Writers Read Author Series 2016-17
Writers Read, sponsored by the Language and Literature Department, is a special event featuring authors who read from and comment on their work. Dates, times, costs and locations are indicated below (map of , , , ).
September 15, 2016 – Poet Gary Dop, 8:30 p.m., Lehman Auditorium, admission free with student ID; $5.00 at door
A writer, actor, professor, and creative consultant, Gary Dop has delighted audiences at many universities and community gatherings with the performance of his works. In 2009, he was one of five poets in the US to qualify for a top rated performance poetry team. Before coming to Virginia, where he is an English professor at Randolph College, Dop served as writer-in-residence at North Central University in Minneapolis. He has worked extensively in the Midwest, advocating for creative writing in rural areas and working with gifted high school students in south central Nebraska. He serves on the editorial board of Spark News Press and enjoys working with the Twin Cities organization that publishes the Rain Taxi Review of Books and sponsors the Twin Cities Book Festival in Minneapolis.
Child, Father, and Water, published in Spring 2015, is his first collection of poems. His work has been featured in Prairie Schooner, New Letters, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, Agni, Sugar House Review, burntdistrict, Green Mountains Review, and the Poetry Foundation’s syndicated newspaper column, American Life in Poetry. In 2013 he won the Great Plains Emerging Writer Prize.
Gary Dop’s essays can sometimes be heard on public radio’s All Things Considered. He also writes for commercials, short films, documentaries, and his plays have been performed in small venues throughout the country. Over the years, Dop has also made a mark in acting, emceeing, and standup comedy. For more information, see www.garydop.com.
October 15, 2016 – Poet Marci Rae Johnson, 6:30 p.m., Common Grounds, freewill donation
Marci Rae Johnson has published two collections of poetry and her work may be found in The Louisville Review, Minnetonka Review, Strange Horizons, and 32 Poems, among others. She is the founder of The Poetry Factory, a reading series in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Johnson has taught English at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Recently, she completed there a 4-month seminar on the writing intensive classroom. While teaching at Valparaiso, she also created a class called Literary Editing and Publishing. With over a decade worth of experience in editorial work at a small press called WordFarm, she also serves as poetry editor of The Cresset. Currently she is teaching writing parttime at Wheaton College in Illinois, where she earned first a BA in literature and sociology and then an MA in theological studies. Her MFA in creative writing and poetry is from Spalding University.
Johnson’s first collection of poems, The Eyes the Window, was published in 2013. It has received strong reviews from critics such as Brad Fruhauff, who describes it as a “fascinating collection that makes you feel at once a witness to intimate moments and a stranger outside of true intimacy.” It won the 2011 Powder Horn Prize for first books. More recently, Johnson published her second fulllength book of of poetry entitled Basic Disaster Supply Kit. This work includes a poem called “Jesus Cleanses a Leper” which was featured on the Englewood Book Review website in January 2016.
A featured writer at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in 2014 and at the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference in Oct. 2015, Johnson will be a panelist at the upcoming Midwest Conference of Christianity and Literature.
November 10, 2016 – Visiting Scholar Dr. Katherine Clay Bassard, 7:00 p.m., Martin Chapel, freewill donation
Dr. Kathy Bassard is a recognized expert in African American Literature. She examines poetry, novels, speeches, sermons, and prayers by African American women from Maria W. Stewart to Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, discussing how such texts respond as a collective “literary witness” to the use of the Bible for purposes of social domination. These Black women were both shaped and reshaped by the scriptures they appropriated for their own self-representation. Her recent publications include Spiritual Interrogations: Culture, Gender, and Community in Early African American Women’s Writing and Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible. She is the author of many outstanding essays on African American literature and on Christianity and literary theory and has presented numerous lectures and scholarly presentations.
Dr. Bassard has received numerous awards and grants for her teaching and research efforts, including recognition by the Center for Teaching Excellence, Honor’s College, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, as well as from the Pew and Ford foundations. In 2005, she was the recipient of the VCU’s prestigious Elske v.P. Smith Distinguished Lecturer award.
Dr. Bassard received her undergraduate degree in English at Wake Forest University, an MA in English at VCU, and her PhD in English at Rutgers University with a Graduate Certificate in Woman’s Studies. From 1992 – 1999 Dr. Bassard taught at the University of California – Berkeley where she rose to the rank of Associate Professor. She returned to VCU in 1999 and was appointed professor of English in 2010, and now serves as senior vice provost for faculty affairs.
February 2, 2017 – Fiction Writer and Poet Sarah Kennedy, 6:30 p.m., Common Grounds, freewill donation
Sarah Kennedy has published seven books of poetry and more recently a series of novels. Her poetry collections include Double Exposure, which won the Cleveland State University Press Open Competition in 2003. Her volume Flow Blue won the Elixir Press Prize in Poetry. Her most recent collection, The Gold Thread (2013) is praised by the US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as “fierce, elegant poems” that comprise an “extended meditation on the quest for meaning…in a troubled world.”
Her love for historical fiction has spawned a series of novels called The Cross and Crown. This series of novels set in Tudor English traces the life of a former nun who has been displaced by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The third and most recent novel in the series is The King’s Sisters (Sept. 2015).
Originally from Indianapolis, Kennedy now lives in Staunton, Virginia, and works as a professor of English at Mary Baldwin University where she leads workshops in poetry and fiction and chairs the English department. She holds an MFA from Vermont College in poetry writing and a PhD from Purdue University in Renaissance poetry. Kennedy has received grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to support her creative work. To learn more about Sarah’s books, click here.
March 23, 2017 – Non-Fiction Writer Katie Fallon, 6:30 p.m., Common Grounds, freewill donation
Katie Fallon, a lifelong resident of Appalachia, is a nature-loving author who reflects this love in her writing. Her books of nonfiction include Cerulean Blue: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird (2011) and Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird, scheduled for publication in March 2017. Much of Fallon’s writing is grounded in naturalism and conservation efforts, especially concerning raptors and other birds. She is also one of the founders for the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, Inc., a nonprofit organization that strives to conserve wild birds.
In addition to her nonfiction nature books, Fallon’s essays have been featured in Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Ecotone, Bark Magazine, Appalachian Heritage, Now & Then, Isotope, Fourth River, the Minnesota Review, and The Tusculum Review. She has received recognition from Best American Science & Nature Writing 2014 and was a finalist in Terrain’s 2011 essay contest for her essay entitled “Hill of the Sacred Eagles.”
Though Fallon grew up in Pennsylvania, she now resides in Cheat, West Virginia, where she works at West Virginia University.