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'Inspiring' Writer To Read Work At SHSU

Feb. 7, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
Story By: Scott Kaukonen

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Jesse Lee KerchevalThe Sam Houston State University Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program will welcome to campus multi-genre author and highly regarded teacher Jesse Lee Kercheval on Monday (Feb. 18). Kercheval, the author of more than a dozen books, will give a reading from her work at 6 p.m. in Austin Hall.

Kercheval, currently the Sally Mead Hands Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has published novels, short stories, poetry, novellas, and a memoir, as well as a creative writing textbook.

“To say that Jesse Lee Kercheval is an inspiration for any writer is putting it mildly,” said SHSU assistant professor of English Nick Lantz, who studied under Kercheval in Madison. “She teaches. She directs a creative writing program, true. And yes, she travels the globe, including her annual trips to a silent film festival in Italy and year spent in Uruguay with her family, and their terrier.

“But somehow, with so much going on, she has also managed to be, without a doubt, the most productive, versatile writer I know,” Lantz said. “Her sense of narrative structure and characterization are gripping, and her poetry is approachable but complex, revealing in its wisdom and clarity a wealth of experience.”

Kecheval’s most recent novel, My Life as a Silent Movie, is forthcoming from Indiana University Press in its Break Away Books series. The novel continues Kercheval’s interest in the “exploration of how history affects individuals” as well as her “fascination with the meaning of family and the tension between those we are given to love at birth and those we choose.”

Her novella Brazil won the Ruthanne Wiley Memorial Novella Contest, while her story collection The Alice Stories won the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize. Space, her memoir about growing up near Cape Kennedy during the moon race, won the Alex Award from the American Library Association. Her poetry collections include Dog Angel and World as Dictionary as well as Cinema Muto, which, like My Life as a Silent Movie, reflects her ongoing interest in the silent film.

She has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Research and Study Center at Harvard, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wisconsin Art Board, the Corporation of Yaddo, and the James A. Michener and the Copernicus Society.

In addition to her public reading, Kercheval will also be visiting classes and meeting with students, both undergraduate and graduate, in the SHSU creative writing program.

“Rigorous yet supportive, and unfailingly generous with her time, Jesse Lee Kercheval is the best teacher an aspiring writer could hope for,” Lantz said. “Her experience has made her a master diagnostician, and her students quickly learn that she can see through the clutter of a draft to the polished story or poem within. I can’t count the number of times I sat with her in her office overlooking the often frozen Lake Mendota, as she talked through the strengths and weaknesses of something I had written.”

The reading is part of an on-going series of events sponsored by the SHSU MFA program in creative writing, which launched this past fall.

On March 25, Michael Kardos, author of the short-story collection One Last Good Time and the novel The Three-Day Affair, selected as one of Esquire’s best books for 2012, will be on campus, and on April 3-4, Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato and In the Lake of the Woods, among other notable works, will visit.

Kercheval’s reading is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Scott Kaukonen, director of SHSU’s MFA in creative writing program, at 936.294.1407 or Lantz at 936.294.1990.



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