WMU News

Acclaimed authors to give public readings during writer's conference

April 7, 1998

KALAMAZOO--Some of the country's most acclaimed poets and fiction writers will participate in a festival of workshops, readings and panels during Western Michigan University's Third Coast Writers' Conference Thursday through Saturday, April 30-May 2.

The faculty for this year's conference includes poets Donald Justice, Sharon Bryan, Susan Hahn and Angela Sorby, fiction writers Elizabeth McCracken, Pinckney Benedict, Lisa Lenzo and Sharon Solwitz, and creative nonfiction writer Michael Steinberg (Biographical information below). They will conduct workshops with conference participants and give public readings of their works.

This is the 11th year for the conference, designed as a celebration of literature in which featured writers share their work and insights into the process of writing with the community. Nearly 100 writers interested in improving their skills were selected to attend the conference based on manuscripts they submitted.

The public is invited to join these writers in attending three readings: at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 30, with Lenzo, Sorby and Solwitz; 8 p.m. Friday, May 1, with Bryan, Benedict and Hahn; and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 2, with Justice and McCracken. All readings will take place in Room 3512 of Knauss Hall and will be followed by receptions. In addition, a question-and-answer session with conference faculty is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Room 3321 of Brown Hall.

For more information, persons may contact the WMU Department of English at (616) 387-2570 or go to the Third Coast Conference Web page.

Media contact: Ruth Stevens; ruth.stevens@wmich.edu

Donald Justice has published six books of poems. Most notably, his book, "Selected Poems," received the Pulitzer Prize in 1980. His latest books are "New and Selected Poems" (Knopf, 1995) and "Oblivion: Essays on Poetry" (Story Line, 1998). He was awarded the Lamont Prize for a first book, the Bollingen Prize and a Lannan Literary Award. He also has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Academy of American Poets and several National Endowment for the Arts grants.


Elizabeth McCracken's first novel, "The Giant's House," a finalist for the 1996 National Book award, was widely praised for its heart, its humor and its poetic yet unsentimental voice. She has received grants from the Michener Foundation, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1996, she was named one of the 20 Best Young American Novelists by Granta magazine. She lives in Massachusetts -- where, until recently, she was full-time librarian -- and is now at work on her second novel.


Sharon Bryan's three books of poems are "Flying Blind" (Sarabande, 1996), "Objects of Affection" (Wesleyan, 1987) and "Salt Air" (Wesleyan, 1983). She is also the editor of "Where We Stand: Women Poets on Literary Tradition" (Norton, 1993). She has received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in poetry, and was poet-in-residence at The Frost Place in 1993. She teaches as a visiting poet, most recently at Dartmouth, the University of Houston, Warren Wilson and Western Michigan University.


Pinckney Benedict grew up in southern West Virginia. He attended Princeton University, where he worked extensively with Joyce Carol Oates, and the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. He has published two story collections ("Town Smokes" and "Wrecking Yard") and a novel ("Dogs of God"). His fiction has garnered, among other prizes, the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award, Britain's Steinbeck Award, a Michener Fellowship and inclusion in Pushcart XXI.


Susan Hahn's books of poetry are "Harriet Rubin's Mother's Wooden Hand" (1991), "Incontinence" (1993), winner of the 1994 Society of Midland Authors Award for Poetry, and "Confession" (1997), all published by the University of Chicago Press. She is a recipient of several Illinois Arts Council individual artist awards and fellowships and is co founder/director of TriQuarterly Books and editor of TriQuarterly magazine. She recently finished a trilogy of plays and is working with theatre companies on their production.


Sharon Solwitz' collection of short stories, "Blood and Milk," was published in May 1997 by Sarabande Books and won the 1997 Carl Sandburg Award given by Friends of the Chicago Public Library. Her other literary awards include a 1996 Pushcart Prize as well as prizes in the Nelson Algren, Katherine Anne Porter, Hemingway Days and STAND contests, and several fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council. She has published more than 40 short stories, some of which have appeared in Mademoiselle, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares and American Short Fiction. Currently she teaches creative writing at Loyola University in Chicago and, with her husband poet Barry Silesky, edits Another Chicago Magazine and takes care of their 10-year-old twin boys.


Lisa Lenzo's first collection of stories, "Within the Lighted City," won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award and was published by the University of Iowa Press in 1997. She earned her MFA in creative writing at Western Michigan University in 1990. Her stories have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, New England Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Third Coast, Sacred Ground: Writings About Home and The PrePress Awards: A Sampler of Emerging Michigan Writers and on National Public Radio.


Angela Sorby is a teacher, poet and poetry scholar. She has received awards from Discovery/The Nation, from the Centrum Foundation and from the University of Chicago, and her first book, "Distance Learning," is available from New Issues Press. She currently teaches American literature and creative writing at Linfield College in Oregon.


Michael Steinberg has published feature magazine articles, memoirs, essays, plays, short fiction and poems, as well as books, articles and personal essays on writing and teaching. His essays have been cited in "Best American Essays" and "Best American Sports Writing" and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Currently he's co-editing "The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction" as well as finishing "Still Pitching: Replaying a Sporting Life," a collection of essays and memoirs about sport and identity.

Media contact: Ruth Stevens; ruth.stevens@wmich.edu

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