Event: JRVWS Authors, Randall Horton and Lauren Haldeman

Over Christmas break I found myself with time to nestle into a couch and burrow into books with a leisure that school semesters rarely allow. I took my time entering new worlds conjured up through poetry and memoir. Two of the books I was fortunate enough to read–Hook and Instead of Dying–were written by the next two guests for the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series, and they will both be on campus to read their work this Thursday, February 1, at 7:00 P.M. My emotions were caught in the heist of these crafty authors’ words. I knew from the dust jackets that their works would make a grab for my heartstrings, but I did not anticipate how tightly they would grip me.

Randall Horton

Hook by Randall Horton introduced me to a world that I’d never imagined before reading. I’ve always admired memoirists for their ability to sift through memory with honesty and courage. Randall’s work is exceptional in this regard. He shares his journey through addiction, incarceration and eventual rehabilitation. He writes with a natural poeticism and earnestness, which allowed me to empathize with what I would’ve thought an incomprehensible world; instead, Horton graciously invited me into a story ripe with the human condition.

In her own distinct fashion, Lauren Haldeman wooed me from the moment I laid eyes on the cover of Instead of Dying. It expresses a sort of whimsy with its sketch of two wolves holding a stream of colors reminiscent of Funfetti. Her vocabulary is rich with nostalgia and tenderness as she honors the most innocent memories such as birthdays and “the way the candles and cake arrive.”

Lauren Haldeman

Haldeman’s book drew up long-buried memories from licking the strawberry frosting on my fourth birthday cake to stargazing with my father. This nostalgia made the core of her poetry–the grieving process following her brother’s death–hit with an intensity paralleled by the soft grace of her imagery. I toted this book with me to coffee shops and airports only to find myself crying in these most public places. Haldeman’s words, though gentle, prodded me and stirred buried sentiments of family memories and the fragility and importance of relationships.

Horton and Haldeman both display an aptitude for the “white hot center” that Robert Olen Butler describes as the key virtue of any skilled author. Their fearlessness hums in their writing and shakes each page. I look forward to meeting them this Thursday, February 1, as they join us for the first event of the Spring 2018 Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series, where they will bring both voice and insight to their books.

Please join these fine writers at the 3:30 P.M. Q&A session in the Martha Miller Center’s Fried-Hemenway Auditorium and at the 7:00 P.M. reading in the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.

For more information on these events, visit the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series website.

Student Feature: Shanley Smith

Photo Credit: Shanley Smith

This summer I had the opportunity to attend Chris Dombrowski’s Bear Grass Writing Retreat at a dude ranch in Montana, where I was able to meet and talk with a number of authors, agents, and publishers.  My time there reminded me of the necessity of connecting writers together for both artistic and emotional encouragement. Within four days, I was engaged with a community of like-minded artists, a group of people I dreaded leaving.

Dombrowski and his good friend and fellow writer, Shann Ray, will be coming to campus on Tuesday, September 19 to give the Tom Andrews Memorial Reading for this year’s first event in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. Both write across genres of prose and poetry, while sustaining a liberal arts mentality, a perspective informed by many academic disciplines that deeply influence their work.  Ray, who holds a PhD in psychology, writes with a poetic rawness about race, gender, and familial ties in books such as American Masculine: Stories and American Copper:  A Novel.  Dombrowski captures the spirit of the terrain from Montana to the Bahamas with his poetry collections By Cold Water and Earth Again and his recent, ravishing non-fiction book, Body of Water:  A Sage, a Seeker, and the World’s Most Elusive Fish.

Dombrowski’s vision to create a retreat where authors and aspiring writers can connect and inspire one another coincides perfectly with the vision of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. The series prides itself on connecting students to accomplished writers, allowing for a deep dive into stories and poems while providing a chance for one-to-one conversations in classrooms, lunches and dinners, and at Q & A sessions and talkbacks.  After spending time with him in Montana, I can assure you that Chris, a Hope alumnus, is a writer not only of great craftsmanship but one who cares about and nurtures this vital connection between writers.

I encourage you all to attend both the reading and Q & A, where you’ll be able to meet both Dombrowski and Ray. I hope to see you all there!

For more information on these events, please visit the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series website.

~ A note from Susanna Childress, director of JRVWS:

It’s that time again! Yes, the start of another academic school year also means the start of another great season for the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. On September 19, we’ll welcome Chris Dombrowski (’98) and Shann Ray for the Tom Andrews Memorial Reading.  Between the two of them, they’ve written more than half a dozen award-winning and best-selling books.

And the fun continues throughout the semester!

Next month, October 19, another multi-genre writer, Paisley Rekdal, will spend three days on campus visiting classes, giving students feedback, and doing a Q&A and a reading; Rekdal has both a nonfiction book and a volume of poetry coming out this year. In November, JRVWS joins forces with The Big Read to welcome Julie Otsuka, whose award-winning books are being read throughout the community—from high school and college classrooms to senior book clubs.

And the spring semester is packed with multi-genre and award-winning writers as well! We’ve got a digital storyteller and an ex-con poet-memoirist, a spoken word champion and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

You won’t want to miss these readings, but with JRVWS, you can do one better than that: you get the chance to ask the writers questions or receive feedback on your own work, have them visit your classes or sit across from you at a table for lunch or dinner—invaluable experiences and exposure to living writers. All for free!

Please do join us for a wonderful season of great writers, great books, and great community. See you next week!