The glow of summer is fading and fall is preparing to blanket the campus, which means that once again we’ve arrived at a new semester… and new season of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series (JRVWS)! 

We’ve got a great mix of books and authors this fall, from middle grade fantasy to historical fiction. You won’t want to miss them, so make sure you’ve got their books on hand (which you can get at both the library and the Hope bookstore).

October 1st: Mira Bartók and Heather Sellers

Though she debuted with her (New York Times-bestselling!) memoir The Memory Palace, former Hope student Mira Bartók is most recently known for her middle grade fantasy, The Wonderling. The novel follows Arthur, a fox-like groundling (animal-human hybrid) with only one ear who has spent his entire life as an orphan. With the help of his new best friend, Trinket, they escape from Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, and Arthur journeys across the land to figure out both his past and his destiny.

Despite its categorization as middle grade (ages 10-13), The Wonderling can be enjoyed by readers of any age. It is a beautiful and whimsical tale layered with depth that explores the themes of finding your voice, found families, being brave, and fighting for what you believe in. Scattered throughout the pages are sketches of Arthur and his friends, drawn by Mira Bartók herself!

And if that wasn’t cool enough for you, The Wonderling not only landed a two-book deal BEFORE Bartók finished the first book, but the movie rights were also sold and Stephen Daldry is set to direct the film. So if you haven’t already read this book, do yourself a favor, and heed the call of The Wonderling.

And if you’ve taken “Intro to Creative Writing” at Hope, you’re already familiar with Heather Sellers’ writing. Not only did she write the textbook we use in that class, she also taught creative writing at Hope College for many years. 

Now Sellers is returning to campus to share with us from her Pushcart Prize-winning essay.  In addition to her essays, she’s written work that spans a diverse range of genres and includes a children’s book, several chapbooks, three volumes of poetry, a collection of linked short stories, and a memoir. 

Revealing rich insight through layers of precisely-described images, Sellers writes in a way that’s both deep and accessible. Her difficult family situation as a child and the neurological condition known as face-blindness that she discovered she had as an adult both prepared her to be comfortable with the uncertainty inherent in the creative writing process. As we — your JRVWS interns, Claire and Keri — dug into Sellers’ writing this summer, we’ve gotten so excited to find out what writing wisdom she will share with us when she visits Hope!

November 12th: Julia Alvarez

Author Julia Alvarez (photo courtesy of Bill Eichner)

In partnership with the NEA Big Read Lakeshore, JRVWS is hosting Julia Alvarez on November 12th. She will speak on this year’s Big Read, In the Time of the Butterflies, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary! Julia Alvarez has written numerous works of adult fiction, children’s books, essays, and poetry, including the novels How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and the Pura Belpré winner Before We Were Free.

In her novel In the Time of the Butterflies, Alvarez draws on her personal experience growing up in the era of Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic to tell the story of the Mirabal sisters and their resistance against the regime. She tells their story in chapters that alternate among the distinct voices of each of the four sisters, starting in their childhoods in the 1940s and leading up to three of the sisters’ deaths in 1960. 

While the book exposes the oppressive brutality of Trujillo’s government, it dives deeper than the politics and history of its setting to explore the complex inner lives and relationships of the Mirabals and their friends. As Alvarez herself puts it in the final note of In the Time of the Butterflies: “A novel is not, after all, a historical document, but a way to travel through the human heart.”


We hope you’ll join us to hear these talented writers answer questions about their craft and read from their work! 

MIRA BARTÓK and HEATHER SELLERS will be here on October 1st for a 3:30PM Q&A in Fried-Hemenway Auditorium and a 7:00PM reading in the Jack Miller Recital Hall. 

JULIA ALVAREZ will be coming on November 12th and will be holding an 11:00AM Q&A and a 7:00PM reading, both of which will take place in the Jack Miller Main Auditorium. (There will be many other events associated with the Big Read Lakeshore, too.)

We know that just like us, you can’t wait for these authors to arrive, so make sure to follow the JRVWS Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for more information on these incredible writers! And watch this blog for upcoming interviews with Bartók and Sellers…

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