As a fiction writer, literary critic, and essayist, Melissa Michal Slocum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies, is familiar with the powerful role creativity can play in one’s personal and professional life. That’s why she was eager to help develop Bryant’s new Visiting Writers Series, continuing this spring after launching last fall with a nonfiction reading by author Elissa Washuta, which more than 130 people attended virtually.
Student demand is another reason she created the series. “Aspects like analysis, criticism, artistic and creative thought, thinking outside the box are what students are looking for,” Slocum said. The students can see these traits in action through the series' professional writers and creative practitioners.
“I was hoping for the students to see themselves.”
Inclusivity, an important aspect of planning the series, helps extend the experience to everyone, said Slocum, who is of Seneca, Welsh, and English descent and an expert in Native American studies. Using her expertise in building diverse and inclusive curricula and by engaging campus colleagues, Slocum curated a lineup of diverse voices for the 2020-2021 year. Through the writers’ identities and the characters, imagery or personas contained in their works, “I was hoping for the students to see themselves, as well as be seen and heard through their own differences and intersections,” she said.
“Collaborations across campus have helped the series come to fruition, and I really appreciate the support. This is the first year of a full writing series, and we’re hoping everyone feels welcome and that we engage as many faculty, students, and staff as we can.”
“We can incorporate art and creativity into how we think about all disciplines.”
Authors and events for the spring series include:
Geffrey Davis, February 18
- Reading: Poet Geffrey Davis will read from his new book, Night Angler (2019), as well as newer work. His writing focuses on fatherhood, trauma, memory, and Black Lives Matter issues. Poet Terrance Hayes says Davis "transforms our contemporary modes of love, violence and history." More
- Writers Workshop: Davis will lead an afternoon writing workshop on a writer's voice. This talk should give participants at any level and of any genre permission to craft careful considerations of the ways a writer might fasten a voice to the page. More
Sejal Shah, March 18
- Reading: Nonfiction essayist Sejal Shah will read from her new book, This Is One Way to Dance (2020). Shah's writing focuses on belonging, race, erasure, and language loss and power. More
- Writer’s Workshop: In a workshop entitled “What People Don't Say: Writing What Is Taboo,” Shah will discuss her journey of publishing her debut book of essays as a neurodiverse writer and how genre and publishing expectations can work for or against writers of color. More
The Visiting Writers Series is open to Bryant community members.
Diversity creates interdisciplinary connections
The guest speakers reflect a spectrum of lived experiences and backgrounds, which helps the series meet another goal – creating the ability to be interdisciplinary and enriching curriculum, conversations, and dialogues, said Slocum.
“Often my students say ‘I learned about that in history class, but it really didn’t strike me or have an impact until we read a poem or story about it,’ so my hope is that this writing series can become part of something that works across the entire curriculum," she said. “We can incorporate art and creativity into how we think about all disciplines.”