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The Science of Writing

Author Dennis Danvers brings a new kind of writing class to town.


"I think of it as a stage name, like Marilyn Monroe or Bob Dylan," Danvers says. The pen name "Robert Sydney," borrowed from his father, adds a layer of irony to Danvers' futuristic version of the monster and creator mythology.

Nationally acclaimed for his sci-fi and fantasy novels, Danvers creates recognizable near-future worlds geared more toward "poking fun at our foibles politically and socially" than advancing scientific theory. And there is "almost always a love story," Danvers says. "That's one of the most important things we do as humans." Playing with the concepts of time travel, dehumanization of workers and the near death of the arts and humanities, "The Bright Spot" paints a bleak, albeit strangely hilarious, vision for America in the decades to come.

"The line between what is imagined and what is real is being blurred," Danvers says of our increasingly virtual lives. "More and more, we're not where we are," he says. "That has some unsettling consequences for us."

Born in White Plains, N.Y., but reared in Dallas, Danvers received a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Texas at Arlington. After becoming chairman of the humanities division at the Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, he determined that it was impossible to both teach full time and write professionally. After his move to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University's master's program in fiction in 1987, he has been able to teach at the university part time while realizing the life of a full-time writer.

Between writing and teaching, Danvers originated the idea of an ongoing writing program that would be different from anything Richmond offered. Since its inception, Danvers has moderated the popular Writing Show, sponsored by the James River Writers. With attendance at each monthly C3 gathering peaking between 80 and 90 participants, Danvers says that the Writing Show's success is beyond his wildest dreams.

"I always learned the most from shoptalk between other writers," Danvers says. "I've taught writing for years; usually it's done in workshops. You sit around a table and get traumatized." But with the panel forum and a different topic each month, ranging from how to formulate a plot to how to get published, both beginning and experienced writers have an opportunity to learn and share ideas.

Danvers encourages authors but offers this warning: "Don't quit your day job. It's either feast — well, a big snack — or famine." S

The next Writing Show focuses on "Writing & the Internet" Thursday, July 28, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at C3 for $10. Dennis Danvers will read and sign "The Bright Spot" July 7, 7 p.m. at Chop Suey Books; July 19, 6:30 p.m. at Fountain Bookstore; and Aug. 14, 2 p.m. at Creature's 'n Crooks Book Shoppe.

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