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Carr Authors Series to feature honored writers across genres

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Five prize-winning writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry will read from their works this semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The writers are taking part in the Carr Visiting Authors Reading Series, an event of the English department’s MFA Creative Writing Program.

All of the readings are free and open to the public and will begin at 4:30 p.m., except as noted below, in the Authors Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore, 809 S. Wright St., Champaign.

Robin Hemley, director of the nonfiction-writing program at the University of Iowa, leads off the series with a reading on Thursday (Feb. 9).

Hemley is the author of seven books of nonfiction and fiction. His latest, “Invented Eden, The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday,” deals with a purported anthropological hoax in the Philippines. The book was an American Library Association’s Editors Choice book for 2003.

Hemley co-edited “Extreme Fiction: Fabulists and Formalists” with Michael Martone. Hemley is the author of the memoir, “Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art and Madness.” His popular craft book, “Turning Life Into Fiction,” was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection; more than 40,000 copies of it have been sold.

Awards for his fiction include the Nelson Algren Award from the Chicago Tribune and two Pushcart Prizes. His work has been published in many literary magazines, and his fiction has been widely anthologized.

Also scheduled to read during the series:

Feb. 22, Ruth Ellen Kocher, a poet who teaches literature and writing at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Kocher is the author of “One Girl Babylon, When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering,” winner of the Green Rose Prize in Poetry.

Kocher also wrote “Desdemona’s Fire,” the winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including African American Review, Antioch and Ploughshares.

April 3, Chris Abani, a novelist, poet and the author of “GraceLand” and “Master of the Board,” among other novels. His poetry collections are “Hands Washing Water,” “Dog Woman,” “Daphne’s Lot” and “Kalakuta Republic.” Abani teaches at the University of California at Riverside and in the MFA Program at Antioch University in Los Angeles. He is the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the PEN Hemingway Book Prize in 2005.

April 5, William Wenthe, who teaches creative writing and 20th-century poetry at Texas Tech University. Two of his poems have won Pushcart prizes, and his collection of poetry titled “Not Till We Are Lost” was nominated for 10 awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, William Carlos Williams Award and Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

April 11, (5 p.m.), Susan B. Anthony Somers-Willett, a poet and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Illinois, where she teaches poetry and poetics.
Somers-Willett’s first book of poetry, “Roam,” won inclusion in the Crab Orchard Award Series this year. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including the Virginia Quarterly Review, RATTLE, Painted Bride Quarterly and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Somers-Willett’s awards include the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize, the Robert Frost Poetry Award and a fellowship from the Millay Colony for the Arts. She has just completed a book of criticism titled “The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry.”

The MFA program began at Illinois in fall 2002.