Keith Scribner ’80: Dinner, a Draft, and a Laugh

Portia Inzone '20, Managing Editor

On January 11, Keith Scribner ’80 returned to the Island and joined fifteen Loomis Chaffee students for dinner and a draft of his recently published novel, Old Newgate Road. Providing insight to his busy lifestyle as both a professor and a novelist, Scribner recalled moments of creativity, frustration, and pride throughout the curation of his novels.

Old Newgate Road, set in the local East Granby, Connecticut—Scribner’s hometown—explores the generational aspect of domestic violence in the United States and brings light to how a legacy of domestic violence can be stopped.

In addition to learning about the inspiration for his newest novel, the students received constructive, organizational advice specific to the complex publishing process.

Straight away, Scribner outlined the motivating mechanisms he used to drive his novel. For The Oregon Experiment and Old Newgate Road, he made sure to constantly carry around a small notebook and jot down any “small, insignificant yet enticing conversations, moments, or observations.”

With these notes he created one to two-word flash cards, mixed the entire assortment, selected a random pair, and tried to draw ideas from the two cards. Scribner shared other thought-provoking, efficient systems to tackle the weighty yet liberating journey of writing, the most enticing being his use of a story board to represent his story visually.

Once in the “groove of writing,” Scribner shared the importance of “creating a deadline for yourself, whether in words or time.” In his personal writing endeavors, he consistently pushed himself to write a certain amount of words per day rather than giving himself a due date—he found that “pumping out hundreds of words and editing later” was the most beneficial route to the conclusion of his novel.

Realistically speaking, Scribner shared the inconsistency of the writing process, as no writer meets their deadline every day. He, balancing his career as a professor and hobby for writing, recalled “going weeks without writing a word, and then being drawn back in by one of [his] small notes, comments, or ideas.”

Adding stability to his work, Scribner worked in the same place and always listened to Ukrainian music. He says the “foreign music helps because [he] can’t understand the lyrics!”

Concluding the dinner, Scribner answered many student questions in the most relatable and humorous fashion, recommending to “steal ideas and make it your own” because there are “only so many novels you can write!” Through imitating other authors’ styles and voices, he says writers can person; sometimes it takes analyzing another voice to find your own.

Proving to be an undoubtedly educational night, students left with a holistic understanding of the writing and publishing process, as well as admiration for the successes of a Loomis Chaffee graduate. Thank you for an informative, incredible night Keith Scribner!