NMU hosts established writers


On April 17, the department of English, the MFA Program in creative writing and “Passages North” literary magazine will bring award-winning writer Elizabeth McCracken to NMU’s campus.

She will read one of her written works in the Cadillac Room in the University Center at 7:30 p.m.

McCracken is the author of “The Giant’s House” and “Niagara Falls All Over Again” as well as the short story collection “Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry.” She is currently promoting her forthcoming memoir “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination,” which is being released later this summer.

“Elizabeth McCracken was an instructor of mine when I was at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to bring her in,” said Rebecca Johns, writing professor and organizer of the visiting writers program. “She was the best teacher I’ve ever had, hands down, and I think the students here will really benefit from her speaking.”

McCracken is one of many visiting writers whom Johns has worked to bring to Northern. Writers who visited NMU earlier in the year include essayist John ‘d Gata and author Pam Houston. Johns said the visiting writers program gives students an opportunity to be exposed to accomplished authors.

“Anyone who aspires to work in any kind of field needs to know how to take the next step,” Johns said. “They need to see how other people do it and to have a chance to speak to well-known writers and ask them questions and meet them and know who they are.”

Senior writing major Tim Johnston said he has attended many of the visiting writer seminars during his four years at NMU.

“It was interesting to get other perspectives on different genres of writing,” Johnston said. “As a writing major, it’s nice to see other people who succeeded at writing and make a living doing it.”

In addition to the visiting writing seminar by McCracken, the English department also released a list of visiting writers who will teach different genre seminars this summer. Included in this list are fiction writer Josh Emmons, lyric essayist Andrea Hollander-Budy and poet John Rybicki.

Each writer will spend two weeks at NMU teaching a seminar class on his/her respective genre. The classes are listed in both the undergraduate and graduate writing program to make them available to more students, Johns said. She said another reason the class is open to both undergrads and grad students is because of the valuable experience it offers to all students.

“It’s great for the English writing students to get a different perspective on what’s going on in the world of writing other than just the people on faculty,” Johns said.

Emmons is the author of “The Loss of Leon Meed” and the upcoming “Prescription for a Superior Existence.” He is the recipient of a Michener-Copernicus Fellowship and a PEN/American Center Grant. He is teaching a seminar on fiction writing.

Hollander-Budy will teach a special course on the lyric essay. She has authored numerous books and is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize in Nonfiction and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry.

Rybicki is a well-known Michigan poet, whose poem “We Bed Down Into Water” was chosen for inclusion in “The Best American Poetry 2008.”

Johns said she pursued the authors who are teaching the seminars because they are very current and intriguing authors in their genres.

“I ask around for recommendations and that usually helps in the genres that I’m not as familiar with, which are nonfiction and poetry,” Johns said. “We look for people who are doing exciting things in their respective genres, people who are publishing and people who have their summers free.”

While teaching the seminar the authors live in on-campus apartments provided to them by the university. Johns said that NMU has a good track record of bringing successful writers to participate in the visiting writing seminars.

“Usually the first person I go to ends up accepting,” she said. “It’s good experience for them and it’s great for us.”