Any well-written memoir, poem or story can make a reader feel as though they are speaking directly to the author themself. While this is often the case, readers can sometimes still be left with some questions and ponderings answerable only by the author. Fortunately, this opportunity will soon be possible. Authors Heather Sellers and Mira Bartók will be on campus this Tuesday, October 1 to answer questions and read some of their works to those attending. This is made possible through Hope’s Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series (JRVWS), an organization that plans multiple author features throughout the year. The Series’ first feature is a Hope-connected event; one featured author attended Hope as a student and the other taught here as a professor for almost 20 years.
Heather Sellers, a former Hope professor, is likely a name recognized by English majors around campus. “The Practice of Creative Writing,” written by Sellers, is a textbook often used in Hope creative writing classes. Apart from her textbook, Sellers is experienced in writing poetry, short stories, and several essays featured in major magazines. She is best known for her memoir “You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know.” This memoir, both featured by NPR and Editor’s Choice at the New York Times, tells the story about Sellers’ experience with prosopagnosia, a condition also known as “face blindness.” This coming Tuesday, those who attend the Writers Series event will have the opportunity to hear Sellers speak about these experiences firsthand as well as read some of either her memoir or other works.
Mira Bartók is the second author to be featured at this Tuesday’s event. Bartók is best known for her fantasy novel “The Wonderling: Songcatcher,” which is currently being made into a film by British director Stephen Daldry. Her other works include a New York Times Bestselling memoir entitled “The Memory Palace” and a series of children’s books in “The Ancient and Living Stencil Series.” She is currently developing the next steps of her “Wonderlings” series, which means Tuesday’s audience may get a sneak peak into that process.
Those considering attending the Writer’s Series event who are unfamiliar with the works of these authors should not let this hold them back. “Ideally it’s nice to have some familiarity with the authors, but you definitely don’t have to,” said Kerri Haddrill, an intern for JRVWS. “I’ve gone to visiting writers series in the past and not known much about the authors. They will talk about their specific works, but they’ll also touch on general writing advice and experience for anyone aspiring to be a writer.” Even those who are not as enthusiastic about literary works or the subject of English should also consider attending, according to Claire Buck, another JRVWS intern. “I would also encourage students who don’t think of themselves as writers or readers to check out the JRVWS. Great writing like Sellers’ and Bartok’s has the potential to change not just the way we think but the way we see, revealing new meaning in ordinary things or showing us truth about our world by transporting us to an imaginary one,” Buck said. “Hearing these nationally-recognized and award-winning authors share their work right here on our campus is an opportunity you won’t want to pass up.”
Haddrill herself has read the works of both Sellers and Bartók, and is very excited to meet with them in person. “Reading memoirs, you get a good feel for [the author’s] voice,” Haddrill said. “It will be very interesting to see how that pairs with what they are like in person.” Buck is also anticipating this meeting of reader and writer; “I feel like I’ve really gotten to know these people through their writing, and I’m so excited to meet them in person.”
Those who help to organize the Writers Series through either an internship or volunteering have the opportunity to attend meals with the authors in between their Q & A portion and the reading itself, another point of anticipation for both Haddrill and Buck. “All of the JRVWS volunteers get to attend either lunch or dinner with the writers, and the interns are lucky enough to attend both. It’s a great way to connect not only with the authors but with peers who are passionate about literature too,” said Buck. “While all of the writers have so much to offer the campus community, I’m particularly looking forward to this first pair who will be visiting on Tuesday. While their work might seem pretty different on the surface, the writers share a skill for describing their characters and worlds with beauty and precision.”
The event begins this Tuesday with a Q & A at 3:30 in Martha Miller’s Fried-Hemenway Auditorium followed by a reading from both authors at 7:00 pm in Jack Miller Recital Hall. Additional information about the visiting authors and future JRVWS events can be found at hope.edu/jrvws.