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Writers Bring "Different" Experience
by Virginia Culp
Every time, although the sequence of events is the same, it feels like the first time. The first impression is always a shock, as the frail little woman or the six-foot-something man steps on stage, supplanting our subconscious expectations. Then, too, the voice is often a surprise, dissolving another part of our preconceived mental image. The personality we thought we had grasped through their printed words turns out to be an illusion, and we are left staring in awe and some bewilderment at the person behind the curtain.

Visiting Writers No, they are not magicians, but they do transform reality for their audiences. They are writers, and through WCU's Visiting Writers Series, you can come face to face with them. Go to a reading, and you'll have the opportunity to listen to some of the most accomplished wordsmiths in the business, ask them questions, and gain a new perspective on their work-and perhaps on your own as well.

"It's a really different kind of experience," Dr. Mary Adams, head of the Visiting Writers Series program, says. "You get to ask real people about why and how to write, and even if you don't want to be a writer yourself, it's so interesting to see these people live, not just in print."

WCU's Visiting Writers Series is the first of its kind in North Carolina, and since its inception in 1970 it has served as the model for other programs. Dr. Newton Smith, who founded the series, brought renowned writer W. H. Auden to the University, and since then, visiting writers have included poets Colleen McElroy and Thomas Lux, militia member and novelist Carolyn Chute, and feminist choreopoet Ntozake Shange. Local and regional poets, such as Kathryn Stripling Byer and Rick Chess, have also shared their talents with the Cullowhee community.

"We strive to be multi-cultural and find people students can relate to," Adams explains.

Interaction between students and visiting writers doesn't end with the last poem or book chapter.
The line-up for the Fall 2001 series certainly should succeed on both counts. Joy Harjo, a Native American poet, screenwriter, and artist, will perform with her band, Poetic Justice; Chinese-American novelist Karen Shepard will read from her book and participate in a workshop with students. Other visiting writers will include poet, novelist, and translator Forrest Gander, Georgia novelist James Kilgo, novelist-playwright Brian Evenson, and the recipients of the prestigious Blumenthal literary award, who will be announced in the Fall.

Interaction between students and visiting writers doesn't end with the last poem or book chapter. English classes read books by authors like Xu Xi and Leslie Marmon Silko before the writers come to perform their work; in some cases, writers conduct workshops or question-answer sessions with selected classes. In observance of National Poetry Month, five North Carolina poets gathered at WCU for a roundtable discussion, a potluck supper, and a public reading. Most readings conclude with an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, a valuable chance for students to learn directly from established authors.

Whether this is your first reading or your hundredth, whether you're an aspiring writer or an avid reader, you will gain new understanding of just what it takes to make a living through the creation of illusion, and a deeper appreciation of the magic of the spoken word.




For more
visit the
WCU Visiting
Writers Web Site