By May Wuthrich
This summer, writer and humorist Roy Blount, Jr. and his son producer and filmmaker, Kirven Blount, were guest speakers at the Amherst campus. In their talk, Roy and Kirven focused on challenging the limitations we put on ourselves when we think we can’t do something.
For example, as a humorist, Roy uses “being bad at things” as fodder for his creativity. Roy was not the athlete he dreamed he could be, but as a journalist he got to play with the Cubs. He didn’t see himself as a singer, but he became a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders Band (a rock band founded by musician and book publicist Kathi Kamen Goldmark, which features writers such as Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, and Dave Barry). He was no actor, but he wrote and starred in a one-man show in New York City that became a major hit.
Roy credits a high school teacher who urged him to write for the school paper as the beginning of his journalistic career. Although partly motivated by his desire to make fun of the popular kids in school, it was the first in a long line of journalistic experiences that have sent him on many adventures, including one with his son Kirven down the Amazon, where he was attacked by a piranha. Roy finds it’s easy to get distracted and “wander around” putting off doing things, so a deadline always helps. He also appreciates that as a book writer, he can always go back and fix something. It’s key he said, “to get words on the page without judging them” and in so doing you can accomplish more than you think you can. He used the image of “fooling with screws and widgets” at his basement work bench as a metaphor for writing. “Fool with words, write about anything you can get away with. Listen to the ways different people talk and write down exactly what they say. Write for your own and other people’s pleasure and don’t give up.”
Like his father, Kirven is multi-talented and has played many different creative roles over the course of his work life. He talked about producing the Travel Channel’s docu-series Ghost Adventures and how all of these other roles prepared him for this undertaking. He loves the teamwork and how people come together in service of the show. His advice: listen, be open for suggestions and ask for help when you need it.