Creative Writer’s Speaker Series wraps up for the year - The Behrend Beacon

Creative Writer’s Speaker Series wraps up for the year

Posted on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Author: Kristina Peszel (Contributing Writer)

The Creative Writer’s Speaker Series has once again finished out its year, and with great success. The series featured three award winning writers that helped to spark discussion not only on campus, but in the community.  

This year’s program started with Jim Daniels, a renowned poet from Pittsburgh.  He has had work featured in many well-known poetry collections such as Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 anthologies, Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and the Best American Poetry anthologies. Among his work with poetry, Daniels has also edited anthologies, helped to produce two independent films and has a short story collection slated to be published this year.  His session at Behrend focused mostly on his poetry, including work that had not yet been published.  Audience members appreciated his sense of humor and his engaging reading style.

The next speaker in the series was Erik Reece. Reece’s works cover controversial topics, such as religion and environmental problems.  His environmental journalism has prompted debate among not only those in our community, but worldwide.  His work has even elicited death threats from those supporting strip mining, a major topic of his nonfiction book, Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness.  His reading at Behrend inspired careful examination of a great natural resource (the vast forests that span the Appalachian mountains) and the systematic decimation of this national treasure.

The series closed out with a reading from Danielle Evans.  Evans may be best known for her first short story collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.  This collection was deemed a “must-read” by Oprah’s O Magazine, the Kirkus Review and Entertainment Weekly.  Some of her short stories were published in both the 2008 and 2010 versions of “The Best American Short Stories.”  This new writer brought with her her talent and wit when she came to Penn State for the series and left the audience enamored with her writing style and wanting more.

This program is an integral part of the creative culture that Behrend is developing here on campus. “This series is an important part of campus life because it gives those students interested in writing or literature an opportunity to hear established writers read their own work in an intimate setting,” said senior Creative Writing major, Craig Sanders.  

Not only does this series provide English majors with an extracurricular activity that relates directly to their field of study, but it helps to bring professional writers and authors to this area to disseminate new ideas and styles of writing to the entire student body and general public. 

“I think the fall 2011 series of readers was not only compelling and quite beneficial for our creative writing students—in that they heard from each writer some very important ideas about what it means to chose the vocation of writing as your life’s work—but the series, I thought, was also very entertaining,” said Creative Writing professor George Looney.  

Looney added that he has been told by numerous alumni that our reading series is incredibly well put together and much better than many comparable series that other Master of Fine Arts programs in Creative Writing.

“This is due to the hard work of Diana Hume George…It was her hard work that brought the Smith endowment [referring to the Clarence A. and Eugenie Baumann Smith Fund] to Behrend and we can only afford to bring such wonderful and significant writers from all over the country to Behrend to read and talk to our students about writing because of that endowment.  Our students owe Diana Hume George a debt of gratitude for this,” Looney said.   

  More speakers are planned for next semester, which will include critically acclaimed, fiction writer Charles Baxter, who appeared in last year’s edition of Best American Short Stories and a collection of essays on contemporary fiction entitled “Burning Down the House.”