In honor of beloved English professor Dr. Lynne Shackelford’s retirement, former student, writer Ed Tarkington ‘95, is coming to visit Furman to work with students and speak at multiple events. Tarkington is author of the critically acclaimed books Only Love Can Break Your Heart and The Fortunate Ones, which was published last year. His work dives headfirst into complex social, economic, political and moral themes. Kirkus Reviews describes him as a “gifted storyteller.” Tarkington will be on campus this week meeting with students and honoring Dr. Shackelford’s tenure as an English professor at Furman.
Reflecting on his undergraduate experience as a Furman student, Tarkington looks back fondly on his time spent as an English and Philosophy Double Major. He recalls his experience learning from “gifted and selfless professors” who shaped his educational path. Dr. Shackelford remembers Tarkington as a student who was “dynamic, intellectually engaged, and eager to think for himself.” Shackelford’s favorite memory of Tarkington was his 1960s presentation for class that incorporated themes from Forrest Gump in which his dynamic acting skills “rivaled Tom Hanks’ performance.”
As a writer who frequently reviews and analyzes other writers’ works (a skill that he developed in Dr. Shackelford's class) for publications such as Chapter 16, Tarkington is well-equipped to help students reach their creative potential. As a “gifted prose stylist,” according to Shackelford, Tarkington will assist students in honing their writing craft during one-on-one sessions. Creative writing professor Dr. Laura Morris told students to expect “good advice” and “hands-on training.” Tarkington will lead students in various exercises and provide them with useful techniques. In addition to the meetings, he will present a master class on a creative writing subject of his choosing on Friday that students are welcomed to attend as well as a reading.
In anticipation of Tarkington’s visit, English student Macy Petty commented that she is eager to hear his advice, hoping to build on her own set of skills and knowledge gained from her writing professors. She looks forward to learning from Tarkington as an established author who is “out in the world writing” and to discuss “common struggles” that writers face.
As an author, Tarkington has encountered his share of challenges that students anticipating post-grad life can learn from. He describes his experience as a writer with honesty and reflection, admitting that when he graduated from Furman, he “floundered quite a bit.” Tarkington decided that he was tired of being a “starving artist,” and went on to embark on a career path of teaching. Inspired to “remake [himself] in the image of [his] mentors,” Tarkington dove head first into the profession. Although he was initially concerned about not having enough time to write, according to Tarkington, “what I thought was going to be a sacrifice turned out to be a blessing.” He developed time management strategies that allowed his writing life to thrive. Tarkington’s advice to aspiring writers is to “set a work schedule” and to “just write; don’t worry too much about whether or not it is any good.”
For Dr. Shackelford, Tarkington’s visit is the perfect celebration of her retirement following 40 years of teaching. She expressed that “the greatest joy in my career as a professor has been teaching students to appreciate American literature,” and that Tarkington represents the many students that have shaped her as a “lifelong student” and have made her career “so personally rewarding.” Tarkington remarked that "it is such as blessing and a privilege for me to speak at Furman in her honor."
April 1st 12:30 p.m.-1:20 p.m. Master Class in the English department lounge
April 1st 4:00 p.m. Reading in McEachern Auditorium