Pulitzer prize-winner Ayad Akhtar at ECU Oct. 13

akhtar_author_photo_by_nina_subin-hi-resNC Pulitzer Program at ECU

The Contemporary Writers Series of East Carolina University presents Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar, October 13, 2016, on the university campus. Scenes from his Pulitzer drama Disgraced (2012) will be performed by ECU Theatre students at McGinnis Theatre followed by an onstage interview and audience Q&A. During the day, Mr. Akhtar will visit classes, meet with student groups, give a radio interview, and talk of work in progress. His play Disgraced dramatizes the tension in American multicultural society, the racial and ethnic prejudices that have grown at an alarming rate in post 9-11 America, and offers the pathos necessary for change.  His visit is sponsored by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, the Dept. of English, the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, and the NC Humanities Council statewide program “NC Pulitzer: The Power of Words” see: http://www.nchumanities.org/content/pulitzernc

blue-circle-clear-backgroundAkhtar is an American actor and writer born in New York City and reared in Wisconsin. Educated at Brown and Columbia University, Akhtar has also written the award-winning play The Invisible Hand (2014) and American Dervish (2012) a novel published by Little Brown. He is working on his second novel.

The McGinnis Theatre event at 4 pm is free and open to the public. Registration not required. Schedule of other events TBA.


Shelby Stephenson, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, comes to ECU and the Greenville Museum of Art, October 28th

bill2[Photo by Linda Fox]

Shelby Stephenson, the 8th Poet Laureate of North Carolina, will perform his work and sing at the Greenville Museum of Art on Wednesday, October 28th at 7:00 PM. Music from the string band Nu Clear Twins will accompany the performance. The reading, music, and refreshments are free to everyone.

Born in Johnston County, Stephenson grew up in a rural farmhouse known as “Plankhouse,” which is the title of his 1993 poetic collaboration with photographer Roger Manley. Although Shelby graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, the University and Pittsburgh, and the University of Wisconsin, he is still tied to his rural past and family in North Carolina, which is the subject of his poetry. “Most of my poems come out of that background, where memory and imagination play on one another. I have written many poems about the mules we worked until I was in the seventh grade and, after that the tractor. My early teachers were the thirty-five foxhounds my father hunted. The trees and streams, fields, the world of my childhood, all that folklore, those are my subjects.”

Never formally trained in creative writing, he has published 11 books of poetry and was the long-time editor of Pembroke Magazine. He received the 2001 North Carolina Award for Literature, was named 2004-2005 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet, and was inducted into the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame in 2014. In February of 2015, he was installed as the Poet Laureate of North Carolina.

Former Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer has said of him: “He’s just good, both as a person and as a poet. … His poetic voice just flows like a spring. He’s a natural and we really need a voice like his right now with all the divisions we have in this state.”

Appointed by Governor McCrory, Stephenson will serve a two-year term, leading writing workshops in assisted living and retirement homes, raising awareness of historical records in the state archive, and promoting writing about farming. What is the theme for his visit to ECU and Greenville?

“Theme? The whole world, probably the color-line: from 3/5 a person to a global human. I really don’t have anything to say: my theme is probably a song, the syllables in the words busting on out in and out of iambs and rolling in clover with the lambs and the longing for a song to find us all. I so want to read a poem to July, the Slave Girl [from Family Matters: Home to July, the Slave Girl (2008) – winner of the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize]. And I want to salute the tobacco worm (nobody else does):  Call for Philip Morris!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ll bring my guitar.  I’d love to hear anyone play and sing just to be.”

His visit is sponsored by the Contemporary Writers Series of East Carolina University. (For more information contact Tom Douglass douglasst@ecu.edu or Charlotte Fitz Daniels, Executive Director & Curator of Collections & Exhibitions, 802 South Evans Street Charlotte@gmoa.org)

CWS Veterans Writing Workshop, March 25-27


Veteran poet and essayist Brian Turner, author of Here, Bullet (2005), Phantom Noise (2010), and My Life as a Foreign Country (2014), will be the keynote speaker for the CWS Veterans Writing Workshop on 25-27 March 2015. His talk on Wednesday evening of March 25th (7:30 pm) at the East Carolina Heart Institute auditorium will concern his memoir about his experiences as infantry team leader for the 3d Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Iraq (2003-2004) and the challenges facing returning veterans. On Thursday, Turner along with poet Ilyse Kusnetz and former NC poet laureate Joseph Bathanti, photographer and CWS book artist Linda Fox, and ECU faculty member Bob Siegel will conduct a series of workshops for veterans interested in telling the story that needs told. These workshops welcome both beginners and those with experience to journal writing, fiction, poetry, drama, and visual expression. All veterans and veteran family members are welcome to register. The free workshops are sponsored by Operation Re-Entry North Carolina, Pirate Veterans, Office Student Transitions, and the Office of the Provost.

One aim of the workshop is to begin work that can be compiled into a new publication representing the voices of ECU veterans. Submissions are due beginning August 1, 2015.

Jayne Anne Phillips to visit ECU October 9, 2014

The Contemporary Writers Series is proud to present writer Jayne Anne Phillips. Her novels address the social and historical tensions that challenge American families, from war to domestic violence. Her debut novel Machine Dreams (1984) is the quintessential Vietnam novel told from the experience of those left behind. Her fourth novel Lark and Termite (2009) was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her latest novel Quiet Dell (2014) is surely the measure of a writer coming to her full powers. Stephen King has said: “In a brilliant fusion of fact and fiction, Jayne Anne Phillips has written the novel of the year. It’s the story of a serial killer’s crimes and capture, yes, but it’s also a compulsively readable story of how one brave woman faces up to acts of terrible violence in order to create something good and strong in the aftermath. Quiet Dell will be compared to In Cold Blood, but Phillips offers something Capote could not: a heroine who lights up the dark places and gives us hope in our humanity.”

And former CWS guest Colm Toibin has written: “Quiet Dell has all the elements of a murder mystery, but its emotional scope is larger and more complex. It combines a strange, hypnotic and poetic power with the sharp tones of documentary evidence, offers a portrait of rural America in a time of crisis, and dramatizes the lives of a number of characters who are fascinating and memorable.”

Jayne Anne Phillips will read from her new novel at The Greenville Museum of Art on Thursday, October 9th at 7:30 pm. The public and university community are invited, and all events are free.

Ms. Phillips, who has taught at Harvard, Williams College, and Boston University will also visits classes while she is here in Greenville. She is currently the Director of the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark.

Events for the week of Sherman Alexie’s visit

Sherman Alexie’s visit to ECU is just over a month away! We would like to announce some additional events that will occur during the week preceding Alexie’s talk. At 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 21, Dr. Daniel Richter will give a lecture entitled “Native Peoples and the Battle of Nooherooka.” This will take place in ECU’s Hendrix Theater and is free to the public. Dr. Richter is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History at the University of Pennsylvania.

On Saturday, March 23, there will be an ECNAO Powwow at ECU’s Minges Coliseum. This event will take place from 12-6pm.

Contemporary Writers Series Presents Sherman Alexie

Photo of Sherman Alexie Native American writer Sherman Alexie will speak in Wright Auditorium on March 26, 2013 as part of the Contemporary Writers Series.

Sherman Alexie has received numerous awards for his work, including the National Book Award for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the PEN/Hemingway Award for The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and the PEN/Faulkner Award for War Dances.

Photo by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0.

Blasphemy book cover imageAlexie’s newest work, Blasphemy, brings together new and classic stories.

Without Reservation ‘Blasphemy’ by Sherman Alexis (NY Times)

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie – review (The Guardian)

Short stories that take us to dangerous places (Washington Post)