Sessions prepare for Writers Conference

Like many of the past UND Writers Conferences, this year’s brings together a group of women with varying levels of experience, who together cover a broad range of genres and mediums and come from an assortment of backgrounds.

Anyone interested in the conference is encouraged to attend the Writers Conference 101 sessions, which are held every Sunday leading up the conference at 2 p.m. and provide a foundation for discussion and information on the writers coming to the event.

So far, UND Professor Heidi Czerwiec has led a discussion on author Tara Betts’s, “Arc and Hue,” and English Instructor David Haeselin facilitated discussion this past Sunday on Roxane Gay’s, “Bad Feminist.”

Eric Wolfe, Chair of the English Department at UND, encourages students to get to know the authors attending the conference.

“It’s a great chance to listen to and interact with some of the most creative, interesting contemporary writers working today,” Wolfe said.

There are still four Writers Conference 101 sessions scheduled for the next four Sundays leading up to the conference itself. These provide community members and students, faculty and staff the opportunity to get to know more about the individual authors before the six guests arrive in Grand Forks March 25.

The writers

The most widely known of the group, Roxane Gay, is currently no. 4 on Bookaholic’s list of top contenders for 2015 Pulitzer Prize Predictions with her most recent book, “An Untamed State”.

A Yale and Michigan Technological University Graduate, Gay spends her time writing, teaching at Purdue University, and working on her nationally-ranked Scrabble game. Gay has over 17 thousand followers on Twitter.

A well-respected storyteller, author Gish Jen has received several awards of her own, including the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada, and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction. Jen’s lectures address questions of self-narration and she has played an integral role in starting discussions about ethnicity and what it means to be an American.

UND Professor Sheila Liming will be leading a discussion on Jen’s “In the American Society”” from “Who’s Irish?” and an excerpt from “Art, Culture, and Self” on March 8 at Fergusen Books and Media.

With a National Bestselling Novel — Once Upon a River — and a critically acclaimed short fiction collection — American Salvage — already on her resume, author Bonnie Jo Campbell, who grew up on a small Michigan farm, will feel right at home in the North Dakota prairie. However, her background is far from simple. Campbell has hitchhiked across the United States and Canada, scaled the Swiss Alps on her bicycle and traveled with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus selling snow cones, just to name a few of her adventures. Campbell’s “Once Upon a River” will be discussed this Sunday with UND English lecturer Kim Stewart at the UND Bookstore.

A seasoned professor and previous Poet Laureate of the state of California, Carol Muske-Dukes has written eight books of poems, including a collection about Wyndmere, ND, where some of her extended family resides. Muske-Dukes was a finalist for the National Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize, and is currently a professor at the University of Southern California. There, she founded the PhD Program in Creative Writing/Literature. UND Professor Rebecca Weaver-Hightower will be leading a discussion on Muske-Dukes’s, Channeling Mark Twain this Sunday at 2 p.m. at the UND Bookstore.

Although she is the youngest author coming to this year’s conference, author Tara Betts, a Cave Canem fellow, brings with her a multi-faceted background. Betts, who just received her Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University, is also a poetry-oriented author. Betts is the Poetry Editor for “Blackberry: a magazine” and a Contributing Editor for Radius. She also has worked with other mediums of art, including film, and appeared in the Black Family Channel Series “SPOKEN,” and HBO’s, “Def Poetry Jam.”

The final author for the 46th Annual UND Writers Conference will also be flying in from Southern California. Los Angeles based author Alexandra Grant‘s interests include not only literature but also painting, drawing and sculpting. Grant has collaborated with other big-name artists on projects in the past, including  philosopher and playwright Hélène Cixous, hypertext pioneer Michael Joyce and famous actor and writer Keanu Reeves. Grant’s work has been exhibited in various museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LAMCA). Writers Conference Director Crystal Alberts will lead an overview of Grant’s work and the rest of this year’s authors with Todd Hebert on March 15 at the UND Bookstore.

Alberts said she hopes UND students take advantage of the opportunity to meet these well-versed women and also talk with one another.

“I hope that (students) will be moved to read something new,” Alberts said. “I hope that they will be inspired to think about things in a different way; I hope that they will take a chance and talk to each other (and the community members) about literature and culture; I hope that they learn something that they didn’t know before; I hope that they have fun.”

Details about the sessions can be found on the Writers Conference website:

Marie Monson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].