and commenting on what you do...just to make sure that everyone knows the truth and most importantly how shallow and condesending you are....



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