Common Reading Experience author comes to UK

By Gary Hermann

UK freshmen got their Common Reading Experience assignment before they ever stepped on campus. Monday, that experience came full circle.

Dave Eggers, author of the CRE book , first met with the UK 101 class of Beth Barnes, director of UK’s School of Journalism and Telecommunication, in the Grehan Journalism Building. The class is for freshmen in journalism and integrated strategic communication programs.

“It’s always wonderful to hear from someone working in the profession,” Barnes said.

Students were excited to meet Eggers.

“I’m interested to meet him and better understand his writing process,” journalism freshman Alex McAfee said.

Eggers talked about his educational and professional experiences. He started with the student paper at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne.

After college, he co-founded his own publication in San Francisco. When his publication closed, he took a job at Esquire Magazine and was a consultant for ESPN the Magazine. Eggers said he quit those publications to start writing books.

Eggers started the books that focus on oral history, through McSweeny’s Publishing, which he founded and edits.

“ was one of those stories,” Eggers said. “The story just grew and had epic scope.”

Eggers talked about the intense research he did for this book about a Muslim-American wrongfully imprisoned after Hurricane Katrina.

“I traced his steps every day. He drew on a map, and we would go to his every location,” Eggers said. “I feel that’s the only way to be totally sure of what happened.”

Eggers also talked about the future of journalism.

“Whatever you want to do, differentiate yourself,” Eggers said. “When everyone else is zigging, you’ve got to zag. We are at a moment, for the paper product to survive, we have got to maximize that medium a lot more.”

Eggers spoke to other members of the UK community Monday evening at the Singletary Center to talk about .

College of Fine Arts Dean Michael Tick joined him. Tick was working at Louisiana State University when Katrina hit and helped organize the largest field hospital since the Civil War with theatre and music students.

Eggers talked about visiting Zeitoun in Syria and even tracking the police officers who arrested him.

“We hadn’t heard or seen anything on [Zeitoun’s story] in the media,” Eggers said. “The whole time I always told them I could pull the plug at any time.”

He has the highest praise for the Zeitouns.

“They have rebuilt 175 houses all over New Orleans,” Eggers said.

“Zeitoun is the biggest patriot you will ever meet,” Eggers said. “Even now he works harder than he ever has before.”

Chemistry freshman Nick Tawasha said he enjoyed the speech.

“I thought it was cool to see what he did behind the scenes,” Tawasha said as he stood in line to

get his book signed.

Eggers spoke highly of the students and faculty at UK.

“My favorite part is meeting students in the signing line and learning about their hopes and dreams,” Eggers said.