Author Jeanne Marie Laskas,discusses her book ‘Concussion’. Image: Jessica Crosson
As part of the Noss Lecture Series, author Jeanne Marie Laskas visited California University of Pennsylvania last night to talk about her process for writing Concussion.
Laskas admitted that she does not consider herself to be a sports writer or a science writer, which was surprising given the topic of Concussion.
When Laskas first began researching she explained that the hardest part was untangling everything. She gave an example of her process by explaining that when she was looking into the brain of a deceased NFL player, which was supposed to be at Boston University it was actually located somewhere in West Virginia.
In order to fully understand the story from Dr. Bennet Omalu’s side, Laskas had interviewed him for years. On top of interviews, Laskas traveled with Omalu to Nigeria and met his family. She discovered that two large influences in Omalu’s life were his father and Dr. Wecht.
Laskas stated that due to his father being so overbearing Omalu felt like he had to do good work in his life because his father told him that he had to. Further into his life, Omalu went on to work for Dr. Wecht, who was even more overbearing than his father, but embodied what Bennet was looking for in America. Laskas explained that both Omalu’s father and Dr. Wecht believed in Omalu and gave him the permission he needed to seek the truth.
At the end of the book talk, Laskas was open to questions from the audience. There were many questions ranging from advice to students to questions about criticisms Laskas received about the book topic and ending with questions about the actors chosen for the movie.
When asked about what Dr. Omalu is doing now, Laskas informed the crowd that he is currently working to figure out if there is something chemical occurring in the brain as to why some people with depression commit suicide and some do not. She also informed that crowd that she will only continue to write about this topic if more information begins to come forward.
To finish up the question and answer session Laskas offered two pieces of advice. The first piece of advice was for the writers in the audience.
“The main thing is to stop listening to the people who tell you that you can’t do this for a living or to do something more practical. There is something everywhere for writers. Immerse yourself in it. Everyone is always looking for who the new writers are and who the new voices are.” offered Laskas.
The final piece of advice that Laskas shared was for the athletic trainers in the room,
“The only thing I can say is keep an open mind and listen. Be the kind of almost parental figure for the people. Be straightforward and honest and open to new information. Be open to new ideas.”
Following the question and answer session, Laskas met with members of the audience and signed copies of Concussion for them.
Sophomor, athletic training major, Brianna Frable shared her thoughts on the lecture after the show.
“I thought she was very subtle with her work as well as humble with what she accomplished with having her work made into a movie all while not being an author that typically writes about sports or science,” Frable said.
When all was said and done, many of those who were in attendance were glad they were able to have this experience.