Alum, Author Mott Returns to UNCW to Keynote Writing Conference

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Described as "a gifted teacher and inspiring human being who challenges convention and transforms it" by Michael White, UNCW professor and creative writing department chair, Jason Mott delivered the keynote address at the second annual 2014 Summer Writers Conference, held June 20-22.

Mott holds both a B.F.A. in fiction and an M.F.A. in poetry from UNCW. He began his address in UNCW's Madeline Suite by reading a poem from his second book - Hide Behind Me. The book is dedicated to creative writing faculty member and alumna Lavonne Adams, who was in the audience.

Mott began writing around age 13 and always had a love of reading mythology. "Readers need someone to give them permission to write," Mott told the crowd. That permission for him came by reading Grendel by John Gardner.

After losing his mother in 2001, he was inspired to give writing "his best shot." He enrolled at UNCW and was a student of both White and Adams. Upon graduation, he found there wasn't a huge job market for poets and went to work for Verizon, a job "he could leave and go home and write."

In July 2010, he had a vivid dream of his mother during which they talked about all that had happened since her passing. "It wasn't a typical visitation dream," said Mott. "It was so real I couldn't get rid of it."

He told his friend about the dream and asked what if that could really happen? Thus, his best-selling book The Returned began.

After many queries and rejection letters he got a bite from an agent in October 2011. After six months of edits, an imprint of Harlequin Books made an offer to publish his manuscript.

Before it hit book shelves, however, The Returned, was optioned by actor Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B, as a television series and premiered on the ABC network in March 2014 under the title Resurrection. It has been picked up for a second season. Mott has never met Pitt, though he'd like to and jokes that he would love to meet Angelina Jolie even more.

While a typical book-to-film option takes eight years, Mott still isn't sure "how all this happened in two years...having my book go where it went."

Before reading aloud from The Returned, Mott reminded the audience, "By the time books arrive on shelves they have been through the wringer of process to arrive in a completed form. Don't let that overshadow your process - break away from that first-time perfection mindset. Writing is an apprenticeship - keep trying to get better each round. Embrace the flaws and out the mentorship and truly learn your craft."

Conference attendee Audrey Bullock heard Mott on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and went to his website. Seeing he'd be at the UNCW conference, she signed up and traveled from Warren County, bringing her 80-year-old mother as well.

In addition to the keynote address, the 2014 Summer Writers Conference included roundtable discussions and workshops in fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry by Mott, White and others.

"This is not just a conference, but a true cultural experience," said White. "This year we upped the focus on the writing process. We will continue to slowly evolve and refresh the conference each year to appeal to both returning and to first-time writing conference participants."