Author Janet Fitch Speaks at Kreider Hall

Liz Cameron

Janet Fitch known for her bestseller novel “White Oleander,” with more than 1 million copies sold, read at Glendale Community College on April 8.

In 1999 Fitch’s debut novel, “White Oleander” was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, and was recreated as a movie in 2002 by director Peter Kosminsky starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Renée Zellweger. It has also been translated into 24 different languages.

“White Oleander,” is about a girl named Janet Astrid’s trials and tribulations through foster homes and a search to find a place where she belongs. Her mother Ingrid, is a skilled but obsessed poet who utilizes her attractiveness to manipulate men. She commits murder when she falls apart after a lover’s rejection, and is given life in prison.

“I liked it when my mother tried to teach me things, when she paid attention. So often when I was with her, she was unreachable. Whenever she turned her steep focus on me, I felt the warmth that flowers must feel when they bloom through the snow, under the first concentrated rays of the sun.”

“‘Always learn poems by heart,”‘ she said “‘They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they’ll make your soul impervious to the worlds decay.”‘ I imagined my soul taking in these words like silicated water in the Petrified Forest, turning my wood to patterned agate. I like it when my mother shaped me this way. I thought clay must feel happy in the good potter’s hand”

“Page after page, I fell in love with a story that deeply moved me, and vivid passages that described the sky as the color of peaches and compared sorrow to the taste of a copper penny” said Winfrey in an interview.

Those interested in the works of Janet Fitch, listened to readings from the Los Angeles-based author from noon to 1 p.m. in Kreider Hall. Jocelyn Heaney and Claire Phillips, faculty of the English department, introduced the audience to Fitch as a part of the departments L.A. Writers Reading Series. Their goal is to bring in L.A. based writers to talk about great literature, the passion of writing and to bring awareness about being a writer.

More than 100 guests were gathered at the hall as she read from “Los Angeles Noir.” Individuals were left standing or sitting in the aisles, as space became scarce with people wanting to hear from Fitch.

“Los Angeles Noir” is an anthology of mystery stories set in Los Angeles by different authors such as Michael Connelly, Janet Fitch, Susan Straight, Hector Tobar and edited by Denise Hamilton.

“I admire her work and I’m interested in writers who set stories and history in L.A., in particular the L.A. Noir story, by far the best work,” said Phillips. “I was hopeful she’d talk about it.”
Following the readings, Fitch had a chance to discuss “White Oleander,” and both her love and difficulties of writing during her questions and answers period, at the end of her presentation.

“I read White Oleander a long time ago and I live where she writes about in the book, it’s my everyday environment with a big twist” said student Emilia Chiuzzi when asked why she is interested in Janet Fitch.

When asked by an audience member what her feelings on the novel being recreated into a movie are, she said that although she wrote it, the novel becomes a blueprint to a new work of art by a new artist. The novel is but the foundation to the art of someone else’s work and it becomes their own masterpiece.

Because Fitch was born in Los Angeles and is a third generation native “I see Los Angeles in layers,” said Fitch. She describes writing as “hearing the characters differently” and “always writing about two different ways of being.”

To Fitch, books are for human beings who crave getting out of their lives, and became a writer for her love of reading. She was one of those kids who lived in her books. “It was more real to me than real life” said Fitch. She believes that when a person reads they can be anything and anywhere.

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