By Tim Nazzaro
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, world-famous author Anne Korkeakivi made a surprise visit to Fitchburg State. She stopped into Professor Steve Edwards’ editing and publishing class to answer questions before doing an impromptu reading and Q&A about her new book, “Shining Sea.”
“Shining Sea” follows the lives of a broken family in southern California after their veteran father dies suddenly from a heart attack. The story, at its core, is a family story about the ripple effects of war, which is a subject she feels very strongly about. A daughter of two WWII veterans, Korkeakivi always found war and its lingering effects to be an important thing to talk about. “I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, two blocks from Columbia University, which was the center for Vietnam protests,” Korkeakivi says. She recalls seeing many angry, scary, loud protesters outside of her house as a little girl, and vividly remembers watching the body count every night on CBS news. “I just remember thinking how awful it was,” she says. In a beautifully written Op-Ed piece for TIME, she states that, “We must do more for our veterans.”
Korkeakivi claims she did not start out as a great writer. When she was in second grade, her teacher isolated her from the rest of the class for having such terrible handwriting. Years later, her fiction work would be featured in the New York Times, the Times (UK) and The Wall Street Journal. So, how did a second-grade outcast go from isolation to world-renowned fame?
“It’s about finding your niche,” Korkeakivi says in front of a packed publishing class. She was a travel journalist for many years who mostly focused on culture and, more specifically, music. She found her niche in Baltic countries like Finland, Denmark and Croatia, where many other writers hadn’t travelled all that often. As a result, much of her work was published, “which is the most important thing for aspiring writers.” Since then, Korkeakivi has travelled all over the world to places like Tanzania, Helsinki, and Scotland; and still feels a strong connection to those places today.
One would think her life travels would have a strong influence on her fiction writing. However, Korkeakivi doesn’t “like to write about where [she] is. I like to create a story and separate it from my everyday life. That way it becomes its own place.” The success of her first two novels is evidence her process seems to be working.
When asked how to “make it” as an author, she said there really is no formula. She encouraged listeners to find their own path, and to “never give up”. Her newest fiction book, “Shining Sea,” is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
Korkeakivi was born and raised in New York City and Western Massachusetts. Her husband is a human-rights lawyer for the UN and they have two children together.