“Good Thunder” brings alum back to campus 

Tyler Barton, author of the short story collection, “Eternal Night at the Nature Museum” visited Minnesota State University, Mankato last Thursday as a part of the Good Thunder Reading Series. 

The Good Thunder Reading Series is a campus supported series that brings published writers to Mankato to host a workshop, craft talk, and reading. Whether a reader or writer themselves, it’s a great opportunity for students to engage with someone who has been recognized for their skill. For some students, this can spark a passion, or solidify it further. 

Barton himself was one of these students before becoming a guest speaker himself. 

“Good Thunder meant the world to me as a student, because it introduced me to a lot of real writers,” Barton said. “There were plenty of faculty on the staff who were published writers that I looked up to and were my mentors, but that meant a lot to bring in writers from outside of the area.”

Barton can still recall his first time attending a Good Thunder event. 

“My first Good Thunder was with the artist, Linda Berry. She’s a writer and a visual artist. Linda Berry came and [in] her workshop she had everyone drawing cartoons and doing mindfulness meditation practices, which was odd and weird,” Barton explained. “I remember feeling at the time, ‘This is not what I thought I went to grad school to learn how to do. I thought I was coming here to learn how to be a writer.’ But what she taught us in that workshop and through her talks was that writers are artists first.”

This impacted the way in which Barton viewed writing; the craft now had a much more artistic and abstract energy. 

Barton used what he learned in Good Thunder mindfully on his graduate school thesis: the book he was later published for. Then, he decided that he wanted to return the favor, and reached out to MNSU about a spot in the series. 

The focus of Barton’s workshop and craft talk surrounded the intertwining of writing and the visual arts. 

“My workshop really centered on writing aphorisms and visual artists who use writing and as their mode of communication,” Barton said. “I focused a lot on Jenny Holzer, who’s an artist who produces aphorisms, and then has them displayed publicly.”

Aphorisms are one-liner statements that share a truth about life. Some of Holzer’s most popular aphorisms include “abuse of power comes as no surprise” and “labor is a life destroying activity.”

These witty one-liners gave those who attended the events a chance to be playful with how they could present life.

“I hope that I was able to instill that writing is playful and writing is a fun place,” Barton said. “Writing can be very serious and there’s a lot of literature written about tragedy and about the bleakness of being human. I think my book deals with that as well at times, but I always try to deliver that with humor, playfulness, and whimsy.”

Although Barton has come and gone, he urges students to go to future Good Thunder events, “Take advantage of the fact that the school is paying to bring these artists to campus and introduce students to new ideas and new perspectives.” 

Header Photo: Tyler Barton, once a student, returned to campus last week as a guest speaker, going from attending the “Good Thunder” talks to hosting them. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)

Write to Lilly Schmidt at lillian.schmidt@mnsu.edu

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