Griffin to speak on therapeutic power of reading, writing fiction



Lynne Griffin believes in the healing power of fiction.

Griffin, the prose writer-in-residence for Week Three at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, will explore this concept with her Brown Bag lecture, “Family Life Stories: The Power of Fiction to Teach,” at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

For Griffin, her Brown Bag topic was born from her work as a family counselor and her experiences as a teacher and writer.

“When I began writing fiction, it was because I felt that I needed to explore some of the family life topics without being prescriptive,” Griffin said. “So instead of writing a self-help or feature article of some sort about a particular topic, I wanted to get much more inside the emotional life of the family. So I started doing that through fiction.”

She explores those issues in her novels Sea Escape and Life Without Summer, as well as her upcoming novel, Girl Sent Away. Griffin doesn’t discount the effectiveness of nonfiction, but said she has found just how impactful and “therapeutic” fiction can be.

“What I found was that some of the heavier and more complicated family issues that we all contend with — it’s actually easier to teach people the ins and outs and the choices that we can all make — it’s easy to show that through characters,” Griffin said.

Griffin’s own experiences with reading and writing fiction are something she said have had a profound influence on her.

“You read something at one time in your life and it may not resonate, but if you read that same thing at a different time in your life, it might be everything to you,” Griffin said. “And I think we’ve all had experiences like that with certain books that we’ve interacted with in one time of our lives and they didn’t do anything for us, but then at another time, they really spoke to you.”

Griffin said her own fascination with fiction and the “really great research” that’s been done on the power of fiction to help people reflect and understand real-life issues compelled her to speak on the subject. She hopes her audience comes away from her talk with the idea that people read for all kinds of reasons.

“When we’re trying to understand, when we’re trying to empathize, when we’re trying to learn, we often think we should turn our attention to nonfiction,” Griffin said. “But I think what I’d like people to understand is that nonfiction is very powerful, but fiction is equally powerful when we’re trying to understand and empathize and learn. And that reading eclectically is very powerful.”