Vivian S. Delbrook Series opens

A thought or an idea is where all pieces of literature get their start. It is scribbled down on a piece of paper before being transformed into a story in front of our eyes.

With the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series, Butler University students will be able to gain insight into the minds of writers that bring such works to life.

The series regularly hosts public readings and question-and-answer sessions with influential contemporary writers.

A committee made of Butler professors—all creative writers within the English department—is in charge of producing the list of potential writers to visit Butler.

“The committee, along with a selected number of graduate students, come together and brainstorm a list of potential writers,” said Chris Forhan, assistant English professor. “We weigh the pros and cons of each writer, as well as trying to maintain diversity of style between the visiting writers. We try and get both writers with a large appeal as well as lesser-known writers.”

Once the list of writers is decided upon, the committee attempts to bring them to campus. Forhan said the committee usually goes through the writers’ booking agents, addressing topics like pay and time the writer can spend in sessions with the community.

The series is not limited to just reading sessions and Q&A’s, though.

It also includes a writers-in-residence program, in which one fiction writer and one poet stay on campus for an additional period of time after their initial session. During this time, they visit classes, teach workshops and hold conferences.

This year’s first visiting writer was Margaret Atwood, who was on campus Sept. 12 and 13.

Atwood has more than 50 volumes of poetry, non-fiction and short stories to her name and has written 10 novels. Instead of holding a traditional reading of her works, she gave a lecture with the subject “Can you write the future?”

The speech delved not only into prediction and speculation about the future but also into Atwood’s own life, society as a whole and writing in general.

Atwood’s speech referenced her own works and experiences, as well as the works of famed poet Alfred Tennyson and author H.G. Wells.

“I was genuinely surprised by both the humor of Atwood as well as her being so up-to-date with the times,” freshman Emma Salter said. “It is no wonder she is considered one of the ten best personalities on Twitter.”

The next visiting writer in the series is poet Patricia Smith.

Smith will be holding her reading session this evening, with a Q&A session tomorrow morning.

Where Atwood’s themes and works stray into speculative fiction, Smith focuses on civil rights and cultural relations, and her poetry is done in a style known as poetry slam.

“I’m excited to hear Patricia Smith speak,” freshman Hannah Cianci said. “After hearing Atwood, it will be interesting to see the different style and themes in which a poet thinks and writes, as compared to a more novel-focused writer.”

The remainder of the year’s lineup of visiting writers includes author Peter Steinhart (Oct. 8), poet Eduardo C. Corral (Oct. 24), author Yiyun Li (Nov.8) and poet Robert Pinsky (Nov. 28).


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