Chris Belden’s ‘Shriver’ explores author’s angst

Shriver by Chris Belden.

Shriver by Chris Belden.

Since 2007, Chris Belden has called Ridgefield his home, but his success began long before his move to Connecticut. Born in Canton, Ohio, Belden soon found himself in the Big Apple exploring his talents as a songwriter, musician, and playwright before moving to Connecticut to work as an author and teacher. Though his accomplishments are far from limited to one area, he has found particular success in the recent publication of his second novel, Shriver.

After graduating from the University of Michigan with his bachelor of arts in film and video studies, Belden balanced various day jobs while finding his way in the music industry. His time as the drummer for both The Slang and Joe Henry’s band eventually landed him in New York City where he found work in the publishing industry.

It was at this point that he began writing fiction, including Amnesia, a screenplay that later became a movie starring Ally Sheedy and John Savage in 1997. After spending much of his time working with the Bronx WritersCorps and the Ensemble Studio Theatre, some of his works were selected for the New York International Fringe Festival and the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C.

A few years after the 2003 release of his first album, Songs About Anything, and much success as an artist, Belden decided to move to Ridgefield with his wife and daughter and soon returned to school at Fairfield University for a master of fine arts in creative writing. Since his graduation, he has taught writing at Fairfield University, the Westport and Ridgefield Writers Workshops, and Garner Correctional Institute. With two other Ridgefield MFA graduates of Fairfield University, Adele Annesi and Rebecca Dimyan, he co-founded the Ridgefield Writers Conference, an annual event that had its third gathering in September.

Since his big move to Connecticut, Belden has published two novels with Rain Mountain Press, Carry-on (2012) and Shriver (2013). Shriver was initially written with the help of a Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism artist fellowship grant, which gave Belden both validation of his talent and monetary support in order to complete Shriver. The novel that has now been re-issued by Touchstone, a much larger publishing agency, just a few months ago.

Shriver reflects Belden’s personal anxieties as an up-and-coming author and he said he wrote the novel in order to explore these insecurities.

“About 10 years ago [in 2005] I was invited to be a guest author at a writers’ conference, the North Dakota Writer’s Conference,” Belden said, adding, “The other featured authors there were impressively talented and, compared to me, famous. There was a National Book Award Winner, a New York Times Best Selling writer, a famous poet… and I was up there with them and I felt very much like an imposter. Like a mistake had been made.”

Through this experience, Belden said, “I created this character [Shriver] who actually is mistakenly invited [to a writers conference] and has to deal with that and figure out whether he’s really a writer and whether he deserves to be there.”

While there are many stereotypes floating around the novel, Belden insists not all authors are that way; these are just the authors who are the most fun to write about. And while many of Shriver’s characteristics are amplified, some of them reflect the author’s own characteristics, including those feelings of frustration as a struggling artist who wonders whether or not he is going to be successful.

But to Belden’s excitement, Shriver’s story has been optioned for film and is currently in the development stages with Michael Maren and Miloš Forman (executive producer on the project and director of the Academy Award-winning One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). With funding and casting in the works, it seems as though there are more achievements to come.

To learn more about any of Belden’s books or if interested in giving one as a gift this holiday season, visit his website, chrisbelden.com.

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