Heather Sellers, author and professor of creative writing at the University of South Florida, gave a lecture to a crowd of 70 in Lewis House on Feb. 21.
Sellers spent much of her time discussing prosopagnosia, or face blindness, a condition she has which makes her unable to recognize faces. This condition, Sellers said, deeply affected her life and her writing, becoming a central subject of her memoir, “You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know.”
“It’s not weird that I have what I have,” Sellers said. “It’s super weird that you can do what you can. It’s amazing.”
Sellers also visited some creative writing classes and workshops during a three-day visit, where she advised students about graduate school and the writing process.
“I really enjoyed her theories on writing,” said senior Jo Serpico. “It was all things we’ve kind of learned, but things I think she was able to masterfully explain and make us re-learn in a new way.”
According to Sellers, her condition makes it difficult for her to attend social functions such as parties, where she must struggle to recognize her acquaintances. This fostered a love of reading — in books, she often jokes, she doesn’t have to recognize anyone.
Though her work often deals with mental health issues, Sellers says she prefers to think of the act of writing less as therapy and more as a conversation with her reader.
“I don’t process feelings in writing,” she said. “I’m always trying to think of what I can give [others] by way of an experience. I think that helps you process your feelings in a fundamentally more significant way.”
The event on Feb. 21 also acted as a conversation. She presented her journey through simple vignettes that, according to In- structor of Creative Writing Gloria Muñoz, helped the audience relate to her.
“It was really remarkable to move through these personal anecdotes... that we could all connect to in some way, whether or not we’ve ever dealt with face blindness,” Muñoz said. “We’re all human beings who experience these awkward interactions and tension in our lives.”
For Sellers, that connection is the most crucial and fulfilling part of the creative process.
“I take [art] pretty seriously – like a religion – because it’s our attempt to connect with each other around our humanity,” she said. “Nothing is more important than that.”