Story of a Father and Son


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In today’s world, many Americans have the financial capability to cover the bare necessities of life and a few material items. In the case of writer Don Snyder, he found that being poor at a certain time of his life helped him hone his craft and, in turn, provided him with incredible experiences.

“I lived with nothing,” Snyder said. “My advice to writers is that you have to learn to live with no money.”

Snyder graduated from Colby College and earned an M.F.A. in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1986. He has completed a book about his son, Walking With Jack, and he will read from it at 7 p.m. Saturday at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St. Admission is free.

Snyder has spent all of his life challenging himself by putting himself through rigorous scenarios to become a better man and writer. He grew up in Maine at a time in which he lasted three months on $300 and moved to different countries as he wrote novels and stories.

“[Challenging myself] came out of necessity,” he said. “[My wife and I] learned to live modestly, and I learned carpentry as a way to pay our bills.”

While working jobs to make money, Snyder was able to write in his free time. One of the jobs was caddying in Scotland. His son had always wanted to be a golfer, so he put himself to the test, learning the game and making money.

However, caddying only lasted six months a year, so Snyder used the other half to write at home and be with his family. He lived in countries such as Scotland and Ireland, and the whole time he looked for and wrote compelling stories that he hoped may “impact one or two people.”

“Being in places where you are uncomfortable [keeps] your eyes open,” Snyder said.

A story that developed out of caddying in Scotland was Walking With Jack, in which his son joins a pro golf tour and Snyder caddies for him.

“It gave me the chance to walk beside him for a little bit more time in this world,” Snyder said. “It was a privilege.”

Some of Snyder’s talent he was born with, but some he learned. One of Snyder’s professors at the Writers’ Workshop, Steven Kapelke, said Snyder improved his writing because of his desire to learn.

“It was apparent from the first day that [Snyder] was both gifted and absolutely committed to his writing and that he had an impact on the other students in the class, both undergraduate and graduate students,” Kapelke said.

Snyder’s life has been full of influences stemming from various roots, but it is clear that he has the same effect on people that come across him.

James Sullivan, one of Snyder’s students at Colby College, was given a unique opportunity to connect with Snyder.

“I haven’t met anyone whose compassion for people — the disenfranchised especially — runs as deeply and as genuinely,” Sullivan said.

Don Snyder
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque
Admission: Free

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