The Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series returns for its 32nd season and will host a variety of authors, poets, editors and more in both a virtual and in-person format for the academic year.
The series, established in 1988, features readings and presentations by authors who have distinguished themselves in literature and often meet with students to discuss the stories behind their works. The mission of the series remains the promotion of literary experiences with contemporary writers meant to engage and educate young people at LR. All events, which take place on the LR campus in Hickory unless otherwise noted, are free, and the public is welcome to attend. *Pre-registration is required for any virtual presentations.
Jeremiah Castleman and Justin O'Neal Miller
John Martins III
Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, 7 p.m.
Footcandle Film Festival Screenwriters kickoff the series lineup
Jeremiah Castleman and Justin O'Neal Miller, first place recipients of the 2020 Footcandle Film Festival Screenwriter Award for scriptwriting, will be guest speakers. They will be awarded $1,000 for their piece titled, "The Last Blockbuster." Castleman is known for his work on "The Hunger Games," and O'Neal Miller is an art director and set designer.
Honorable mention is awarded to John Martins III, an associate member of the Dramatists Guild of America, for his screenplay "The Fourth Psalm," which portrays two priests clashing over the 1980s Sanctuary Movement.
Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, 7 p.m.
Sponsor: Hickory Public Library
Four-time Newbery Honor Winner and best-selling author explores moving childhood stories
A national ambassador for young people, Jacqueline Woodson is the author of numerous books for young readers, including picture books, middle-grade readers and young adult novels, many of which have won national awards. She is best known for her novel "Brown Girl Dreaming," winner of the 2014 National Book Award in Young People's Literature. It tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse and talks about what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow, her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement and the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child.
Woodson, the author of more than 30 publications, has won countless major literary awards, some in multiples. Most recently, she received the Hans Christian Anderson Award, the highest international recognition given to an author and an illustrator of children's books. As an author, Woodson is known for the detailed physical landscapes she writes into each of her books as well as her exploration of issues such as gender, class, race, family and history. She is known for using these common themes in groundbreaking ways. While many of her characters are given labels that make them invisible to society, Woodson is most often writing about their search for self rather than a search for equality or social justice. Her most recent book, "Red at the Bone," explores the life-altering facts of parenthood within the story of two families experiencing unexpected teen pregnancy.
Alex Kotlowitz, The Campus Read author
Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, 7 p.m.
Author captures a collection of stories about violence and the celebration of life
For 40 years, Alex Kotlowitz has been telling stories from the heart of America, deeply intimate tales of struggle and perseverance in a variety of medium. He is the author of four books, including his most recent, "An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago," where he digs into the lives of those touched by violence, both as victims and culprits. This book title, also the 2020 LR Campus Read, is given to all first-year students. They will have the opportunity to discuss it with their professors and peers in formal and informal settings throughout the semester.
A national best-seller, Kotlowitz also authored "There Are No Children Here," which received the Helen B. Bernstein Award and was adapted as a television movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey. He has also worked in film and radio, and his documentary, "The Interrupters," premiered at Sundance and aired as a two-hour special on PBS "Frontline." It was cited as one of the best films of the year by The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly and The Los Angeles Times. For the film, Kotlowitz received an Emmy, a Cinema Eye Award and an Independent Spirit Award.
Honored in all three mediums, Kotlowitz has received two Peabody Awards, two Columbia duPonts, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the George Polk Award. He has a been a writer-in-residence at the University of Chicago, a visiting professor for seven years at the University of Notre Dame, a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College and a Distinguished Visitor at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Kotlowitz serves on the faculty at Northwestern Medill School of Journalism where he's taught since 1999.
Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, 7 p.m.
P.E. Monroe Auditorium
Author explores more than baseball in her novel "The Cactus League"
Known as a writer, illustrator and editor, Emily Nemens debuted her novel, "The Cactus League." in February 2020. Humming with the energy of a ballpark before the first pitch, the storyline of her book unravels the star outfielder and other tightly connected people in the game. Narrated by a wise sportscaster, the story is interspersed with tales of multiple characters all striving to be seen and leaving the reader with a sense of hope and redemption.
In 2018, Nemens became the seventh editor of The Paris Review, the nation's preeminent literary quarterly. Since her arrival, the magazine has seen record-high circulation, published two anthologies, produced a second season of its acclaimed podcast and won the 2020 National Magazine Award for Fiction. Previously, she co-edited The Southern Review, a storied literary quarterly published at Louisiana State University.
Nemens has spoken about editing at major literary conferences and in creative writing programs around the United States, and she has been featured in The New York Times, Vogue Italia and Vanity Fair. As an illustrator, she's published her work in The New Yorker, and her short stories have appeared in Esquire, The Iowa Review and elsewhere.
Colm Tóibín and Patrick Radden Keefe
Thursday, March 18 to Friday, March 19, 2021, 7 p.m.
Award-winning Irish authors present at Lenoir-Rhyne
During the spring semester, Colm Tóibín and Patrick Radden Keefe will present in conjunction with the Southern Regional Chapter of the American Conference for Irish Studies.
An award-winning Irish writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, Tóibín is the author of nine novels, including "The Blackwater Lightship," "The Master," winner of The Los Angeles Times Book Prize and "Brooklyn," winner of the Costa Book Award. Three times shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín uses themes such as the depiction of Irish society, living abroad, the process of creativity and the preservation of a personal identity. He is currently Mellon Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia and chancellor of Liverpool University.
Author of The New York Times best-seller "Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland," Keefe has also authored "The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream" and "Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping." His work has included investigative narrative nonfiction on a range of subjects, from the hunt for the drug lord Chapo Guzman to the tragic personal history of the mass shooter Amy Bishop and the role that the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma played in sparking the opioid crisis. He received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing in 2014, and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016.
Thursday, March 25, 2021, 7 p.m.
Author addresses injustice in award-winning fiction
The author of four novels, including the groundbreaking memoir "A Rip in Heaven" and the award-winning novel "The Outside Boy," Jeanine Cummins tackles injustice through her fiction work.
Her most recent work published in February 2020, "American Dirt," follows the poignant story of a mother and son forced to flee their middle-class home in Mexico for the north, the only place they may be safe. Cummins speaks about her extensive research throughout both sides of the borderlands and the real conditions on the ground that migrants are facing, and voices why they are undertaking such a perilous journey to America.
Born on a United States naval base in Rota, Spain, Cummins spent most of her childhood in Gaithersburg, Maryland. When she was 16, her family experienced a horrific violent crime: the double-homicide of her two cousins by four strangers. Her brother was the only surviving victim of the attack. The crime and the impact it had on her family became the subject of her best-selling 2004 memoir "A Rip in Heaven." After that publication, Cummins began speaking publicly about victims' rights, and specifically about her family's experiences with the criminal justice system. She is a death penalty opponent and can speak to the ways death row further persecutes victims of violent crime.
Cummins has addressed college, high school and middle school students about topics from writing to victimology, to turning trauma into art. She's spoken to first responders about best practices when dealing with victims of violent crime and trauma. She has also visited prisons where she spoke with inmates about using art or stories as a way to take ownership over trauma.
Kao Kalia Yang, The Little Read author
Saturday, April 17, 2021, Noon
P.E. Monroe Auditorium
Children's author to close out season series at Lenoir-Rhyne
In its 15th year, The Little Read will bring nationally recognized children's author, Kao Kalia Yang to Lenoir-Rhyne. Concluding the season's series of events, Yang, a Hmong-American writer born in the refugee camps of Thailand to a family that escaped the genocide of the Secret War in Laos, came to America at the age six.
She is the author of "The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir," winner of the 2009 Minnesota Book Awards in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and Readers' Choice, and "The Song Poet," winner of the 2016 Minnesota Book Award in Creative Nonfiction Memoir.
This fall, Yang debuted her first children's book, "A Map Into the World," which is also the first literary published children's book by a Hmong-American writer centered on a Hmong-American family. It is the story of a young Hmong girl's discovery of the changing seasons of a year and the different seasons of a life. This distinctive story weaves together threads of family life, community and culture, the natural world and the power of stories. Yang's newest children's book "The Shared Room" was published in the spring. This fall, she will release two more books – a collective memoir about refugee lives titled "Somewhere in the Unknown World" and another children's book "The Most Beautiful Thing."
About the Visitor Writers Series
LR's VWS is supported by the United Arts Council of Catawba County through the North Carolina Arts Council, with funding from the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Sponsors of the 2020-2021 VWS include: Cafe Rule, Crowne Plaza Hickory, Footcandle Film Society of Catawba County, Hickory Public Library and National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information, visit lr.edu/VWS or call the LR Box Office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., at 828.328.7206.
Established in fall 1998, the Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series invites authors to tell the stories behind their own works in a relaxed environment before an audience filled with campus and community members. The Writers Series' mission is to build a community of readers, because it believes a community that reads is a more creative, open, and tolerant community. The VWS believes the beauty and power of words help people make sense of the world. Children's writers, mystery writers, essayists, poets, and novelists all participate in this celebration of the written and spoken word.