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Visiting Writers Series resumes Sept. 21 with readings and craft talks

By Ken Keuffel

BOONE, N.C.—The Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series resumes Sept. 21 at Appalachian State University with readings and craft talks.

View larger imageJeremy B. Jones will appear Sept. 21 in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State University. Photo courtesy of Jeremy B. JonesView larger imageRandall Kenan will appear Sept. 28 in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State University. Photo by Miriam BerkleyView larger imageSusan Ludvigson will appear Oct. 5 in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State University. Photo courtesy of Susan LudvigsonView larger imageVivian Shipley will appear Nov. 2 in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State University. Photo courtesy of Vivian Shipley

All series events are free and open to the public. Book sales and signing will follow each event. Unless otherwise noted, all series presentations will take place in Table Rock (Room 201B) of the Plemmons Student Union. Parking is free on campus after 5 p.m.

Each semester, the series brings four distinguished and up-and-coming creative writers of varying genres to Appalachian’s campus to read from and discuss their works. The series also features craft talks led by the author on the craft of writing. Craft talks provide aspiring writers suggestions for refining their techniques, developing sounder work habits and gaining a greater appreciation of the writing process. They also drive home lessons initially difficult to embrace and implement.

The schedule for the fall semester series is:

Sept. 21 – Creative nonfiction writer Jeremy B. Jones
Sept. 28 – Fiction and nonfiction author Randall Kenan
Oct. 5 – Poet Susan Ludvigson
She is the Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing.

Nov. 2 – Poet Vivian Shipley
  • Craft Talk, 3:30 – 4:45 p.m.
  • Reading, 7:30 – 9 p.m., Three Top Mountain (Room 169), Plemmons Student Union

A graduate of Elon University and Iowa University, Jones teaches creative writing at Western Carolina University. During his craft talk, titled “Landbound: Non-Fiction Writing about Place,” Jones said he will “look at writers who unearth the many layers of places in order to offer readers insights about the messy, miraculous world we inhabit.” At his reading, he will read from “Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland” and other works. “Bearwallow” is the winner of the 2014 Appalachian Book of the Year in nonfiction. His essays have twice been named “Notable” in the “Best American Essays” book collections.

An award-winning professor of English and comparative literature at UNC Chapel Hill, Kenan has made his mark as a writer of fiction and nonfiction. His first novel, “A Visitation of Spirits” (Grove Press), came out in 1989. “Let the Dead Bury Their Dead,” a collection of short stories published in 1992 by Harcourt, Brace, received multiple award nominations. His novel “There’s a Man Going Round Taking Names” is in progress. Kenan will read from his work, possibly a recently published short story. His craft talk, titled “Let Me Out of this Coffin: Lessons the Gothic Can Teach Us,” proposes that Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” and other gothic literature can impart numerous craft lessons.

Kenan’s nonfiction work includes “Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century” (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), which was nominated for the Southern Book Award, as well as text for Norman Mauskopf’s book of photographs, “A Time Not Here: The Mississippi Delta” (1997). He has also written introductions for and/or edited “The North Carolina Table: North Carolina Writers on Food” (2016) and several books about James Baldwin.

Ludvigson serves as the Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian until mid-October. Honoring the eponymous late newspaperwoman, the Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professorship in Creative Writing annually sponsors the residency at Appalachian of a writer of national prominence selected on a rotating basis from all creative genres. Distinguished professors teach a creative writing seminar, conduct community outreach, and are featured annually in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series.

Her craft talk, titled “Issues of Voice,” is about “the attitude the speaker takes to the subject, if a poem can be said to have a subject – sometimes it does, sometimes it has several,” Ludvigson said. “I define it in the talk as the qualities that distinguish the speaker of a poem from speakers of other poems, other poems by the same poet, or other poets.”

Ludvigson, who taught for many years at Winthrop University, is the author of “Step Carefully in Night Grass,” a collection of poems published by John F. Blair. Her other volumes of poetry, all published by Louisiana State University Press, include “Northern Lights”; “The Swimmer”; “The Beautiful Noon of No Shadow”; and “Escaping the House of Certainty.” She has received prizes for the best poem published in a given year from Virginia Quarterly Review (1984) and Gettysburg Review (2000). She won the James Dickey Prize from Five Points (2016).

The 2017 fall portion of the series will conclude with a reading by poet Vivian Shipley. Her craft talk, titled “The Poetry of Witness,” will illuminate how to write a poem of witness, Shipley said.

Shipley is the Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor and a professor of English at Southern Connecticut State University. She received the 2015 Hackney Literary Award for Poetry. Her 10th book of poems, titled “Perennial,” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and was a 2016-17 Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist. She has received numerous awards, including the Library of Congress’s Connecticut Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to the Literary Community. On two occasions, the Center for the Book awarded her the Connecticut Book Award for Poetry.

The craft of craft talks

Addressing the value of craft talks for aspiring writers, Joseph Bathanti, the series’ director and a professor of creative writing at Appalachian, said, “Students tend sometimes to hear it more plainly and productively from someone up there at the podium who is not their teacher.”

Jeb Bryant, a senior English major from Danbury, said he has already learned an important lesson through a craft talk.

He is passionate about sports. He felt that his creative writing should not reflect that – until he attended novelist Robert Gipe’s craft talk last April. Gipe is noted for “Trampoline” (Ohio University Press, 2015), an award-winning illustrated novel that is set in Kentucky coal country. During his craft talk, he spoke about how coal mining influenced his writing. Bryant’s ears perked up.

Coal mining “was obviously a topic Gipe was passionate about, and that showed in his writing,” Bryant said. “For whatever reason, before hearing this I thought I should avoid things I was passionate about when writing because it might be too much for the reader. After hearing Gipe speak on coal mining, however, I knew I was wrong about that and started letting the things I am passionate about find ways into my stories.”

Craft talks can also broaden horizons. Senior Madelyn Kittle of Franklin County, who is majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing and film studies, said the craft talks featuring authors of prose are best at helping her achieve her writing objectives.

However, Kittle said the series’ poets also “have amazing advice and anecdotes to share with students, and their encouragement and example provide us with a motivational model for our own budding careers.” She added she gained a lot from poet Bianca Spriggs’ craft talk last March, in which Spriggs screened short films she had made to represent her poetry visually.

Matthias Kramer, a junior from Cary majoring in English, also became one of Spriggs’ fans at her craft talk – albeit for a different reason. Although his knowledge was broad before he attended Spriggs’ craft talk, he had never heard of speculative poetry, a Spriggs specialty, before she introduced it to him.

“I… now understand it as poetry written, like speculative fiction, in a way that is separate from reality – be that a fantasy setting, elements of surrealism or science fiction,” Kramer said.

Parking information

Series organizers recommend attendees park in the College Street Parking Deck near Belk Library and Information Commons. For further information or a map, visit

About the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series

The Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series, named in honor of alumna Hughlene Bostian Frank ’68, brings distinguished and up-and-coming creative writers to the Appalachian State University campus throughout the year to present lectures and discuss their works. Frank is a 2013 Appalachian Alumni Association Outstanding Service award recipient, past member of Appalachian’s Board of Trustees, current board member of the Appalachian State University Foundation Inc., and generous supporter of Appalachian. Learn more at

The Fall 2017 Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series is supported by the Appalachian State University Foundation Inc., Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English, Office of Multicultural Student Development, University Bookstore, Belk Library and Information Commons, and the Appalachian Journal. Business sponsors are The Gideon Ridge Inn, The Red Onion Restaurant and The New Public House & Hotel. Community sponsors include John and the late Margie Idol, Paul and Judy Tobin, Alice Naylor and Thomas McLaughlin.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.