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Four prize-winning authors taking part in U. of I. series that begins Feb. 8

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor

Released 1/23/2007

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Four award-winning authors will visit the University of Illinois early this year to read from their works, talk about their craft and meet future writers and their professors in the university’s Creative Writing Program.

One of the authors is Dave Eggers, who attended Illinois in the late 1980s and early ’90s and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2002.

Eggers has been well known in the literary world for more than a decade. “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” (2000), a memoir with fictional elements, quickly became a best-seller and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in the general non-fiction category. The memoir was praised for its originality, idiosyncratic self-referencing and for several innovative stylistic elements.

Eggers also has written traditional non-fiction, novels, short stories and children’s books, and has served as an editor or contributor to scores of publishing outlets.

He will read from his work at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 in the Authors Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore, 809 S. Wright St., Champaign, site of all the talks, which are free and open to the public.

The four guests are taking part in the Creative Writing Program’s Spring 2007 Carr Visiting Authors Series, held each semester to showcase up-and-coming and established American writers.

Eggers’ first novel, “You Shall Know Our Velocity,” was published in 2002; an expanded and revised version was released as “Sacrament” the next year, and retitled “You Shall Know Our Velocity!” for its Vintage imprint distribution.

He has since written a collection of short stories, “How We Are Hungry,” and three politically themed serials for

In 2005, Eggers co-wrote “Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated,” co-compiling interviews with people who had been exonerated from their death sentences.

Eggers’ most recent novel, “What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng,” was published by McSweeney’s, Eggers’ own independent publishing house.

Eggers, who was born in Chicago and grew up in suburban Lake Forest, began his writing career as a editor; he also founded Might magazine while at the same time writing a comic strip called “Smarter Feller” for SF Weekly.

Eggers lives in Mill Valley, Calif., and teaches writing in San Francisco at 826 Valencia, a nonprofit tutoring center and writing school for children, which he co-founded in 2002. He has since recruited volunteers to operate similar programs in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Chicago; Los Angeles; New York City; and Seattle.

This semester’s other Carr authors:

Feb. 8, 5:30 p.m., poet Camille Dungy, whose most recent work is “What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison” (Red Hen Press, 2006).

A graduate of Stanford University and the MFA program at the University of North Carolina, Dungy lives in San Francisco, where she is a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University.

Her work has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, The Crab Orchard Review, Poetry Daily and other publications. She is assistant editor of “Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade.”

Dungy has won fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the American Antiquarian Society.

April 10, 5:30 p.m., Dunya Mikhail, a poet famous in her native Iraq and known for her subversive, innovative and satirical poetry.

Mikhail now lives in Dearborn, Mich., and teaches Arabic. It was in Michigan where she composed the poems in the first section of “The War Works Hard,” which won PEN’s Translation Award and also was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the 25 best books of 2005.

As a witness to atrocities in her homeland, Mikhail has written poems that are “forceful and direct, with ironies that ring through their blunt admonishments,” Publishers Weekly wrote. In “The War Works Hard,” the poet wrote:

“Please don’t ask me, America. / I don’t remember their names / or their birthplaces. / People are grass – / they grow everywhere, America.”
The author of four collections of poetry in Arabic, she has had poems published in many anthologies worldwide.

In 2001, Mikhail was awarded the U.N. Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. Mikhail has a master’s degree in Near Eastern studies from Wayne State University and a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Baghdad.

She was managing director at the Al-Mashreq Co. for Press in Amman, Jordan, in the mid-1990s, and literary editor of the Baghdad Observer from the late 1980s to 1995.

Peter Orner, April 19, 4:30 p.m., a novelist and short-story writer who teaches in the graduate writing program at San Francisco State University. Born in Chicago, Orner is the author of the novel “The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo,” a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller that has been called a “staggering debut novel” that allows Orner to join “the first rank of American writers.”

He also wrote a short-story collection, “Esther Stories,” which won the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction, and he was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award.

His fiction has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and the Paris Review, as well as Pushcart Prize and Best American Stories anthologies.