At each of two separate campus events, at times the room was so quiet you could probably have heard the proverbial pin drop as guest speakers began sharing their experiences on writing, journalism, and the Vietnam War.
The events were part of a county-wide effort in Lackawanna County, called Scranton Reads, an annual community reading event organized by the City of Scranton and the Albright Memorial Library.
Each year, during the month of October, citizens read a great work of literature and participate in book discussions and special events related to the chosen work. Penn State Worthington Scranton has been participating in Scranton Reads program for several years and hosted two events for this year's program.
This year's book was "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. The book, a fictional account focusing on the Vietnam War, was read by students, faculty and staff, who also attended the featured events. Some English faculty members also incorporated the book into this semester's curriculum.
At the first event, an evening panel discussion on "The Media and The War" featured local Scranton Times columnist Chris Kelly and Mike Mullen, a photographer at The Scranton Times and Penn State alumnus, Dr. Warren Bareiss, a media critic and professor at Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, and David Hess, a novelist and veteran who has served on multiple tours of duty, including Vietnam.
Mr. Kelly and Mr. Mullen both were embedded with the U.S. Army in Iraq after the start of the war in Iraq. The evening provided an open forum of discussion in which the participants and the audience discussed the Iraq war, Vietnam, the media, the role and influence of the media in covering wars, and the panelists' personal experiences.
The second event was a craft talk on writing by Mr. O'Brien, who addressed a standing-room only crowd in the campus' K. Bruce Sherbine Lounge on Thursday afternoon, regaling those in attendance with fictional anecdotes and stories related to "The Things They Carried" as well as his other works and his personal life.
At the end, he told the audience that he could have simply talked about the writing techniques he employs and the technical aspect of writing, but he wanted them to understand that writing is about making the reader "feel something in their heart" and the best way he could think of to do that was to show them the art of story-telling.
He clearly drove his point home, as several members in the audience asked questions about things of his that they had read, and stayed afterward to talk with the author and have him sign their copies of his book.