Author Discusses New Book at Mount Union

February 20, 2012

Philip Gerard, author and chair and professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, presented the Mary W. and Eric A. Eckler Endowment in Literature and Drama on Thursday, February 16 at the University of Mount Union. He used The Patron Saint of Dreams, which is the title of his newest book that will be released in March, to help illustrate a writer’s research process and the roles a writer.
“Infinitely, the strange universe unfolds astonishing secrets of the human heart,” said Gerard, when explaining the role of mystery and the process of developing creative nonfiction.
Gerard called the process of his research “acts of grace” and explained that there were three instances that stuck out to him when writing The Patron Saint of Dreams. These moments included an interview he had with a man who fought in World War II, a picture that sparked his interest and a daughter of a war veteran with a faint memory of her father’s legacy.
He also discussed that the roles of a writer are to serve as a witness to evil, illuminate the truth, inspire readers and discover what the world was like before suffering and how to get it back.
In addition, he explained the key points of writing nonfiction. First, a writer must honor the stories that are told. Second, one should pay close attention to the interview and lastly, reflect after. He also said that in an interview, if a writer stays long enough, the person he or she is interviewing will reveal something that he or she did not intend to reveal.
“An essay is an attempt to develop meaning from an event,” Gerard explained. “Some don’t have a narrative; some must be discovered from a distance.”
Gerard is the author of Secret Soldiers, Cape Fear Rising, Hatteras Light, Desert Kill and Brilliant Passage, among others. His work also has been published in numerous magazines including New England Review/Bread Loaf Quarterly, Creative Nonfiction, Hawai'i Review, Hayden's Ferry Review and The World & I.
At the University of North Carolina Wilmington, he teaches undergraduate and graduate students in the fine arts programs. He received the Faculty Scholarship Award, the College of Arts & Science Teaching Award, the Chancellor's Medal for Excellence in Teaching, the Graduate Mentor Award, the Board of Trustees Teaching Award and a Distinguished Teaching Professorship. Gerard also is a visiting faculty member at Goucher College, teaching creative nonfiction in its summer residency Master of Fine Arts Program. He and his wife, Jill, are co-editors of Chautauqua, the literary journal of the Chautauqua Writers’ Center.
Prior to joining the faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, he taught at Arizona State University and Lake Forest College as well as served as a writer in residence at Bradford College and Old Dominion University. Gerard also has taught at Sand Hills and Bread Loaf Writers Conferences, and conducted workshops at the Wildacres Summer Writers Retreat and Chautauqua Institution in New York.
He has written nearly 10 half-hour shows for Globe Watch, an international affairs program, for a PBS-affiliate TV station in North Carolina. Gerard also scripted River Run – down the Cape Fear to the Sea, an environmental documentary. This hour-long program won a Silver Reel of Merit from the International Television Association in 1994.
Gerard earned a bachelor’s degree in English and anthropology from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona.
For more information on Gerard, visit
The Eckler Lecture in Literature and Drama was established in 1981 through an endowment given by Mr. John A. and Mrs. Dorothy (Nelson ’29) Cummins in appreciation of the many years of service to the community and Mount Union by the Ecklers. Dr. Eric A. and Mrs. Mary Eckler were long-time faculty members in the Department of Education at the institution.
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