On Tuesday, Feb. 19, the MFA Program hosted authors Peter Nichols and Pam Houston for its Visiting Writers Series, an event that has been bringing published authors to GC since 1998.
Houston shared a chapter from her newest work, “Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country.” Nichols read a chapter of his current project, a nonfiction novel about whaling wives and also shared a chapter from “Rocks,” his newest work.
Nichols has written six novels so far, two of which are in development to become TV series and one which has been nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award. In addition to writing, Nichols has also taught creative writing at several universities at an international level, worked in advertising in London and screenwriting in Los Angeles and spent some time as a shepherd in Wales.
Houston lives 9,000 feet above sea-level, as she described, in Colorado. She has written three novels, two collections of short stories and a collection of essays. Her works have won three literary awards, including the Western States Book Award. Houston is also a co-founder for the literary non-profit organization Writing by Writers.
“I really enjoyed both authors,” said senior Emily Ballesteros, a creative writing major. “I usually don’t really get into a writer’s reading just because there’s a plethora of different styles and genres, but I loved their perspectives on essential loneliness and how nature inspired their work.”
The mastermind behind the Visiting Writers Series is Peter Selgin, an English professor here at GC and a personal friend of Peter Nichols. Selgin, though, said he couldn’t have done it all by himself.
“All members of the Creative Writing faculty take part in the selection process,” Selgin said. “It’s a group process. Each of us suggests a name or two or three. Then we get together to weight the pros and cons of each author.”
Also involved in the planning of the Visiting Writers Series are the MFA graduate students who provide the authors with transportation and introduce the authors before their reading. This year, Morgan Coyner and Pooja Desai had the honor of introducing Nichols and Houston.
While the Visiting Writers Series is largely geared toward English majors, the event is open to the whole campus.
“Mostly English majors would be interested for sure, but I’d recommend them to anyone I knew that liked to write or was passionate about reading,” Ballesteros said.
Around 54 people were in attendance on Tuesday, including graduate students, undergraduates and professors, which is an average turn out compared to previous years. Though with better advertisement, English Department interim chair and professor John Sirmans said the event could draw a larger crowd.
The Visiting Writers Series typically has three events in the spring and three events in the fall, with as many as eight writers in total, which means there are two more chances to listen to some truly excellent authors this semester.
“The Visiting Writers series is extremely valuable to our students and to our faculty,” Sirmans said. “In some instances, the writers attend creative writing classes to share wisdom with our students, but the experience of meeting famous authors and hearing them read and tell of their lives is both inspiring and educational.
Photos by Madison Miles | Staff Photographer