From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Writer Stewart O’Nan is sitting at D’s SixPax and Dogz in Regent Square, talking about his life, his work and returning to Pittsburgh last year after a 30-year absence.
He talks about his family — his father, an engineer; his mother, a schoolteacher — and how they set examples for him, and of his wife, Trudy, a Butler native and social worker, who convinced him to quit his career as an aerospace engineer to study writing. He speaks of the proverbial Pittsburgh work ethic and how that has stood him well in all of his endeavors.
Then the conversation turns to former jobs.
“I was a dishwasher,” he says. “Every time I do a dish, a record falls. … I never got to be waitstaff, I never got to be a busboy. I was always a dishwasher, and that’s where you get to hear the best stories.”
Small wonder then that O’Nan, 49, is one of the best storytellers in contemporary fiction. His novels and stories often spotlight characters who are ignored by the mainstream, though they often are in plain sight.
I read the book about the circus fire and realized I knew Jennie Heiser, one of the survivors.
I lived in Hartford and knew her through church. I am blind and didn’t realize she had been in a fire.
She went to Avery Heights while I knew her. Jennie could motivate people to excede their own expectations, could motivate volunteers and bring the best out in people.
The book was enlightening. I hadn’t known about the circus fire in such detail prior to reading it.
I live in Oregon presently.