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Sean Bernard ‘spins’ research into fiction

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Associate Professor of Writing Sean Bernard shared excerpts from his most recent work Monday during his lecture “Gold into Straw: Immigrant Research Spun into Fiction” in the President’s Dining Room on Monday. Bernard used a research grant to study the Basque culture in California and Nevada. The Basque people descend from areas in France and Spain and are most noteworthy for migration and sheepherding in the United States. Bernard’s talk was part of the Faculty Lecture Series. / photo by Christopher Guzman

Brittany Lawrence
Staff Writer

Sean Bernard conducted his humorous faculty lecture called “Gold into Straw: Basque Immigrant Research Spun into Fiction,” at noon Monday in the President’s Dining Room for an audience of interested students and faculty.

“This lecture is about my journey of turning research into a work of fiction,” said Bernard, associate professor of writing.

Bernard’s lecture was part of the weekly Faculty Lecture Series, sponsored by the Faculty Research Committee and the La Verne Academy.

Bernard began by discussing how it is hard to talk about and explain the writing system.

This research project started after he received an application for research assistance where his research would be funded.

“I needed something to research and that is why I chose the Basque,” Bernard said.

“I wanted to pick something random and this was a familiar random.”

For part of his research Bernard stayed in a Basque hotel and ate Basque food.

He also attended the annual Basque festival in Reno, Nev.

“The festival was a very standard festival with traditional music and dancing,” Bernard said.

In addition to the festival, Bernard also visited the National Basque Monument.

The Basque sheep herders would mark or carve pictures in the trees while herding.

Some were made out of boredom while some were carved to give messages to future or other herders.

Many of the carvings are very old.

Bernard got to explore these as well and showing pictures on his PowerPoint.

Going to the Basque hotel, bar and festival was simply for the experience, he said.

“At the festival and the bar, I did not talk to any of the Basque people because I am shy,” Bernard said. “I was just around them.”

Bernard read the audience two excerpts from his approximately 300-page fiction piece created from his extensive research.

The first excerpt he read was about a Basque scholar and the second was about the Basque scholar telling his new wife a Basque fairy tale.

Through his short reading, Bernard captured members of the audience and made them interested in the characters he read about.

“The characters are entirely made up, and they are a part of me, and a part of people that I know,” Bernard said.

Although the lecture was not long, Bernard kept the audience interested by keeping it humorous.

He got quite a few laughs out of the audience.

At the end of the lecture the audience, which consisted of both faculty and students, got to ask Bernard questions about his research and fiction piece.

They ranged from why he chose Basque culture to when his fictional piece was going to be finished and published.

“I came to the lecture for my honors class,” Danielle Burgess, sophomore biology major, said.

“I really liked it, though. It was good and funny. I like how he related it to the students by making it funny.”

Also in attendance was Al Clark, associate vice president for academic affairs, who coordinates the Faculty Lecture Series.

“I thought the lecture was delightful in the style of humor and tying the research to the literature.”

Brittany Lawrence can be reached at

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