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Austin Kleon visits York College of PA

Joined: 1/15/2013
Posts: 79

Austin Kleon spoke at York College campus about his artistic drive that began in middle school and blossomed when a famous artist, Winston Smith, responded to a letter he wrote as an assignment in class. Kleon wrote his letter using “ransom note” font which looked odd on paper and that may be the reason this letter caught the attention of the artist. Little did Smith know he would be a positive influence in Kleon’s life with his responding letter of encouraging words and bits of advice.

Describing himself as an artist who writes, Kleon combines both images and written content to clarify his ideas to his audience. The combination of both in layman’s terms does bridge the gap for those not familiar with creative nonfiction writing. The English language and terms used to create personal essays can be confusing. Ironically, most people use many writing tools to make their essays more interesting without realizing their sentence is a specific tool. Knowing the advanced writing tools by name is not as important as using the tools effectively. Also, breaking the traditional rules of grammar is not always bad and could lead to an essay that stands out due to the breaking of traditional format and grammar.

Kleon did this thing with newspapers that seemed to break new boundaries in poetry and art, only to learn he had been ripping off what someone else has already done. Kleon lives by what many have said in one way or another, “If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.” His new book is simple in design and is printed in his hand. An audience member asked what font he used in his book and he replied, “My own.” Another quote of his is, “Fake it till you make it.” The question was asked, “How do you know when you’ve made it and can stop faking it?” I don’t recall Kleon’s exact response but the question was insightful. When does one know they have “made it?”

The slideshow presentation was well done. Kleon told his story and the slideshow kept the audience’s attention, a good mix of information, pictures and humor in just the right amount of time. He had ten tips on unlocking creativity from within that really made sense without writer’s jargon thrown in for confusion. The presentation peaked my interest in owning Kleon’s book and before the lecture was over I was prepared to purchase my own. I thought of it as a creative nonfiction writer’s handbook. If a writer begins to struggle with an inspiration to produce, Kleon’s book can get them back on track.

The underlying message Kleon gave to the audience was to not fear the unknown and just be creative. “Winging it” is his style and that is not unusual in the artistic world. His book, “Steal like an Artist” is on the NY Time’s bestseller list. Before his presentation ended all his books were sold out.

I lingered, snapping pictures and listening to the conversation during the book signing. I bought the last book Kleon had that night. It was stashed away in his car. I have been carrying the book around in my book bag and absorbing a few pages at a time.
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