From start to finish: Author Colm Tóibín speaks at CCHS

Colm Tóibín

Gallery by Julie Alpaugh.
By SUNCANA PAVLIC – Managing Editor

Guest speaker and award-winning author Colm Tóibín spoke Clarke Central High School on March 17 opening discussion about some of his notable works, such as “Brooklyn”.

Award-winning Irish writer Colm Tóibín spoke at Clarke Central High School through the Clarke County School District’s partnership with the University of Georgia on March 17 in the Small Mell Auditorium.

“It’s a priority of the Willson Center to share the University of Georgia’s resources with its community — especially with local students,” UGA Willson Center for Humanities and Arts Public Relations specialist Dave Marr said. “We try to integrate our special programs with the Clarke County School District whenever possible, and Colm Tóibín has been generous enough to share his time in this way.”

Tóibín is the University of Georgia’s Willson Center for Humanities and Arts Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding for 2017.

“(Delta Visiting Chair is) an annual program through which the Willson Center brings to the campus and community someone whose inquiries and accomplishments in the humanities and arts have promoted globally significant conversations across national and cultural boundaries,” Marr said. “This is the program that brought Alice Walker to Athens last year.”

Tóibín will speak at several events around Athens from March 15-17 to discuss several of his notable works, focusing on his book “Brooklyn.” The book was recently adapted into a movie, which was nominated for three Academy Awards.

“He’ll take part in a public conversation with the Irish critic, columnist, and editor Fintan O’Toole at 7 p.m. Friday evening at the Seney-Stovall Chapel,” Marr said. “After their conversation, the great Irish singer Iarla Ó Lionáird will give a special St. Patrick’s Day performance. The event is free, open to the public, and no tickets are required.”

English department teacher Andrew Dean, who attended the event, stresses the importance of students engaging with people within humanities and arts.  

“I think there is a lot of value in everyone being exposed to different types of culture and art because it’s beneficial,” Dean said. “Sometimes we get mired down in school and learning that we forget there is a whole a lot more stuff out there then taking a test and listening to a teacher lecture.”

Tóibín agrees with Dean and emphasizes the importance of speaking to students within different communities.  

“A visitor visiting a school is really important to get to know how the society works, but also its great for kids to get a break from the class,” Tóibín said.  

At the end of the event, Tóibín left the 35 students in attendance with words of advice.

“The main thing that I have learned is once you start something, you finish it. Finish,” Tóibín said. “Just say, ‘No one else will finish this. There is a reason I started this.’ Finish it. Do not leave things half done.”

For senior Mara Bastow, an aspiring writer, the entire talk was inspirational, but Tóibín’s last bit of advice hit home.

“But also the ending for me was really eye opening. It wasn’t much, but because his advice to us was to finish what we’d started because you obviously had a purpose to write it,” Bastow said.  “That really stuck with me because I’m so bad about that and to see that he genuinely had a problem, too, and could relate that because ‘the world is out to distract you’ was really good to hear.”

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