Meeting Author Mark SaFranko and Editor Olivier Brun at the ARIEL Opening Reception
Students, professors and journalists gathered in room A104 of the Campus Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Université de Lorraine, Nancy, on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, some time before 6:00 PM to celebrate and officially mark the debut of the ARIEL project. This acronym stands for ‘Auteur en Résidence Internationale En Lorraine’ –International author-in residence in Lorraine – and should be considered an homage to the famous character from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, rather than anything detergent-based.
Such an inspired reference is to be expected coming from English Licence manager and lecturer Barbara Schmidt, who summarized the goals and ambitions of the project in a cheerful inaugural speech along with lecturer Céline Sabiron and their colleague from IUT Nancy-Charlemagne; Emmy Peultier. They gave many thanks to the numerous funders – such as the US Consulate, no less! – and partners in the process. Mr SaFranko himself spoke some words to share his excitement towards the upcoming semester and encouraged the students in the room to come and ask him any questions they would like.
But no matter how prepared you are, when you’re about to meet an accomplished author and actor, who does not only write literature, but also paints and composes music, you can’t help but feel like your legs are turning into jelly. Even the petits fours and appetizers displayed on the tables in the middle of the room were not enough to shake the pressure off. I seemed to share this feeling with my comrades from the third year of English Licence, but also with two joyful girls from the first year of English Master, who gave me the push I needed to finally go and shake hands with the author.
I introduced myself and told him about the report that my comrades and I would be writing about him. He seemed to know very little about it, but he was eager to answer my questions. My first reflex was to ask him about France. Mr Safranko shares a very specific relationship with the country of baguettes. His work meets a much warmer welcome here than in the US, a phenomenon we are sure to further develop in the report. He has spent enough time here to feel – at least partially – French, even though his love for junk food is kind of an issue in a country well-known for its gastronomy.
It felt a bit odd to scribble things on my small piece of paper as he told me he used to work as a journalist for many American newspapers. He was definitely helping me, telling me more about himself than I dared to ask. He reminded me that I would still have many opportunities to talk to him, especially since I plan to take part in his writing activities on Friday afternoons in the language lab on campus (CLYC), where he will share his philosophy of writing and let us express ourselves through our pens – or maybe our computers. This part is fascinating to me. When asked about his approach to writing, Mark SaFranko replied:
I have a very loose approach to writing, I try to make it confessional. Feelings are important if you want to write something. You just sit down and write what is meaningful to you.
This first encounter was really exciting, even though my English proved quite weak when I tried to oppose the feelings we put in the text to the ‘form’ we could give it. At this moment, Mr SaFranko gently approached his ear and repeated the word to make sure he understood what I was struggling to ask him. I could definitely feel the rock’n’roll vibe coming from him.
‘Rock’n’Roll and very cool !’ are precisely the words chosen by his friendly and energetic editor, Mr Brun, to describe Mark SaFranko. ‘American people are nice. I have known Mark for about four years now, but my mother was already translating his texts when he worked with 13ème Note, a publisher well-known for the ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’style of its authors, such as Mark, of course, but also his good friend and mentor Dan Fante, who passed away three years ago. Now, Mark is writing for my publishing house, Éditions La Dragonne.’
And with already three books published, it looks like the relationship between Mr SaFranko and Mr Brun is only beginning. Meeting both of them on this particular occasion was pure delight.
I left the reception with butterflies in my stomach, but also with stars in my eyes. The ARIEL project is an open door to some fascinating encounters, activities, and a massive cultural blast like we have rarely seen in our university, let alone Nancy itself. It would be a crime to let go of such an opportunity to revel in cultural riches. And there is so much to talk about that this article feels very much like an appetizer itself! I just hope it is enough to shake the pressure off your own shoulders, if you were to have any left.
Louis Thabault, L3 LLCER Anglais, for L’Anglomane, article first published 11 Oct. 2018