Writer visits Pacific, talks story endings

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During her visit on March 13, Amber Dermont heaped praise upon one of Pacific’s professors, Kaya Mitra, with whom she went to grad school. Dermont, who appeared as part of the ongoing Visiting Writer’s Series, is the author of the novel “The Starboard Sea,” as well as “Damage Control,” a collection of short fiction.

She followed this tribute by sharing her thoughts on how to write a successful ending. She chose to do so because according to her, “craft books pay very little attention to how to end a story.”

“We have to be hard on our characters, but every character deserves a moment of grace,” explained Dermont. She spoke of her favorite authors and their stories. Her biggest piece of advice?

“One way to write a successful ending is to give your ending away at the beginning of your story,” she said. “It eases the anxiety of writing, and I promise you, it’s better to know how a story ends. That way your reader can see how it’s done.”

She then proceeded to provide examples of endings that exemplified her advice. She mentioned the endings to “What You Pawn, I Shall Redeem,” by Sherman Alexie; “People Like That Are The Only People Here,” by Lorrie Moore; and “Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” by Denis Johnson.

Outside of her advice on endings, she adds that in terms of her writing specifically, “about 98 percent of the things I write about actually happened.”

When asked why she chooses to write fiction instead of non-fiction or memoir, Dermont laughed and responded without hesitation.

“For that two percent. And legal reasons of course. I need that two percent, that way I can tell the truth, but I can tell it in slant, and I can choose what to include.”

The students seemed by and large impressed.

“Amber’s talk was so inspiring,” said senior Kelsie Johnson, who is taking an Advanced Fiction course this semester. “I felt like everything she was saying was exactly what I was having trouble with.”


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