In Aaron Nicely’s In Love or Leaving, the young protagonist throttles down a rural road in a ’73 Firebird sitting beside an ecstatic, hot-blooded, green-eyed blonde because "he needed her thrill to fuel his own."
The Wabash community got a taste of that thrill Thursday night. Nicely ’06 read from his novella, completed while he was the College’s Hockenberry Summer Writing Intern. Enticing the audience with an unpretentious style, well-drawn characters, and an intriguing storyline, Nicely’s work captured the powerful tensions between a young man’s yearning for connection and his desire for freedom.
"Aaron’s writing has spark," said Associate Professor of English Joy Castro, who mentored the Wabash senior during his internship. "I think he also learned a lot about craft this summer."
"He came to understand the dogged determination required of a writer, and he proved up to the task," Professor of English Marc Hudson said. Proudly introducing his student’s work, Hudson thanked Wabash alumnus and award-winning author Dan Simmons ’70 for generously supporting the internship. Simmons established in internship in honor of his friend, Duane Hockenberry ’70.
"This is a sweet fellowship for a writer," Hudson said. "It gives a young author what writers crave and need most — time to write."
Asked about his own writing process, Nicely said he’d spent the first half of the summer mowing lawns.
"That gave me a lot of time to think," he said. But the story he’d envisioned changed drastically once he began to write. Taking "strange twists and turns," the narrative seemed to develop a life of its own. And Nicely learned the power of the revision process.
"The most important thing for me, when it comes to revising, is reading the work out loud," he said. "Even as I was practicing for tonight’s presentation, reading these sections aloud helped me make more changes to the work," he said.
Nicely had spoken with Simmons earlier in the summer about the importance of research in fiction.
"In some ways, the best part was the research," said Nicely, whose main character takes a job working in an auto salvage yard. "I spent hours talking to owners of junkyards, learning the business, the details. I wanted to get those right."
Once intending to pursue a career in advertising copywriting, Nicely interned at an agency two summers ago and decided the business wasn’t a good fit for him. Even though he admits his Hockenberry Internship required great effort, it also encouraged him to continue writing.
Charles is Editor of Wabash Magazine.