Award-Winning Poet Marie Howe to Give Reading at Michener Center Event

The Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by poet Marie Howe on Thursday, November 2, 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium (POB 2.302).

Howe is the author of four award-winning volumes of poetry, most recently Magdalene, a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry this year.

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Marla Akin, Michener Center for Writers assistant director, 512-471-8444.

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Celebrated Author Bret Anthony Johnston Named New Michener Center Director

Image of man in gray shirt and glasses

This month, award-winning author Bret Anthony Johnston has assumed the directorship of the Michener Center for Writers, one of the most selective and prestigious writing programs in the country.

Johnston has directed the creative writing program at Harvard University for the past 12 years. A native Texan, his fiction titles include the story collection Corpus Christi and the novel Remember Me Like This.

For the past 12 years, he has directed the creative writing program at Harvard University.  A serious skateboarder for over 30 years, he also wrote the documentary film about the sport, Waiting for Lightning, which was released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and premiered at Austin’s SXSW.

Johnston was born and reared in Corpus Christi, Texas, and attended Miami University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  His many honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, a “5 Under 35″ honor from the National Book Foundation, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, and both the Stephen Turner Award and Kay Cattarulla Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters.  Most recently, he won the $30£ Sunday Times EFG Award, the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for a single short story for his “Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows about Horses,” originally published in American Short Fiction.

Johnston replaces outgoing director James Magnuson  who retired in May after 23 years at the helm of the Michener Center.  Magnuson was responsible for bringing the program from its inception to national prominence among MFA programs.

“Bret’s going to be great for the Center,” says Magnuson.  “He’s walking into a situation where there are extraordinary faculty and resources, and amazing students.  The students at the Michener Center have been the joy of my life, and I’m sure they will be for Bret, too.”

“With Mr. Michener’s original vision and Jim’s inspired leadership,” Johnston says, “the Michener Center for Writers has had, since its start, a hand in shaping contemporary literature. The opportunity to be part of the Center’s future is an honor and a privilege.  It’s a gift.  The students, faculty, and staff are unparalleled, and their commitment to art-making is contagious.  In most respects, my job is simply to keep the lights on and get out of their way.”

The Michener Center for Writers is a three-year interdisciplinary Master of Arts program. Admitting fiction writers, poets, playwrights, and screenwriting for fully-funded graduate study, it was created by a $20-million endowment from James A. Michener, philanthropist and author of over 50 books.

Save the Date! Novelist Margot Livesey to Give Reading Feb. 16

image of author The UT Michener Center for Writers‘ author in residence, Margot Livesey, will give a reading on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302 on UT campus at the southeast corner of Speedway and 24th Streets.

Livesey published her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, with Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then she has published seven novels: Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona and The House on Fortune Street, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy. Her eighth novel, Mercury, was published in September 2016 by HarperCollins.

Margot has taught at several prominent universities, including Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, Emerson College, Brandeis University, Bowdoin College, Tufts University, UC Irvine, and Williams College. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the N.E.A., the Massachusetts Artists’ Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts.  Margot is currently teaching at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Alice Sebold says, “Every novel of Margot Livesey’s is, for her readers, a joyous discovery. Her work radiates with compassion and intelligence and always, deliciously, mystery.”

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Marla Akin, MCW assistant director, 512-471-8444.

 

Save the Date: Michener Center’s Visiting Professors Read their Works Dec. 3

Visiting professors, Jim Crace and Anthony Giardina, will be reading and discussing their literary works at a campus event hosted by the Michener Center for Writers on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Aces Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302.

 image of booksCrace’s ten books to date have received such honors as the Whitbread Novel Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award (Being Dead). His books Quarantine and Harvest have been shortlisted twice for the Man Booker Prize. His archive resides at the university’s Ransom Center

booksAnthony Giardina is the author of five novels, a story collection, and numerous plays, most recently City of Conversation, which has its world premier at Lincoln Center last year.

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.

 

Texas Literature Authors Philipp Meyer and Don Graham to Speak at the Bob Bullock Museum

the-son-secondaryThe UT Michener Center for Writers and the Bullock Texas State History Museum will jointly sponsor a conversation between Michener Center alum Philipp Meyer, author of The Son, and Don Graham, J. Frank Dobie Professor of American and English Literature at UT Austin and legendary scholar of Texas literary history.

Their free talk, at 7:00 p.m.Thursday, February 19 at the Bullock, will explore how Meyer’s five years of research led to the prize-winning novel, how Texas mythology and history shaped the story, and how a transplant from Baltimore came to write one of the Great Texas, and Great American, novels.

Meyer received critical acclaim for his 2009 debut novel, American Rust, and The Son, published in 2013, was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and named in the Top Ten lists of the Washington Post, Amazon, Toronto Globe and Mail, USA Today and Chicago Tribune, among many other honors.

The New York Times said of the book, “only in the greatest historical novels do we come to feel both the distance of the past and our own likely complicity in the sins of a former age.  To that rank, we now add ‘The Son.'”  Meyer was first introduced to Texas novelists such as Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry—as well as to pivotal events in Texas history that inform his story—in a graduate seminar with Graham while earning his MFA at the Michener Center for Writers.

The program is part of the Bullock Museum’s Texas Art and Culture Series, which is generously supported by Lone Star Beer, the national beer of Texas.  The event is free of charge and open to the public.  The Bullock is located at 1800 Congress Avenue  at W. MLK Blvd.

Michener Center Presents Reading by America’s “Pugilistic Poet” August Kleinzahler

member_image_13229290248615022461Acclaimed poet August Kleinzahler will present a reading at a campus event hosted by the Michener Center for Writers on Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302.

 

Kleinzahler’s impressive body of work is a hybrid of high and low influences, mixing street-smart language and articulate cultural references with his unique brand of hard-boiled whimsy. His outsider stance has also gained him a reputation as a literary bad-boy, the “pugilistic poet,” duking it out with both pop culturists—somewhat famously, Garrison Keillor, over his folksy “Good Poems” anthology—and academics alike. Kleinzahler’s literary fame has built steadily over four decades.

 

He published a handful of poetry books with independent presses before New York publisher Farrar Straus & Giroux picked up his 1995 “Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow.” They have published his last six books, as well as revived earlier work in new editions.  

 

Kleinzahler won the distinguished Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2004 for “The Strange Hours Travelers Keep,” and his new and selected poems, “Sleeping it Off in Rapid City” (2008), was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award. His prose also regularly appears in the London Review of Books and Slate, among others, and he has published a volume of meditative essays, “Cutty One Rock:  Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained.” His newest book of poems is “The Hotel Oneira,” which the Guardian describes as “dreamlike yet savvy, among the most delightful flowerings of American poetry in our times.”

 

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage.

Lucie Brock-Broido to Speak on Campus Oct. 16

The UT Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by acclaimed poet Lucie Brock-Broido on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302, on UT campus.The event is free and open to the public.

Book Cover: Stay, IllusionBrock-Broido’s newest collection, Stay, Illusion, was a finalist in Poetry for the 2013 National Book Award.  Her previous collections include Trouble in Mind, The Master Letters, and A Hunger. Her poetry has appeared in many magazines and literary journals including The Paris Review, Parnassus:  Poetry in Review, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Nation, The New Republic, Best American Poetry, and The New Yorker. Director of Poetry in the School of Arts of Columbia University in NYC, she is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA support, and the Witter-Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Michener Center to Host Acclaimed Novelist Zadie Smith on March 27

The UT Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by acclaimed author Zadie Smith on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 7:30 pm in the Blanton Auditorium on UT campus. The reading is free, requires no tickets, and is open to students and the public, but seating is limited to 300.

Zadie Smith, born in London in 1975 to an English father and Jamaican mother, made a stunning literary debut in 2000 with White Teeth, which was praised internationally and won numerous first book awards. Her third novel, On Beauty, won the 2006 Orange Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker, and her latest, NW (for the London postcode area in which she was born and still resides), was named one of the New York Times’ Best Books of 2012. Granta magazine has twice listed her in its “20 Best Young British Novelists.” She divides her time between London and New York, where she on the Creative Writing faculty of NYU.

The Blanton Auditorium is located in the Edgar A. Smith Building in the Blanton Museum complex at MLK and Congress Avenue. Parking is available in the nearby Brazos garage.

Michener Center reading by 2013 residency author Colm Toibin

The University of Texas at Austin Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by our fall 2013 residency author, COLM TOIBIN, on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302.

Toibin, a native of Ireland, is the author of two novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Blackwater Lightship and The Master, as well as Brooklyn, 2009 Costa Novel of the Year, The Empty Family, a collection of stories, and The Testament of Mary, adapted to stage on Broadway this past year.  He is as well a prolific essayist and journalist.

The Peter O’Donnell building, formerly known as the ACES building, is on the southeast corner of 24th and Speedway on UT Campus.  Parking is available in the nearby UT garage at San Jacinto and 24th.

Peter LaSalle’s new novel looks at life in the shadows

M song smPeter LaSalle uses a single book-length sentence in his new novel, “Mariposa’s Song,” to tell of a twenty-year-old Honduran woman in the United States without documentation.  Mariposa is working as a B-girl and taxi dancer in a scruffy East Austin nightclub called El Pájaro Verde in 2005, and her story takes readers into the shadowy world that undocumented workers are too often forced to live in due to current immigration laws.

“‘Mariposa’s Song’ is a tragedy that rings distressingly true to the bone,” says novelist Madison Smartt Bell in a prepublication comment, “and never has Peter LaSalle’s prose sung so melodiously.”  And Publishers Weekly notes: “LaSalle’s new novel is brief, but it feels expansive with its continued breathlessness.”

The novel is published in The Americas Series from Texas Tech University Press.  Edited by Irene Vilar and with a national advisory board, the series issues mostly work by Latin American writers in translation—recent releases include Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal and Brazilian novelist Moacyr Scliar—but also the occasional original book on a Latino subject that reflects the series’ stated mission of “cultivating cross-cultural and intellectual exploration across borders and historical divides.”

LaSalle will talk about “Mariposa’s Song” at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, Oct. 27 in a three-author panel discussion on immigration narratives, “Nunca Volver: New Lands, New Lives,” moderated by Melissa del Bosque.  An excerpt from the novel will be featured in the December issue of The Texas Observer.

PeteAs the Susan Taylor McDaniel Regents Professor in Creative Writing at UT, LaSalle teaches in both the English Department’s New Writers Project and the Michener Center for Writers. He’s the author of several books of fiction, including the story collection “Tell Borges If You See Him,” winner of the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award, and his work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Travel Writing, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, among many others. A new short story collection, “What I Found Out About Her and Other Stories,” is forthcoming from University of Notre Dame Press.

ShelfLife@Texas asked LaSalle a few questions about “Mariposa’s Song.”

Did you do intensive research, or how did you come to know about the lives of undocumented workers?

In recent years I got to know quite a bit about the world of the undocumented. I did so through time spent in the Mexican bars and nightclubs that used to line 6th Street in East Austin and now have all but vanished—almost overnight, actually, in the sudden so-called gentrification of the area. I also spent some time in the home of an immigrant family in Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, where I went with a friend who volunteered as an English instructor to new arrivals from Latin America. I think that those experiences, meeting the people I did in the course of it all, made me begin to better understand what it’s like to survive in the United States without documentation.

So you decided to write about it?

Looking back on it, I guess I almost had to write about it.  I remember that I saw a rather absurd locally produced TV show celebrating the supposed urban wonders of downtown Austin.  One sequence showed a group of happy young professionals (does anybody say “yuppie” anymore?) who had just come out of a trendy bar at maybe 2 a.m., guys and girls. They were filmed standing on the sidewalk, gazing up at what they saw as the wondrous beauty of a scene—men working construction on a new downtown high-rise, the site lit up bright in the darkness. I realized that those people, and a lot just like them, had no idea what life was really like for such workers, that there was nothing romantic about their long hours of hard labor, sometimes even right through the night. Having worked a job in construction myself at least one summer during college, I could assure them of that. More significantly, many of those workers were probably without documentation, facing life every day with the added threats posed by our outdated and thoroughly contradictory immigration policies. I don’t know if that was exactly when I decided to start writing “Mariposa’s Song,” but it was one thing that contributed to my decision to use a novel to maybe tell others what I knew about such lives, including those of the young women who worked in the East Austin bars, hustling drinks for the owners or dancing with customers, like the old dime-a-dance arrangement.

And the entire novel is basically a single book-length sentence. Can you explain how that works?

Well, first of all, I hope it does work. I’ve written and published several short stories that use just a single sentence, though this is my first time trying it on something longer. The novel takes place in the course of one Saturday night in a rough East Austin nightclub, where my protagonist—a gentle, pretty, and very hopeful young woman from Honduras named Mariposa—works as a bar girl and gets in a nightmarishly bad situation when she meets the wrong guy at the decidedly wrong time, a smooth-talking Anglo from out of town who calls himself Bill. In starting to write, I soon found that a single continuing sentence captured perfectly the cadence of a night at that club, where the norteño and cumbia music the DJ plays goes on uninterrupted, no breaks between songs, flowing. It also seemed to capture the way Mariposa’s own thoughts meander through her mind, maybe her soothing personal song of herself, very much a music, too.

Well, it certainly seems like a fresh idea.

As said, I sure hope so.