The Amherst College Center for Creative Writing is delighted to invite you to our reading series. All events are free, wheelchair-accessible, and open to the public, and will be followed by refreshments.
Spring Series 2018
Tuesday, February 13th
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Joseph Scapellato is the author of Big Lonesome, a story collection, and the forthcoming novel, The Made-Up Man. Of the former, the New York Times Book Review wrote, “Vividly recasting many Western archetypes, Scapellato's inventive, hallucinatory prose dazzles.” His work has appeared in North American Review, Kenyon Review Online, Post Road, and other publications, and has been anthologized in Harper Perennial’s Forty Stories, Gigantic Books’ Gigantic Worlds: An Anthology of Science Flash Fiction, and & NOW’s The Best Innovative Writing. Scapellato is an assistant professor of English at Bucknell University.
Monday, February 26th
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Ann Patchett calls Hermione Hoby “a writer of extreme intelligence, insight, style and beauty” and says, of her brand-new debut novel, Neon in Daylight, “Hermione Hoby paints a garish world that drew me in and held me spellbound. She is a marvel." Hoby writes about culture, especially books, film, music and gender, for numerous publications, for which she has interviewed such actors, writers, and pop stars as Toni Morrison, Meryl Streep, and Naomi Campbell. She also writes the Stranger of the Week column at The Awl. Hoby grew up in South London and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Tuesday, March 6th
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Forrest Gander, whose “unflinchingly curious mind” the New York Times has praised, and whom the Washington Post called “restlessly experimental, precise and hallucinatory,” is a writer, translator, and editor. His 2011 poetry collection Core Samples from the World was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books include two novels, numerous poetry collections, many collaborative works, and an essay collection. Gander’s essays have appeared in The Nation, The Boston Review, and the New York Times Book Review. He lives in California.
Melih Levi ‘15 and Lindsay Stern ‘13
Wednesday, March 28th
Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115)
Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Melih Levi studied English at Amherst College. His co-translation of one of the first Turkish novels, Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi, was published by Syracuse University Press in 2016, and his recent projects include translating short stories by the Turkish writer Tezer Özlü. He is currently a PhD student in Comparative Literature at Stanford University, where he is studying modernist poetry.
Lindsay Stern is the author of two novellas, Town of Shadows and Lüz, and a novel, Better Animals, forthcoming from Viking. After graduating from Amherst, she taught and wrote in Cambodia, India, South Africa, and Peru on a Watson Fellowship. Since then, she has received numerous literary awards and completed her MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2017. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Comparative Literature at Yale University.
Tuesday, April 10th
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Alice Sebold has called Susan Stinson “a novelist who translates a mundane world into the most poetic of possibilities.” Stinson is the author of Spider in a Tree (Small Beer, 2013) and winner of the Lambda Literary Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize. Her other novels are the Lambda Literary finalist Venus of Chalk, Martha Moody, and Fat Girl Dances with Rocks. Her chapbook of poetry and short essays is Belly Songs: In Celebration of Fat Women. Stinson has received numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, and has widely published her fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews. She lives in Northampton, MA.
Wednesday, September 13th, 8:00 pm
Peter Kimani is an award-winning journalist, poet, and fiction writer. He is the author of three novels: Before the Rooster Crows, Upside Down, and, most recently, Dance of the Jakaranda. Of this last, The New York Times Book Review wrote, “I have never read a novel about [Kenya] that's so funny, so perceptive, so subversive and so sly." He was one of three international poets commissioned by National Public Radio to compose a poem for Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Kimani is a founding faculty member of the Graduate School of Media and Communications at Aga Khan University in Nairobi, Kenya, and is currently the Visiting Writer at Amherst College.
Tuesday, September 26th, 8:00 pm
Maaza Mengiste is a novelist and essayist. Her debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was selected by the Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books; The New York Times Book Review called it, “An important novel, rich in compassion for its anguished characters.” Both her fiction and nonfiction examine the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile, and can be found in The New Yorker, Granta, the New York Times, and BBC Radio, among other places. Mengiste was a writer on the social-activist documentary film, Girl Rising. Her second novel, The Shadow King, is forthcoming.
Monday, October 2nd, 8:00 pm
Jess Row is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Your Face in Mine, which the Los Angeles Times called “flat-out brilliant” and Vanity Fair called “a provocative and exhilaratingly bold examination of race in America.” He also wrote the story collections The Train to Lo Wu and Nobody Ever Gets Lost. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Granta, The Best American Short Stories, and many other venues; he regularly writes essays and criticism for The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, and The New Republic. Row is working on a collection of essays about race and the American imagination, White Flights, to be published by Graywolf in 2019.
Mary Jo Salter
Thursday, October 26th, 8:00 pm
Reviewing Mary Jo Salter’s A Phone Call to the Future: New & Selected Poems for The New York Times Book Review, James Longenbach wrote, “Only a few poets transcend the history of taste to participate in the history of art—and only in a handful of poems. Salter has been struck by lightning more than once.” Salter’s most recent collection, The Surveyors (2017), is her eight. She is also the author of a children's book, The Moon Comes Home, a coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry, and a lyricist whose song cycle “Rooms of Light” premiered at Lincoln Center in 2007. She teaches at Johns Hopkins University and lives in Baltimore.
Monday, November 13th, 8:00 pm
As Sebastian Matthews writes of her third collection, “The poems in Vievee Francis’ Forest Primeval are fearless, full-throated, whip-smart and can come at you from just about any angle.” Francis is the author of two other books of poetry: Blue-Tail Fly and Horse in the Dark, which won the Cave Canem Northwestern University Poetry Prize for a second collection. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, textbooks, and anthologies, including Poetry, Best American Poetry, and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She serves as an associate editor of Callaloo and an associate professor of English at Dartmouth College.
Previously: Spring Series 2017
Monday, February 6th, 8:00 pm
Aleksandar Hemon is the author of the novel The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and which Junot Diaz called “"Incandescent. When your eyes close, the power of this novel, of Hemon's colossal talent, remains." Hemon has also written three books of short stories: The Question of Bruno; Nowhere Man, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Love and Obstacles. He was the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship and a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. He lives in Chicago.
Wednesday, March 8th, 8:00 pm
Sabina Murray is the author of the novels Forgery, A Carnivore’s Inquiry, Slow Burn, and, newly, Valiant Gentlemen, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2016. She has also written two short story collections, Tales of the New World and The Caprices, which won the 2002 PEN/ Faulkner award, and about which Claire Messud said, "Murray writes stories of fierce intensity, stories that are evocative, distinct, and haunting." Murray’s screenplay for the film Beautiful Country was an Independent Spirit Award Best First Screenplay nominee. She is currently a member of the Creative Writing faculty at UMass Amherst.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 8:00 pm
James Hannaham is the author of two novels, God Says No, which was a Stonewall Honor Book and a Lambda Book Award finalist, and Delicious Foods, which was a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book for 2015, and which Tayari Jones described as “A completely unforgettable, original, and singular novel by a brave, exciting new writer.” Or, as Rebecca Lee put it, “Bury me with this book, so I will remember how wonderful living was.” Hannaham has also widely published short fiction, journalism, and criticism, in The Literary Review, The Village Voice, Spin, Out, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, and Salon, among other places.
Wednesday, April 5th, 8:00 pm
“Waclawiak takes the immigrant novel and spins it on its head,” Gary Shteyngart wrote about Karolina Waclawiak’s first novel, How To Get Into the Twin Palms, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice in 2012. Her second novel, The Invaders, has been optioned by ABC Television; Roxane Gay calls it “ an elegant, ominous book. It’s a sharp, witty novel of manners of the most sinister kind. In Waclawiak’s expert hands, this novel will have you holding your breath and your heart until the very last word.” AWOL, a feature Waclawiak co-wrote with Deb Shoval, will premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Waclawiak is the Deputy Culture Editor at BuzzFeed.
Thursday, April 13th, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Mackey is an award-winning poet, novelist, editor, and critic. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Nod House (2011), the National Book Award-winning Splay Anthem (2006), and Eroding Witness (1985), which was chosen for the National Poetry Series. He has published several book-length installments of his ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, beginning with Bedouin Hornbook in 1986. A New York Times review described the prose project as “not simply writing about jazz, but writing as jazz.” Mackey is the long-time editor of avant-garde literary journal Hambone and currently teaches creative writing at Duke University.
Previously: Fall Series 2016
Wednesday, September 21st, 8:00 pm
Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman, has been called “terrifically auspicious” by The New York Times and “caustically funny” by USA Today. Huffington Post describes the book as “smart, timely and powerful,” and Essence advises, “buckle up for an unforgettable journey.” Greenidge has been a Bread Loaf scholar and the recipient of the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize, among numerous other honors and distinctions. Her work has appeared in the The New York Times, the Feminist Wire, Afrobeat Journal, the Tottenville Review, and American Short Fiction. She lives in Brooklyn.
Kirun Kapur ‘97
Wednesday, October 5th, 8:00 pm
Robert Pinsky calls Kirun Kapur “a true, gifted poet.” Kapur is the winner of the Arts & Letters Rumi Prize in Poetry and the Antivenom Poetry Award for her first book, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist, which Andre Dubus III calls an“absolutely superb collection of poems.”Kapur’s work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, Massachusetts Review, The Christian Science Monitor among other publications. In 2015, NBCNews named her to their list of Asian-American Poets to Watch. Kapur is director of the New England arts program The Tannery Series and serves as poetry editor at The Drum Literary Magazine.
Wednesday, October 12th, 8:00 p.m.
Naomi Jackson is author of The Star Side of Bird Hill, which was, among many other distinctions, named an Honor Book for Fiction by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and selected for the American Booksellers Association’s Indies Introduce and Indies Next List programs. Publishers Weekly named Jackson a Writer to Watch, and Entertainment Weekly writes, “Once in a while, you’ll stumble onto a book like this, one so poetic in its descriptions and so alive with lovable, frustrating, painfully real characters, that your emotional response to it becomes almost physical... Star Side is a gem of a book.” Jackson is the Visiting Writer at Amherst College.
Wedneday, November 2nd, 8:00 pm
Yaa Gyasi is the author of the New York Times bestselling Homegoing, which Ta-Nehisi Coates calls, “an inspiration,” and The New York Times Book Review calls a “hypnotic debut. . . . the great, aching gift of the novel is that it offers, in its own way, the very thing that enslavement denied its descendants: the possibility of imagining the connection between the broken threads of their origins.” Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Berkeley, California.
Tuesday, November 8th, 8:00 pm
The poet Valzhyna Mort was born in Minsk, Belarus, and made her American debut in 2008 with Factory of Tears, followed, in 2011, by Collected Body. World Literature Today writes, “Mort is most characterized by an obstinate resistance and rebellion against the devaluation of life. One of the best young poets in the world today.”She is also the editor of two poetry anthologies, and has received the Lannan Foundation Fellowship, the Bess Hokins Prize from Poetry, the Amy Clamitt Fellowship, as well as a number of European fellowships and prizes. Mort teaches at Cornell University.
Jo Ann Beard
February 18th, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Jo Ann Beard is the author of a novel, In Zanesville, and The Boys of My Youth, a collection of autobiographical essays, which the Chicago Tribune called, “Extraordinary… Beard is writing not with the romanticism of a girl looking up at the stars, but with the brilliant cold light of the stars looking down at us.” Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies including Tin House, The New Yorker, and Best American Essays. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.
March 9th, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Alexander Chee won a Whiting Award for his first novel, Edinburgh, and is a recipient of the NEA Fellowship in Fiction and residencies from the MacDowell Colony, Ledig House, and Civitella Ranieri. Karen Russell has described his brand-new novel, The Queen of the Night, as “a glorious performance . . . Enveloping, seductive.” And Helen Oyeyemi has called it “A night at an opera you’ll wish never-ending.” Chee’s writing has appeared in the The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Slate, and NPR, among other publications, and he is a contributing editor at The New Republic. He lives in New York City.
Rafael Campo ‘87
March 31st, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Pruyne Lecture Hall
The poet Rafael Campo teaches and practices general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is the author of six volumes of poetry, including the new collection Alternative Medicine, as well as the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and two Lambda Literary Awards, among numerous other honors. According to Mark Doty, Campo’s work inhabits “the landscape of birth and of dying, sorrow and sex, shame and brave human persistence—first and last things, center stage in these large-hearted, open, deeply felt poems.”
Catherine Newman writes essays, criticism, and fiction, and her work has been published in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, O Magazine, and many other publications. She is the Real Simple etiquette columnist and the author of two memoirs, including Waiting for Birdy, as well as a forthcoming middle-grade novel. Claire Messud writes of her new book, Catastrophic Happiness, “Hilarious, wise, sometimes neurotic and always delicious, Catherine Newman is a brilliant observer of contemporary parenthood. This book is a gem.”
Jonathan Franzen writes of Shroder, Amity Gaige’s most recent novel: “The measure of Gaige's great gifts as a storyteller is that she persuades you to believe in a situation that shouldn't be believable, and to love a narrator who shouldn’t be lovable.” Shroder has been published in 18 countries and was shortlisted for The Folio Prize. It was also named one of Best Books of 2013 by The New York Times Book Review, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Gaige is the author of two other novels, O My Darling and The Folded World. She is the current Visiting Writer at Amherst College.
Fall Series 2015
October 7th, Wednesday, 6:00 p.m.
Cole Assembly Room, Converse Hall
Mary Gaitskill is the author of the novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin, as well as Veronica, which was nominated for the 2005 National Book Award, National Critic’s Circle Award, and LA Times Book Award, and, most recently, The Mare. She is also the author of the story collections Bad Behavior, Because They Wanted To, which was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner in 1998, and Don’t Cry. Gaitskill has been awarded numerous honors and prizes and, according to The New York Times Book Review, her “palpable talent puts her among the most eloquent and perceptive contemporary fiction writers.”
October 21st, Wednesday, 6:00 p.m.
Pruyne Lecture Hall
Binyavanga Wainana is a Kenyan author, publisher, and cultural worker. He is the founding editor of one of Africa’s leading literary institutions, Kwani?His satirical essay, “How to Write About Africa” attracted international attention in 2005, and his memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place, has been translated into 7 languages. Teju Cole praised the book’s “Glimmering, strobe-lit language . . . it reveal[s] a complex, cosmopolitan African experience too rarely depicted in books.” In April 2014, Wainaina was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine.
November 12th, Thursday, 6:00 p.m.
Jonathan Moody, a Pushcart Prize nominee and Cave Canem graduate, is the author of the poetry collections The Doomy Poems, which Terrance Hayes described as having an “innovative funkiness that transcends the ruckus and heartache of our modern world,” and Olympic Butter Gold, which won the 2014 Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize. Moody’s poems have appeared in African American Review, The Common, and Harvard Review, among other publications. He teaches English at Pearland High School and lives in Fresno, Texas.
Mark Vanhoenacker ‘96
November 19th, Thursday, 6:00 p.m.
Mark Vanhoenacker is a pilot and writer. He’s a regular contributor to The New York Times as well as a columnist for Slate, and he’s also written for Wired, Financial Times, and the Los Angeles Times. Reviewing his book, Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot, The Wall Street Journal called Vanhoenacker “An exceptionally lucid and philosophically minded writer. He has spent the past several years taking notes about his life in the air and meditating on both the ethereal beauties and contradictions of flight.” He flies for British Airways.
December 2nd, Wednesday, 6:00 p.m.
Jenny Offill is the author of two novels, Last Things, a New York Times Notable Book, and the recent Dept. of Speculation, which was shortlisted for a number of prizes and chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times. The Boston Globe described it as “Slender, quietly smashing. . . . A book so radiant, so sparkling with sunlight and sorrow, that it almost makes a person gasp.” Offill is also the co-editor of two anthologies of essays and the author of several children's books. She teaches writing in New York City.
February 24th, Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.
Joshua Mehigan’s second collection, Accepting the Disaster,was cited as a favorite book of 2014 in The New York Times Book Review, which praised the poems for their “deep human understanding—of work, of small-town life, of mortality and suffering—that makes them feel not just impressive but trustworthy.” His first book, The Optimist, was a finalist for the 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His poems have appeared in The Common, The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Village Voice, among other periodicals. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
March 10th, Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.
Published in 20 languages, David Vann’s internationally-bestselling books—Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, Dirt, Goat Mountain, Aquarium, and the nonfiction books A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career At Sea and Last Day On Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter—have won 15 prizes, including best foreign novel in France and Spain, and appeared on 75 Best Books of the Year lists in a dozen countries. He is currently a Professor at the University of Warwick in England and Honorary Professor at the University of Franche-Comté in France.
March 23rd, Monday, 8:00 p.m.
Gina Apostol's most recent novel, Gun Dealers' Daughter, won the 2013 PEN/Open Book Award and was shortlisted for the 2014 William Saroyan International Prize. The L.A. Review of Books called it “brilliant.” Her first two novels, Bibliolepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, both won the Philippine National Book Award. She was writer-in-residence at Phillips Exeter Academy and a fellow at Civitella Ranieri in Umbria, Italy, among other fellowships. She lives in New York City and Western Massachusetts and grew up in Tacloban, the Philippines.
April 6th, Monday, 8:00 p.m.
Writing for the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani described Ayana Mathis’s writing as “both lyrical and unsparing, meditative and visceral, and capable of giving the reader nearly complete access to her characters’ minds and hearts." The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, her first novel, was a New York Times Bestseller, a 2013 New York Times Notable Book of the Year, an NPR Best Book of 2013, and an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Mathis is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recipient of the 2014-15 New York Public Library's Cullman Center Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn.
Fall Series 2014
September 8th, Monday, 8:00 p.m.
Scott Turow describes Judith Frank’s All I Love and Know, as “a brave, moving, and deeply compelling book, written with grace, about the ways even love and family devotion are challenged when the worst occurs.” And Dorothy Allison writes, “These people catch you by the heart so powerfully you can hardly believe it’s a novel.” Frank’s previous novel, Crybaby Butch, won a Lambda Literary Award in 2004. She is also the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and has held residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell. She teaches English at Amherst College.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips
September 16th, Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of Heaven (forthcoming) and The Ground: Poems, for which he received multiple honors, including the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, and many other publications. Poet Eric McHenry observes that “the ground Phillips treads is a middle ground—between spirit and flesh, heaven and earth, here and gone.” And Teju Cole, in The New York Times Book Review, called Phillips "the future of American poetry.” He is associate professor of English at Stony Brook University, where he directs the Poetry Center.
October 20th, Monday, 8:00 p.m.
Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115)
In addition to two collections of poems, Stuart Dybek has published five books of fiction including Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, I Sailed With Magellan, and the recently published simultaneous pair, Paper Lantern: Love Stories and Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories. Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Darin Strauss says, "[Dybek's] two new collections establish him as not only our most relevant writer, but maybe our best." And George Saunders calls him “One of the most soulful writers in America, and a national treasure." He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University and divides his time among Illinois, Michigan, and the Florida Keys.
October 30th, Thursday, 8:00 p.m.
Cole Assembly Room, Converse Hall
Jeffrey Eugenides is the author of three novels: his first, The Virgin Suicides, made into a film by Sofia Coppola; Middlesex, the second, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction among numerous other awards and was described as “a towering achievement” by the Los Angeles Times Book Review; The Marriage Plot, was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and was named the best novel of 2012 by independent booksellers in the United States. Eugenides is a professor of Creative Writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. His work has been translated into 35 languages.
December 3rd, 8:00 p.m.
Amherst Books (8 Main Street)
Mark Wunderlich’s poetry reminds us, as The New Yorker put it, “how fully the spirit can illuminate the depths.” He is the author of three volumes of poetry, including the recent The Earth Avails as well as Voluntary Servitude and The Anchorage, which received the Lambda Literary Award and about which J.D. McClatchy wrote, “This is a scary, sad, ecstatic, astonishing book—and a brilliant debut." Wunderlich teaches writing and literature at Bennington College and lives in New York's Hudson Valley.