“The first step in learning is bringing in new ideas, perspectives and experiences,” notes Melissa Michal Slocum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies. As the director for Bryant’s Visiting Writer Series, Slocum introduces the University’s students to works and authors who help them develop as writers, hone their skills as conscientious communicators and understand the world a little more clearly.
The series, open to members of the Bryant community, brings a diverse group of professional writers to campus to share and discuss their work. Past speakers have included nonfiction writer Elissa Washutta, essayist Sejal Shah and poet Geffrey Davis. This year’s slate includes slam poet and DC Youth Poet Laureate Marjan Naderi, who spoke in the fall, Rhode Island Poet Laureate and young adult novelist Tina Cane and authors and YouTubers Shane and Hannah Burcaw.
“The Visiting Writer Series brings in writers from around the country who are often underrepresented voices and who are thinking through issues of community, issues of social justice and issues relating to how we communicate with one another,” says Slocum. “They represent multiple genres as well as multiple ways in which we can think about writing, communicating and addressing community issues.”
"Creativity and the arts are vitally important to how we all exist in the world, and they make some of the most challenging dialogues more approachable because of the way they help us craft them.”
Exposure to that diversity of experience and perspective, she notes, can be thought provoking for audiences. “The way that writers interact, observe and craft the world, allows us to really see how uniquely different we are but also know how we can all find common ground and common experiences,” says Slocum, who is herself a fiction writer, literary critic and essayist.
Slocum works with the visiting writers to prepare discussions and workshops tailored to the Bryant community and the interests of the students. Their work is also explored in English and Cultural Studies classes, preparing the students for engaged, in-depth discussion.
The interactions the series sparks can be invaluable, Slocum notes. “Through the series, students are able to directly engage and talk with a working writer, and that can be a really hard thing to come by,” she says. Aside from an enlightening opportunity to learn the craft or discuss the profession, it can also be inspirational for young writers to see what their potential careers might look like.
That inspiration often energizes the students’ future work, says Slocum. “We are having different dialogues across all of the writers, which encourages students to think outside the box, to be more creative in their projects and to introduce themselves to people that they may not have in the past.”
Learning from one another
The benefits of the Visiting Writer Series, and the ideas behind it, however, aren’t just for aspiring writers or English and Cultural Studies students, says Slocum. They have value for students in any discipline. “Creativity and the arts are vitally important to how we all exist in the world, and they make some of the most challenging dialogues more approachable because of the way they help us see them,” she points out.
The series, at its core, is about having those dialogues—and inspiring future ones. “We can all learn from each other,” she states.
Authors and events for the spring series include:
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Quinlan/Brown Academic Innovation Center, Innovation Forum
Join Rhode Island Poet Laureate, Tina Cane, for an afternoon conversation about the “business” of poetry. Discover how reading and writing poetry can be a radical act and how embracing poetry can become a value with which to cultivate empathy in any space, whether personal or career from marketing to psychology to global relations.
Cane is the author of Once More with Feeling, as well as the chapbooks Dear Elena: Letters for Elena Ferrante and The Fifth Thought, a book-length poem. The recipient of a Fellowship Merit Award from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Cane is the founder and director of Writers-in-the-Schools, Rhode Island.
RSVP for the conversation here
Shane and Hannah Burcaw
Shane Burcaw is the author of the bestselling memoir, Laughing at My Nightmare, which was shortlisted for the ALA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. He has also published the essay collection Strangers Assume that My Girlfriend Is My Nurse and is at work with his wife Hannah on a collection of stories about interabled couples. His blog, Laughing At My Nightmare, about the humor of living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, has over half a million followers and he and his wife’s You Tube channel, Squirmy and Grubs, has nearly 1 million subscribers.
- Conversation: Wednesday, April 13 2022, at 3:30 p.m. in the George E. Bello Center for Information and Technology’s Stepan Grand Hall. Join Hannah and Shane Burcaw for an afternoon conversation about how social media impacts disability conversations. RSVP for the conversation here.
- Reading and Q&A: Wednesday, April 14, 2022, at 8 p.m. in the George E. Bello Center for Information and Technology’s Stepan Grand Hall. Shane Burcaw will read from his book and discuss his work. Following the reading will be a book signing. RSVP for the reading and Q&A session here.