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Writers@Grinnell: Hai-Dang Phan '03 & Rick Barot

Award-winning poet, translator, and scholar, Hai-Dang Phan '03, along with award-winning poet Rick Barot, will read from their work and discuss writing on Thursday, Sept. 1 as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 8:00 p.m in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

In addition, they will lead a roundtable discussion, which is free and open to the public at 4:15 p.m. Sept. 1 in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 209.

Hai-Dang Phan photoHai-Dang Phan, born in Vietnam and raised in Wisconsin, is a poet, translator, and scholar who teaches courses in Ethnic American Literature and Creative Writing at Grinnell. His research interests include modern and contemporary American literature, race in American literature, war literature, reconciliation, modern and contemporary poetry in English, and translation studies. A former Thomas J. Watson Fellow, he received his B.A. in English from Grinnell College and his Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is completing his M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Florida.

His poems and translations appear or are forthcoming in literary journals such as AnomalousAsymptoteBarrow StreetThe Brooklyn RailCerise PressDrunken BoatKartika ReviewLana TurnerNOÖ Journal, and RHINO. He has interned at Harper’s Magazine, and for five years co-curated FELIX, a quarterly series of new writing based in Madison. He is currently working on a number of critical and creative projects: a book manuscript entitled A Rumor of Redress: Literature, the Vietnam War, and the Politics of Reconciliation, a book-length translation of new and selected poems by the contemporary Vietnamese poet Phan Nhien Hao, and a collection of poetry tentatively entitled Small Wars.

Rick Barot photoRick Barot has published three books of poetry with Sarabande Books: The Darker Fall (2002), Want (2008), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and won the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize, and Chord (2015).  Chord received the UNT Rilke Prize, the PEN Open Book Award, and the Publishing Triangle's Thom Gunn Award.  It was also a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, The Paris Review, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Artist Trust of Washington, the Civitella Ranieri, and Stanford University, where he was a Wallace E. Stegner Fellow and a Jones Lecturer. He lives in Tacoma, Washington and directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University.  He is also the poetry editor for New England Review.  In 2016 he received a poetry fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation.

 

2016 Creative Writing Contest Winners

The winners of this year’s creative writing contests are:

Nick Adams Short Story

Nelson Ogbuagu ’16, winner — $1000 for “Playing It Safe”

Grace Lloyd ’16, honorable mention — for “Crush”

James Norman Hall '10 Aspiring Writer Award

Alejandra Rodriguez Wheelock ’17 — $2000 for “The Basic Principles of Long Distance Running”

Selden Whitcomb Prize

Clara Trippe ’18, winner — $500 for “The Year of Cicadas; Lechuguilla Cave; Atmosphere; and Yours: Flesh and Ground”

Maya Elliott ’18, 2nd prize — $100 for “Bruises, CHURCHGOING, A HYMNAL?; and The Physicality of Atheism”

Emma Soberano ’17, 2nd prize — $100 for “Mi papá me llama ‘chile’; Duloxetine, 30 mg; Bruises are like post-it notes; and Cielito Lindo”

Henry York Steiner Memorial Prize for Short Fiction

Emma Soberano ’17, winner — $500 for “Sex”

Josie Sloyan ’18, 2nd prize — $100 for “Long Way Out”

Emma Thomasch ’16, 2nd prize — $100 for “Hold Your Peace”

Lorabel Richardson Prize, Academy of American Poets

Maya Elliott ’18 — $100 for “Witchblood: A Fantasy”

Writers@Grinnell: Alissa Nutting

Award-winning author Alissa Nutting will read from her work and discuss writing on Friday, April 22nd as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College. The free, public event will start at 4:15 p.m. in the Burling Library Lounge.

Alissa Nutting authored the short story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and GirlsAlissa Nutting photoselected by judge Ben Marcus as winner of the 6th Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction, and the novel, Tampa. A new novel is forthcoming from Ecco in early 2017. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, Fence, BOMB, Elle, The New York Times, Conduit, and O: The Oprah Magazine, as well as the fairy tale anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me. She holds and master's in fine arts from the University of Alabama, and a doctorate from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She is currently at work on two television pilots, teaches in UNLV’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, housed at the Black Mountain Institute, and is currently a visiting writer at Grinnell College in Iowa.

In addition, the winners of this year’s Creative Writing Contests will be announced after the reading.

Nelson Ogbuagu ’16 Wins Short Story Contest

Grinnell College senior and winner of the Nick Adams Short Story Contest, Nelson Ogbuagu Nelson Ogbuagu ’16 has been named the winner of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest 2016 Nick Adams Short Story Contest. His story, "Playing it Safe," was selected from the 32 stories submitted by students from ACM colleges.

Author Bill Hillman, who served as the final judge for the contest, awarded first prize to Ogbuagu, praising his story as “a psychological thriller and a coming of age tale of an introspective and sensitive youth” that “works on a lot of levels.”

A Chicago native, Ogbuagu is an economics major. His interest in writing, inspired by his love for hip-hop music and storytelling, started in high school, where he served as both an arts and entertainment and a sports editor.

He began to write short stories in a creative writing course he took at Grinnell with author Dean Bakopoulos, assistant professor of English.

“His mentorship, teaching, feedback, and general support as I developed in his classes and outside of them not only made me a better storyteller through writing, but also encouraged a type of self-exploration that made me believe that I had meaningful stories to tell,” Ogbuagu said.

These workshop-based courses require students to read each other’s work and give extensive critiques in class discussions. “After all of that feedback, we’d go and make a revision that was very deep, very heavy,” said Ogbuagu. “You really get a very sharp sense as to the different ideas that different types of writers have for the directions you can go with a story. It really informed how I could take a certain experience and craft it in a way that I hadn't originally considered.”

In addition to writing, Ogbuagu serves as co-chair of the All Campus Events Committee of the Student Government Association and co-leads the Latin American Dance club. This fall, he will join LinkedIn’s Business Leadership Program for global sales in San Francisco. He plans to continue writing and eventually pursue a master’s degree in fine arts.  

Grace Lloyd ’16, a senior from Allentown, New Jersey, was awarded honorable mention for her story "Crush." She is an English and theatre major with a concentration in technology studies. She is currently writing a novella with the mentorship of Bakopoulos and plans to continue writing after graduation.

The Nick Adams Short Story Contest has been held annually since 1973 by the ACM. Winners receive $1,000, made possible by a gift from an anonymous donor.

Writers@Grinnell: Rob Spillman

Award winning author, Rob Spillman, will read from his work and discuss writing on Monday, April 18 at 8:00 p.m. in ARH 302.

In addition, Spillman will lead a roundtable discussion which is free and open to the public, at 4:15 p.m. April 18 in JRC 209.

Rob Spillman is Editor and co-founder of Tin House, a sixteen-year-old bi-coastal (Brooklyn,Rob Spillman photo New York and Portland, Oregon) literary magazine. He is the 2015 recipient of the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing as well as the 2015 VIDO Award from VIDA. Tin House is the recipient of the 2015 Firecracker Award for General Excellence and has been honored in Best American Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, O’Henry Prize Stories, the Pushcart Prize Anthology and numerous other anthologies. He is also the Executive Editor of Tin House Books and co-founder of the Tin House Summer Workshop, now in its thirteenth year. His writing has appeared in BookForum, the Boston Review, Connoisseur, Details, GQ, Guernica, Nerve, the New York Times Book Review, Rolling Stone, Salon, Spin, Sports Illustrated, Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue, among other magazines, newspapers, and essay collections. He is also the editor of Gods and Soldiers: the Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing, which was published in 2009. He is on the board of CLMP (the Community of Literary Magazines and Small Presses), the Brooklyn Book Festival Literary Council, Narrative4, and is the Chair of PEN’s Membership Committee. He has guest taught at universities around the world, including Queensland University in Brisbane, the Farafina Workshop in Lagos, Nigeria, the SLS Workshops in St. Petersburg, Russia and Nairobi, Kenya, the Catholic University of Santiago, Chile, the University of Florida, New York University, Brooklyn College, Amherst, Williams, and is currently a lecturer at Columbia University. His memoir, All Tomorrow’s Parties, will be published by Grove Press in April, 2016.

CANCELLED: Writers@Grinnell: Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay's visit to Grinnell on April 7, 2016 has been cancelled. 

Bestselling author and feminist scholar Roxane Gay will read from her work and discuss writing on Thursday, April 7, as part of the Writers@Grinnell series and Scholars’ Convocation at Grinnell College.

Roxane Gay ImageThe Scholars’ Convocation lecture will start at 11 a.m. in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.  

In addition, Gay will lead a free, puplic roundtable discussion at 4:15 p.m. April 7, in Rosenfield Center, Room 101.

An accomplished scholar, Gay is an associate professor of English at Purdue University in Indiana. Her research interests include the intersections between race, gender, and popular culture; contemporary fiction; and the political novel.

Gay uses her personal experience with race, gender identity, and sexuality to inform her analyses and deconstruction of feminist and racial issues in her work. In addition to her more serious scholarly and creative work, she is a well-known figure on social media, with tens of thousands of Twitter followers, many of whom are drawn to her often irreverent and humorous “instant” commentaries on major news events, politics, pop culture, and reality television.

"Bad Feminist," her bestselling essay collection, is a personal manifesto that takes readers through the journey of Gay's evolution as a woman of color and describes how feminism affects Gay's own life — for better or worse. The essays cover a wide a range of topics, from competitive Scrabble to novels written by women to advice on acknowledging privilege.

Gay's writings on gender and racial inequality have won numerous awards in recent years and have appeared in Tin House, Oxford American, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many other media outlets.

Gay's debut novel, Untamed State, explores the privilege that made Haitian-American Mireille Duval Jameson a target for kidnapping and the strength she must draw on to survive the kidnapping and reclaim her life. Deadline.com recently reported that the novel will be adapted for film by Beyond the Lights director Gina Prince-Bythewood. Gay is co-writing the script with Prince-Bythewood. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has been selected to portray Jameson.

Gay's latest book, Hunger, is scheduled to be released in June. Hunger focuses on Gay's experience with weight, body image, and building a positive relationship with food.

Writers@Grinnell: Stephanie Ford

Stephanie Ford '95 is next in Writers@Grinnell series.

Stephanie Ford will read from her work and discuss writing on Thursday, March 3 as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College.  The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 8 p.m. in the Faulconer Gallery in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Stephanie_Ford image

In addition, Ford will lead a roundtable discussion, which is free and open to the public, at  4:15 p.m., March 3 in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 209.

Stephanie Ford is the author of All Pilgrim (Four Way Books, 2015). Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Tin House, Boston Review, Harvard Review, and The Iowa Review. She holds a bachelor's degree in studio art from Grinnell and a masters in fine arts in creative writing from the University of Michigan; her honors include the Hopwood Award as well as fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, she now lives in Los Angeles, where she has worked as a high school creative writing teacher and, most recently, as a freelance museum editor.

Writers@Grinnell: Edwidge Danticat

Haitian American best selling author and social activist Edwidge Danticat will read from herEdwidge Danticat image work and discuss writing on Thursday, Feb. 25 as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College.  The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 8 p.m. in the Faulconer Gallery in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

In addition, Danticat will lead a roundtable discussion, which is free and open to the public, at 4:15 p.m. Feb. 25 in Mears Cottage Living Room.

Edwidge Danticat has written ten books and has received numerous awards and honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Story Prize, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Edwidge Danticat published her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, at the age of twenty-five. The book was selected for Oprah’s Book Club and was immediately recognized by readers and critics alike as heralding the emergence of a shining new literary talent. Danticat’s profound connection to her native Haiti has not only informed her literary output, but has made her a powerful and passionate advocate.

Her newest book, Claire of the Sea Light, is a stunning new work of fiction that brings us deep into the intertwined lives of a small seaside town where a little girl has gone missing. It was published in 2013, to much critical acclaim.

Previous works include Brother, I’m Dying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was a National Book Award finalist; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner; and The Dew Breaker, a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and winner of the inaugural Story Prize. Danticat has also received the MacArthur “Genius Grant” and been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and elsewhere.

So You Think You Can Write

Grinnell alumni return to campus for a two-day symposium on written communication Friday and Saturday, Feb. 19 and 20, 2016.

The free, public symposium features informational panels, writing challenges, an internship and information fair, and plenty of opportunities to talk directly with successful alumni in the field.

Schedule

Friday, Feb. 19

4 p.m. Freelance Writing Panel
Tequia Burt ’98, Courtney Sherwood ’00, and Molly McArdle ’09
Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302
5:30 p.m. Dinner (Open only to those who preregistered by Feb. 12)
Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Saturday, Feb. 20

10 a.m. Writing Challenge Events
Students can take part in writing challenges judged by
Christa Desir ’96 and Katie In ’13.
Rosenfield Center, Room 101
12:30 p.m. Lunch With Alumni
Rosenfield Center Marketplace,
Rooms 224 A and B
2 p.m. Writing Careers: Years in the Making Panel
Dan Weeks ’80, Jeanne Pinder ’75, Jim Bickal ’82, and Molly Backes ’02
Rosenfield Center, Room 101
3:30 p.m. Internship and Information Fair
Speak one-on-one with our guest alumni.
Bucksbaum Center for the Arts rotunda
5 p.m. Networking Hour with Alumni
Refreshments will be served.
Rosenfield Center, second floor lobby
6 p.m. Dinner (Open only to those who preregistered by Feb. 12)
Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Guest Alumni Panelists

M. Molly Backes ’02

M. Molly Backes ’02 is the author of the young adult novel The Princesses of Iowa (Candlewick Press, 2012), which was named Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Fiction for Teens (2013) and Forever Young Adult’s Best YA Books of 2012 and was a finalist on NPR.org’s Best-Ever Teen Novels list in 2012. She has performed her personal essays at reading series including Essay Fiesta, Funny Ha-Ha, Is This a Thing?, and Sunday Salon and is a frequent guest at writing conferences and festivals across the country. Since graduating from Grinnell, Backes has had a number of careers, including middle school English teacher, wildlife conservation educator, arts administrator, marketing department copy writer/editor, and writing coach. She is currently an M.F.A. candidate at Iowa State University, where she teaches composition and creative writing.

Jim Bickal ’82

Jim Bickal ’82 began his career in 1984 as an unpaid intern for Minnesota Public Radio News. He has worked as a reporter and producer for MPR and Twin Cities Public Television. Some of the stories he has covered include the Minnesota Twins’ improbable 1987 World Series championship, the election of Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota in 1998, the 2002 Minnesota Senate campaign after the death of Paul Wellstone, and the I-35W bridge collapse in 2007. He has produced two hour-long radio documentaries. One traces a song (“The Rock Island Line” by Little Richard) to its origins, and the other looks at how growing up in Minnesota shaped Bob Dylan’s music. He is currently developing a podcast centered around the events of May 10, 2013. That’s when an unarmed man fleeing arrest broke into Bickal’s home in Minneapolis and was killed by police officers in his basement.

Tequia Burt ’98

Tequia Burt ’98 is a veteran editor and writer with more than 10 years of experience covering marketing, business, media and government. Before becoming a freelancer last year, she was editor in chief of FierceCMO. Burt earned her M.S.J. from Medill in 2005.

Christa Soule Desir ’96

Christa Soule Desir ’96 writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her novels include Fault Line, Bleed Like Me, and Other Broken Things. She lives with her husband, three children, and overly enthusiastic dog outside Chicago. She is a founding member of the Voices and Faces Project, a nonprofit organization for rape survivors that conducts an international survivor-based testimonial writing workshop, including working with incarcerated teens. She also works as a romance editor at Samhain Publishing and once a week can be found working the stacks at Anderson’s Bookshop.

Katie In ’13

Katie In ’13 is an interdisciplinary media artist and musician based in Grinnell. She graduated from Grinnell College in 2013 with a B.A. in sociology and was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and recipient of the Ladies Education Society Award. A socially-minded observer of the world and creator of things, In uses video, music, and performance to tell stories and communicate ideas. She is part of the collaborative group Tiny Circus as well as the Midwest-based collective and band called The Plain Mosaic.

Molly McArdle ’09

Molly McArdle ’09 is Brooklyn Magazine’s books editor and a regular contributor to Travel + Leisure. She’s also founding editor of The Rumpus’ Tumblr (The Rumblr) and the creator of The Daily GIF. Her essays, criticism, and reporting have appeared in The Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, BuzzFeed, The Rumpus, Atlas Obscura, Bitch Magazine, Pacific Standard, Audubon Magazine, The Oyster Review, Fusion, and Library Journal, where she was an editor on the book review. She was a member of Grinnell’s first D.C. Posse and is working on a novel.

Jeanne Pinder ’75

Jeanne Pinder ’75 is founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts.com, a New York City journalism startup bringing transparency to the health care marketplace by telling people what stuff costs. She founded ClearHealthCosts after volunteering for a buyout in 2009 from The New York Times, where she worked for almost 25 years as an editor, reporter and human resources executive. Pinder is a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. She was born and raised in Grinnell. She started working as a journalist in middle school at The Grinnell Herald-Register, her family’s twice-weekly independent paper. Before The Times, she also worked at The Des Moines Register and The Associated Press. She is a graduate of Grinnell College with a bachelor’s in Russian and studied Slavic linguistics in graduate school at Indiana University. She used to teach Russian, and she lived for a time in what was then the Soviet Union.

Courtney Sherwood ’00

Courtney Sherwood ’00 worked in newspapers for 12 years, first as a reporter then as an editor, before frustrations with the shrinking print industry prompted her to quit her day job to freelance in 2012. She continues to cover hard news from Portland, Ore., with pieces appearing in a wide range of outlets, including Science magazine online, Vice, The Irish Times, the Canadian Broadcast Corp., and many others. Most of her time is divided between NPR-affiliate Oregon Public Broadcasting, where she is a radio editor and web producer; Thompson Reuters, a news service for which she is one of two Oregon correspondents; and The Lund Report, which publishes her wonky analyses of how money moves the health care industry.

Dan Weeks ’80

Dan Weeks ’80 majored in American Studies at Grinnell and earned an M.A. in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa Graduate Writing Program. He has spent the past  30-plus years as a magazine and book writer, photographer, editor, ghostwriter, editorial manager, publishing consultant, and freelancer. His magazine profiles, features, essays, and photographs on subjects ranging from adventure travel to zinnias have appeared in dozens of national, international, and regional magazines. His book Deadliest Catch: Desperate Hours, a companion to the Emmy-nominated reality show about Bering Sea crab fishermen, was a Discovery Channel best seller. He edited The Grinnell Magazine from 2010–2013 and currently edits The Iowan magazine.

Multidimensional

“I never had just one thing that I was pursuing. I wanted to keep exploring and keep doing what I was naturally interested in doing. Every opportunity I’ve had just combined all those passions.”

These words of wisdom reveal the key to Adam Kempenaar ’97’s success. In a world where many limit themselves to the pursuit of just one interest, Kempenaar has proved that it is truly possible to have it all.

As one of the founders and hosts of the popular movie review podcast Filmspotting, Kempenaar understands what it’s like to revive a dream dusty from lack of use. Although he was busy with a family and a full-time career, Kempenaar and his friend, Sam Hallgren, decided to resuscitate their old love of discussing movies by starting a podcast in which they would review and critique films in 30-minute segments.

Within just months of launching the show in 2005, Filmspotting’s audience had climbed from 1,000 listeners to over 10,000. Now, 10 years and 550 episodes later, Filmspotting has continued to thrill and excite both its viewers and its hosts.

Spawning a Radio Show

The success of Filmspotting led to a monthly radio show on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, echoing Kempenaar’s fascination with radio during his time at Grinnell, where he ran two radio shows on KDIC campus radio.

Filmspotting attracted the attention of the head of the film program at a continuing education school. Before Kempenaar knew it, yet another dream was coming to fruition — a chance to teach film classes at the University of Chicago’s Graham School.

“At Grinnell, I was an English major and I always wanted to teach. I realized that I wasn’t cut out to be an English professor, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t teach in some capacity. This was something I really wanted to do and it seemed like a dream opportunity.”

The Regular Job

Added to the lengthy list of Kempenaar’s occupations is his full-time career as senior director of new media and creative services for the Chicago Blackhawks. “I had a friend at Grinnell who would always come to our dorm room and play hockey video games. All the time it was hockey, hockey, hockey,” says Kempenaar. “And now he sees pictures of me on Facebook holding the Stanley Cup! It’s crazy that, 20 years later, here I am doing that for a living.”

Kempenaar has achieved what many college graduates have come to view as a foolish ideal — the aspiration to live all your passions, and make a living while doing it. By choosing to follow all the threads that tugged at his curiosity, Kempenaar has woven a web of interconnected triumphs, fueled by his persistent desire to always keep learning. By not fixating on a single goal, he has been able to expand his ability to wear many hats.

“Whether it’s podcasting or whether it’s the Blackhawks, I have always been prepared to do what I want to do simply because I’ve followed whatever I’ve been interested in,” Kempenaar says.

“I’m really lucky that I get to mix all my passions. I love sports, I love film, I love teaching, and I do all of them!”