Visiting Writers Series to welcome Margaret Atwood, others this semesterBy Will Baggett | 09/06/2017 10:48pm
Aspiring student writers are creating new works every day on campus, but for that extra kick of inspiration, there's nothing like a moving speech from a favorite writer or author.
In the next year, the English department will host a handful of acclaimed, high-profile writers for the benefit of students and all who wish to attend. The Visiting Writers Series kicks off next Thursday, Sept. 14 with a reading from poet Douglas Kearney.
Throughout the years, the only thing that has changed about the series has been the diverse types of writers that have visited and shared their knowledge. Writers from a number of different genres and backgrounds have come to Tuscaloosa to share their experience not only English students, but students of all majors.
“I think it's important for students to see writers in action,” said Kevin Waltman, assistant director of UA’s creative writing program, and head of programming. “The age-old process of reading texts and responding to them in our own writing remains vital, but I think—for any student—it can give an undue sense that writers are forever tucked into a room in total isolation, or that writing itself is a purely academic pursuit.”
Waltman described the importance of writing in our lives and how beneficial it is to have writers come in and speak to young students. The English Department hopes that attendees are inspired to keep polishing their craft and flex their creative muscles in ways they had never thought of before.
Over the course of the fall and spring semesters, four other writers are currently scheduled to visit: T Cooper, Margaret Atwood, Sarah Manguso and Matt Bell. The first, Cooper, will be visiting on Tuesday, Nov. 7, and Atwood will be visiting on Nov. 14. However, both Manguso and Bell will be visiting during the spring semester. Each writer will be speaking at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center at 7 p.m.
Of the four scheduled writers, Margaret Atwood is expected to draw the largest crowd due to her notoriety as the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale." This novel has been popular for many years, and has recently gained popularity due to its translation into a television series.
“There is a completely justified excitement for Margaret Atwood's visit,” Waltman said. “She is one of world's most revered authors and she generates a buzz from people both on and off-campus. This is a major event for both the University and Tuscaloosa as a whole.”
Atwood is popular among many student groups, not just English majors or students in the Creative Writing Program. Azaline Gunn, a senior majoring in theatre, is experiencing the hype in anticipation of Atwood's visit.
“She was a huge contributor to the kind of young woman I grew into, both in my writing and also in the way I view and speak on politics,” Gunn said. “I am looking forward to hearing her speak organically. Less of the novel or poetry structure, but really have an opportunity to listen to Margaret speak as Margaret, and as the author of these works.”
Each writer is sure to bring something different to the table during his or her visit to campus.
“Bringing in writers and letting them interact with students—reading their work, giving advice, answering questions about writing and the writing life—helps show students that this material isn't just for a class, but is part of a real life for many people,” said Waltman. “It serves as a chance for young creative writers to go hear exceptional writers and get inspired.”