Sam Weller inspires students to “make a life worth living”


lance lagoni

Sam Weller kicks off the spring Writers Center Reading Series.

Victoria Crowe, Staff Writer

To kick off the Writers Center Reading Series on Feb. 15 at Elgin Community College, the authorized biographer of Ray Bradbury, Sam Weller, did a reading of some of his work and told his twenty-three visitors a bit about his experience with Ray Bradbury.

Weller worked with Bradbury for 13 years and said that over the many years they spent together, Bradbury wore off on him.  Weller talked in depth of Bradbury’s love of life.  He told Weller that if he lived four lives he could accomplish everything he wanted to do.  Weller also told his audience that, not long before Bradbury passed away, Weller asked him if he was afraid to die.  

“Not at all.  I’m afraid to not live.”

Weller also said word for word exactly what Bradbury’s last words to him were.

“I want you to know two things: Every time you have come to visit me over these years it’s felt like New Year’s Eve.”

“I have never had a real son and you are it,” Bradbury told Weller.

Weller read a piece he had written called “The Girl in the Funeral Parlor” in which he describes the experience of a young man who delivers flowers to a funeral home in St. Charles, Illinois.  The main character of the story had fallen in love with a deceased woman in a casket and Weller walks his readers through the struggles that this young man went through in order to find out who this young woman was and how she died.  He had dreams about her and about what their lives would be like together had she not passed away so young.  He found out her name was Catherine Corrington and, after spending hours researching, he finally found the home of her mother.  He told Catherine’s mother that he was an old friend from high school as he sits down with her to talk about how much he loved Catherine.

“What happens if you meet your soulmate after she has died?” The narrator said, referring to the painful feeling of knowing he would never truly know Catherine Corrington.

Weller ended the story without revealing how Catherine died, leaving his readers to wonder and draw their own conclusions about her death.  

Weller is now a creative writing Professor at Columbia College in Chicago.  He has been teaching creative writing since 2005 and is now tenured at Columbia.

One of Weller’s creative writing students from the Fall 2017 semester was present in the audience at ECC.

“What Sam read tonight was a look into his creative thought process,” said Jacob Rodriguez, a freshman at Colombia. ” You were able to see the skeleton to his thoughts and the small nuances in his work.  I enjoyed the framework of his writing and how transparent he was in his pieces.”

He also gave a small glimpse into what it was like to have Weller as a professor.  

“Sam was an amazing professor,” Rodriguez said. “He encouraged all of the students to take risks and push themselves outside of their comfort zone in order to create real stories.  I loved having him as a professor and he really was an inspiration to go out and make life worth living.”

Weller travels all over different Chicago suburbs doing similar readings in libraries and colleges.