Creative Submission: Jonah Lundberg Rediscovers His Epic Self

Jonah Lundberg walking on Bethells Beach in Auckland, New Zealand. | Photo by J. Patrick Lisazo, University of Texas - San Antonio

Jonah Lundberg (SMG ’11) studies Marketing in the School of Management and recently rediscovered a lifelong passion for creative writing. A devoted reader of classics, Jonah shared with us his first creative writing piece since high school, a poem called “Beth”, which he wrote about a day spent Bethells Beach while studying abroad in Auckland, New Zealand. We recorded Jonah reading the piece aloud on Sunday, and spoke to him about his sudden inspiration.

Jonah Lundberg walking on Bethells Beach in Auckland, New Zealand. | Photo by J. Patrick Lisazo, University of Texas - San Antonio
Jonah Lundberg walking on Bethells Beach in Auckland, New Zealand. | Photo by J. Patrick Lisazo, University of Texas - San Antonio

The Quad: What was the inspiration for “Beth”?

Jonah Lundberg: Well, it was at the very end of my study abroad experience. I was in Auckland by myself, bored, because I had seen all of Auckland. So my friend told me about one of his favorite websites called One of the first things it took me to was a writing exercise that lead me to write this. It was something along the lines of, ‘write the first sentence of a short story in 250 words or more and use proper punctuation and grammar’ and all that. I decided to throw that second half out of the window and use polysyndeton or whatever Hemingway always does. So it was no commas whatsoever, just one long sentence with a bunch of ‘ands.’ So that’s what I did. I thought, ‘what can I write about? Well, that experience I had at Bethells Beach was pretty cool.’ It was the first creative writing I had done since high school.

So why haven’t you written since?

Well, I didn’t have any excuse anymore to do it. There were no assignments that said ‘do some creative writing for this.’ I wanted to do it, but I really didn’t know how to do it in my free time, because I never had growing up. I had always done it for school. I always made sure that it was good, because it was going to be graded, so I didn’t quite no how to do it on my own.

Why did you think you needed an assignment to start writing?

I guess it’s the way I was conditioned throughout school. They had us writing a lot, and so I guess I always had a direction to start something. I never did it randomly on my own time. I never knew that was a skill you could develop. Hemingway, I mean, he writes this book [For Whom the Bell Tolls]. Where does he get that? I guess it was based on his own experiences. Is that a skill you need to develop? I don’t know. That’s something I’ve always wondered. It. where does Stephen King get the inspiration to write about a scary clown?

So you’ve mentioned Hemingway and King. What else do you read?

Classics. I believe it started junior year [in high school] when I took an AP class and we just read all classics. We read Tale of Two Cities, we read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we read Great Gatsby. Great Gatsby is definitely where I was really prompted to start reading all classics. I knew that I liked good books. I mean, I love Dan Brown books, I still read those too, but I enjoy writing where the words have been carefully selected as opposed to Dan Brown, which is a great story but it’s not as beautifully written.

I love Hemingway’s style, which is kind of the original format of polysyndeton with lots of conjunctions, no periods whatsoever. It’s kind of biblical and big and epic at points, but at other times he punctuates it really cold with lots of short sentences, too. Whatever type of writing that is, I really liked it. And you find that in Gatsby too, especially in the last chapter, which is very metaphorical. So I guess I always knew that I liked that type of writing. I do like Cormac McCarthy, too, he’s a little more contemporary, but I haven’t read as much of him.

How has that influenced your style? Do you try to imitate those people?

Yes, you could say that, definitely. You can see that in Beth. If you read it in the original format there are no periods or commas for a reason. This was like me taking a long section of Hemingway and then extending it further. So yeah, it absolutely influences the way I write.

Also, I forgot to mention that I do read magazines, too. I read Esquire, that’s my favorite. Tom Junod. He, I find, is similar to them in his writing style. When he writes it’s kind of old testament, biblical, big, epic, sort of wrath of God style.

You keep using that word, ‘biblical’. Are you religious?

Yeah, I am religious but that has nothing to do with it. It’s like a biblical style.

But you read the bible?

Yeah, I used to read it a lot as a kid when I was learning it. I don’t have any favorite authors in there, I’m using the Old Testament biblical style because, it’s funny if you read it sometimes because it’s very over the top. Do you know what I’m talking about? Have you read it?


So you know what I’m talking about how sometimes it can get really big! I just like that, it’s kind of epic like the crescendo of an orchestra. I guess you could say it leaves a very powerful impact as opposed to a Dan Brown book that’s full of dialogue, and when he’s describing something without dialogue it’s pretty much just the basics, you know? So I like the biblical style of Hemingway that makes it a little bit bigger, a little more exciting and powerful in the reader’s mind.

Which is like that beach. That’s why I wrote it that way. If I was writing about an ant, I wouldn’t have written it that way, but I found something that would match that style. If you had been there on that beach you would have said ‘wow, I know exactly what you mean.’ It’s huge, it’s massive, it’s desolate and it’s beautiful, you know? And scary and powerful and the same time. So it’s really easy to mesh the two.

Listen to Jonah read his poem “Beth” and read the original on the next page.

About Gabe Stein

Gabe Stein (CAS '11), was the founding CTO and Associate Publisher of the Quad.

View all posts by Gabe Stein →

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