I’ve been writing for a long while and I can count many supportive mentors along my path. One of my most influential mentors was the late Glenn Savan. I met Glenn in 1997 at the first Washington University Summer Writer’s Institute, now in its 18th season. He was a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. At Washington U’s summer institute he taught the fiction strand. Our friendship continued until his untimely death in 2003.
By the time I met Glenn he had already written both of the novels he would produce in his lifetime, White Palace (1988) and Goldman’s Anatomy (1993). The filming of White Palace, in which Glenn had a cameo role, had taken place in 1989 here in St. Louis. Glenn was something of a local celebrity in the 1990’s. He’d worked as a waiter here while writing White Palace.
I learned a great deal about the craft of writing short fiction from Glenn, more than I can list at one sitting. One of the tools I use with every piece I write that I can directly attribute to him is what I call Release of Information – not the document one signs to approve a document release, but the pace at which the story details are unfolded. He taught me how essential information should be uncovered in a way that is satisfying to the reader, that makes the arc of the story ring true. Telling too much too soon spoils a story. Holding back too many clues, too much essential detail, can result in frustration, making the reader feel manipulated and the narrative unnatural. I became not only a better writer but a better reader thanks to Glenn.
Glenn’s novels are both wonderful reads. He tantalizes his readers with just enough information at just the right time. They’re emotionally resonant. Unfortunately, both novels are out of print. You can find copies at secondary markets like Amazon but White Palace is rare and can be expensive to own. If you haven’t read it and can find it in a used bookstore or at your local library, I recommend it highly. The film, starring Susan Sarandon and James Spader, is easier to find and worth watching, too.
http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/literary-boroughs-41-st-louis-mo/ Glenn is featured in Ploughshares Literary Boroughs #42. He was, I believe, the quintessential St. Louis writer.