Visiting writers program to host Roxane Gay, Sandi Wisenberg

Each year, The University of Alabama English department and the Creative Writing program partner with the College of Arts and Sciences to bring the Bankhead Visiting Writers Series to Tuscaloosa.

The series, made possible by the funding of a grant via the Bankhead Foundation, features various writers throughout the school year.

“The Bankhead series is a series in which the creative writing department at The University of Alabama brings in a writer and the writer reads,” Kevin Ledgewood, a Bama Theatre representative, said.

The program is hosted at the Bama Theatre annually, although they are not involved in the organization of the event.

Writers of all different styles participate in the event. Writers are nominated by the Black Warrior Review, which then contacts the writers via their representatives and arranges the guest list for the series.

“The staff at Black Warrior Review gets together the names of writers that they might like to come and the members of BWR send out requests to the writers based on that,” Jill Smith, assistant program director for creative writing, said.

The series is designed to connect the community with the literary world and establish a connection with current writers.

“We want to expose the community to these great writers and we also want to help our English program stay active,” Smith said. “We want to bring people together to appreciate good writing.”

“Usually we have between four and six writers a year, sometimes more. This year we have six,” Smith said. “My job is to help organize the event and make arrangements for the writers to fly in and make sure that they have a good time while they are here.”

The writers represent all different genres of writing. Previous writers have included Charles Simic, Alice McDermott, Kevin Young, Andre Dubus, Robert Pinsky, Alice Walker, Bei Dao and more, according to the English department website.

“It’s all different genres and we can mix the genres, especially if we have two writers reading in the same night,” Smith said.

To create a more rounded experience, they try to present different genres within each session of the series.

“We’ll try to pick one person who does poetry and one person who does prose, for example,” Smith said. “We have creative non-fiction, we have fiction. We have all of it.”

The next event in the series will take place Thursday and feature writers Roxane Gay and Sandi Wisenberg. Gay is an associate professor of English at Eastern Illinois University. Her works include “Ayiti,” a blend of fiction, non-fiction and poetry combined together to illustrate the Haitian experience.

Wisenberg is an author based out of Chicago, Ill. Her works include “Holocaust Girls” and “The Sweetheart Is In,” as well as “The Adventures of Cancer Bitch,” a narrative of her own experience with breast cancer as based on her blog for The Huffington Post.

Thursday’s event will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Greensboro Room at the Bama Theatre. The event is free and open to the general public. To learn more about the Bankhead Visiting Writers Series, visit the Bankhead page of the English department at


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