Two down, two to go in Wilkes’ English Spring Writers Series

Alyssa Stencavage, Life Editor

“The Kirby Salon is a special place,” English chair and professor Lawrence Kuhar said. “Its hardwood floors, oriental rugs, hanging antique chandeliers and paintings of the Kirby family, together promote an elevated sense of academic integrity. It is a big part of who we are here.”
The Kirby Salon in Kirby Hall is where events like the Spring Writers Series take place.
“Kirby is a historical building that promotes sensibility for the function of imagination as well as an awareness of the importance of English studies,” Kuhar said.
The Spring Writers Series is an event that happens every year. Sometimes it is a full series, whereas in other cases there is just a big name author who comes. A number of writers are invited to Wilkes for this event, supported by the Allan Hamilton Dickson fund, which is the English program’s funding resource to provide students with opportunities like the Spring Writers Series.
Several famous authors have come to Wilkes in the past because of this fun, including Norman Mailer, Bobbie Ann Mason, Salmon Rushdie, John Updike, Edward Albee and Joyce Carol Oates, among others.
Kuhar said the English Department has a tradition of bringing in big names or up and coming forming writers, and that in the planning stages they work to identify writers of different genres.
For this Spring Series, this includes Stephanie Powell Watts as a short story writer, David Wyatt, who is both a critic of American literature and a memoirist. Jeff Mock and Margot Schilpp are both poets and Tim Parrish also writes short stories, novels and memoirs.
Watts’s short stories have appeared in the Pushcart Prize and Best New Stories from the South anthologies, as well as Oxford American, New Letters, African American Review and elsewhere. She has also received an Atlantic Monthly nonfiction prize.
Wyatt’s latest book, Secret Histories: Reading Twentieth Century American Literature (2010), uncovers real American histories hidden within the pages of literature. His contributions to literature are extensive and continuous.
Mock is the author of Ruthless (Three Candles Press). His poems appear in The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, New England Review, The North American Review, Shenandoah, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review and elsewhere.
Schlipp is the author of “The World’s Last Night,” “Laws of My Nature” and “Civil Twilight.” Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals as well.
Parrish is the author of the story collection Red Stick Men, set in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La. Two other books of his, “Fear and What Follows: A Memoir of Masculinity and Racism,” and “The Jumper,” a novel and winner of the George Garrett Prize for Fiction, will be published in fall 2013 by the University Press of Mississippi and Texas Review Press. His work has appeared in dozens of literary journals and has been anthologized numerous times.
Kuhar said they have a pretty good range of coverage this time, but it doesn’t always work out that well.
The Spring Series not only give these writers a chance to present their work, but also serve students and their best interests.
Kuhar said these events perform a few functions.  The first is to enrich the experiences of students to provide for them role models in careers and writing. Through the series, students can have one on one interaction with these professional writers and workshop with them. Classrooms are also fortunate enough to be graced with the presence of the writers. Finally, the series serve the general public at the public reading, and are advertised at all local and regional libraries.
Beyond the classroom, the learning and activity also take place for students.
“The Spring Writers Series is one of the important events outside of the classroom that our department provides for our English majors and minors,” Associate Professor of English Mischelle Anthony said.  “Each event offers several ways for students to get to know writers: an afternoon workshop, to which students can bring their own work in progress for the visiting writers to discuss; an evening dinner where students can have more informal conversations with the writer; and a public reading in our historic and beautiful Kirby Salon.  Students, along with the rest of the audience, can ask questions of the writer at this more formal venue.”
As part of the event, the writers dine with students and faculty to allow for more individual student-centered time with the writers.
“The unexpected part of this whole series is how each visiting writer is so impressed with our students and English faculty,” Anthony said.  “It’s more of a give-and-take of creative energy than anyone had hoped for, I think.  Visitors say things like, ‘Wow, your students ask thoughtful questions’ and ‘I can’t believe how well your faculty get along’ and ‘Your department seems such an open place for learning and discovery.’ The writers themselves leave our events energized.”
The latest part of the series, which was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 18, was canceled because the university closed. It will be rescheduled. Cherck the [email protected] announcements for further details.