Written by Robby Mangum
Roanoke College alumna Mandy Len Catron spoke to students about her book How to Fall in Love with Anyone on April 2. As the name suggests, her book is an exploration of love through ‘memoirs in essays.’ Some of these essays in the book include ‘The Exploded Star: the Myth of the Right Person’ and ‘The Football Coach and the Cheerleader: what Makes a Good Love Story?,’ the story of Catron’s parents meeting and falling in love, told from her perspective, which she read an excerpt of.
The speech, which was attended by many creative writing students who were eager to hear a former RC student speak of their experiences as a successful writer, was opened with a conversation on what success means to Catron. She discussed how, as a youth, success meant reading from a book with her name on it at a small college. However, she struggled with many questions of what success actually meant to her, and ultimately said that “perhaps it’s the opportunity for the occasion to keep asking those questions.”
When asked about how RC helped her to become a published writer, Catron specifically thanked Dr. Paul Handstedt and Dr. Melanie Almeder, whom she said had been excellent professors. Almeder had specifically encouraged her to attend a writers’ retreat, which helped her overcome fears of the question ‘am I allowed to do this (in a writing?)’
Catron discussed her experiences and opinions on what love is, both during the talk and an interview. She delved occasionally into the topic of marriage.
“In my research I started thinking amount how if you look at love stories, they suggest an ideal way to practice love- ideally ending in marriage,” said Catron.
She says that it’s an institution which falls along class lines, and that this is something that is rarely ever discussed.
Catron said that, in her eyes, the ultimate feature of love is kindness.
“When we shift to thinking about love as feeling to love as an action, we have much better relationships. We’re more likely to invest in people who are worth our time and energy,” she said.
Catron is also the author of the New York Times’ article ‘To Fall in Love with Anyone, do This.’ Catron described this process of writing and publishing a memoir, which exists as the halfway point between nonfiction and fiction. The former requires a proposal, while the latter requires submission of a manuscript, while memoirs can be proposed through either. Part of this proposal process for Catron was the aforementioned article, published to prove that there was an audience for her book. It worked, and after reaching eight millions views in one month, it became one of the New York Time’s most widely viewed articles.
Catron is a 2000 RC graduate and completed her MFA at American University. She currently teaches composition at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.