Junior Ian Atherton is an English major and Vice President of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, where he oversees the house’s internal affairs. He took a break from schoolwork and intramural sports to sit down with The Forum to discuss his winning short story, “Lemons”. F
What’s your normal writing process? Do you have one?
Lemons was a funny one—I needed to submit a writing sample for the work I’m doing with the school’s social media program, so I sat down to write something. A lot of times when I write a paper, I’ll let my mind wander for a while and I’ll end up with an academic paper that turns academic about halfway through, the first half is just stupid poetic musing. So Lemons was the first half of that writing process. A little while later I was reading through and thought, “I actually have something here!” and I edited it again and, almost on a whim, submitted it.
For this specific story, what was your inspiration?
Really, it was just the lemons. Freshman year I remember walking into Saga on a Sunday morning and I got some iced tea and there was a bowl of lemons there. I grabbed one, I knocked that drink down, and as I sat there I thought, “This is great, iced tea and lemons.” When I came back on Monday, really pumped for the lemons, they weren’t there. As it happened, that weekend the college had hosted something like Distinguished Scholars Weekend or a CCA.
Do you want to be a writer?
I would love nothing more than to be a writer. I think, knowing the path that lies ahead for that, it is a very long one, but to be a great writer has always been a dream of mine.
Do you think your work in social media for the college helps you with your more creative writing?
I think so. Last semester I went a long time without having to write a paper. I finally sat down to write one, actually for Dr. Somerville’s class, and I realized that I had all the ideas—the trouble was getting them into words. I’ve heard the quote from Oscar Wilde, “All bad poetry comes from genuine feeling.” The ideas—the feelings, were all there, but the expression wasn’t what it needed to be. I started to realize that not being in practice means that the vocabulary and the sentence structure and the general organization just aren’t there, you have to access a certain schema of thought. To speak psychologically, those neural connections just weren’t firing. But working with the social media team, and writing for them, keeps me in practice.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
My favorite poet is John Keats, I’ve had a great love for the British romantics for a long time—they were really the first time to get me interested in the literary world. More recently I’ve really come to appreciate the warmth of southern storytelling. Somerville’s class helped me along there—Twain is just excellent. This semester I’ve also spent a lot of time reading Emerson, and he’s really the first philosopher to catch my interest.