news Faculty MFA Visiting Writers

Announcing This Year’s VCU Visiting Writers Series (2016-17)

Mary Lou HallHanna PylväinenMary Lou Hall (Wirewalker)
& Hanna Pylväinen (Drum Time)
8 Sept 2016   7pm   VCU Cabell Library

Mary Lou Hall received an AWP Intro award while completing her MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her short story Luna was subsequently published in Quarterly West. In 2011, she won the JRW Best Unpublished Novel contest for an early draft of Wirewalker, now a Fall 2016 release by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House. She teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and is at work on a second novel. Wirewalker is her first novel.

Hanna Pylväinen is the author of We Sinners, a novel, which received the Whiting Writers’ Award. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times, theChicago Tribune, and the Wall Street Journal. She is the recipient of residencies at The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, and fellowships at the University of Michigan, where she received her MFA, as well as at  the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is working on her second novel, Drum Time.


Dorothy AllisonVCU Southern Film Festival Speaker
Dorothy Allison (She Who)
15 Sept 2016  6pm  VCU Harris Hall

Dorothy Allison grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, the first child of a fifteen-year-old unwed mother who worked as a waitress. Now living in Northern California with her partner Alix and her teenage son, Wolf Michael, Allison describes herself as a feminist, a working class story teller, a Southern expatriate, a sometime poet and a happily born-again Californian. An award winning editor for Quest, Conditions, and Outlook—early feminist and Lesbian & Gay journals, Allison’s chapbook of poetry, The Women Who Hate Me, was published in 1983. Her short story collection, Trash, was published by Firebrand Books and  won two Lambda Literary Awards and the American Library Association Prize for Lesbian and Gay Writing.  Allison received mainstream recognition with her novel Bastard Out of Carolina, a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award. The novel won the Ferro Grumley prize, an ALA Award for Lesbian and Gay Writing, became a best seller, and an award-winning movie. Her next book, Cavedweller, became a national bestseller, NY Times notable book of the year, finalist for the Lillian Smith prize, and an ALA prize winner.  The expanded edition of Trash included the prize-winning short story, “Compassion,” selected for both Best American Short Stories 2003 and Best New Stories from the South 2003.  A previous recipient of the Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction, Allison is a member of the board of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.   She is currently at work on a novel, She Who.


Rickey LaurentiisLevis Reading Prize
Rickey Laurentiis (Boy with Thorn)
11 Oct 2016  7pm   VCU Cabell Library

Rickey Laurentiis is the winner of the 2015 Levis Reading Prize awarded by the Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University for his poetry collection Boy with Thorn, which was also selected by Terrance Hayes for the 2014 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and named one of the “Top 16 Best Poetry Books” by Buzzfeed. The recipient of a 2013 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a 2012 Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, his other honors include fellowships or scholarships from the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Cave Canem Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy, as well as the Alonzo Davis Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship from Washington University in St Louis, where he received his MFA in Writing.


Angela FlournoyCabell First Novelist Award
Angela Flournoy (The Turner House)
17 Nov 2016  7pm   VCU Cabell Library

Angela Flournoy is the winner of the 2016 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for her novel, The Turner House, which was also a finalist for the National Book Award and a New York Times notable book of the year. The book was also a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and an NAACP Image Award. She is a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree for 2015. Her fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, and she has written for The New York Times, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere.  A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Flournoy received her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California. She has taught at the University of Iowa, The New School and Columbia University.


MFA Alumni Spotlight Event

Lea MarshallKaty Resch GeorgePatty SmithAudrey Walls





Lea Marshall (Here is what I want you to do), Katy Resch George (Exposure), Patty Smith (The Year of Needy Girls) & Audrey Walls (Cyanosis)
25 Jan 2017   7pm   VCU Cabell Library

Lea Marshall’s work has appeared in ThrushLinebreakDiode Poetry JournalHayden’s Ferry ReviewB O D YBroad Street Magazine, and elsewhere. Her manuscript was recently named a finalist for the Crab Orchard First Book Award in Poetry. She is Associate Chair of the Department of Dance & Choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Katy Resch George is author of the story collection Exposure, which was a finalist for the Black Lawrence Press Hudson Award, the Press 53 Fiction Award, and the Snake Nation Press Serena McDonald Kennedy Award. Her stories have been recognized by the annual Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions list and the storySouth Million Writers Awards. She is a recipient of artist grants from Richmond CultureWorks and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

Patty Smith has been teaching American Literature and Creative Writing at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg, VA since 2006. A native New Englander, she received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her nonfiction has appeared in the anthologies One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories; Tied in Knots: Funny Stories from the Wedding Day; Something to Declare: Good Lesbian Travel Writing, and One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium: LGBT Teachers Discuss What Has Gotten Better…and What Hasn’t. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Salon; Broad Street: A New Magazine of True Stories; Prime Number: A Distinctive Journal of Poetry and Prose; Gris-Gris, An Online Journal Of Literature, Culture, and the Arts; The Tusculum Review, and So to Speak: a journal of feminist language and literature. The Year of Needy Girls is her first novel.

Audrey Walls’s poetry has found homes in Cream City Review, H_NGM_NMeridianQuarterly West, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net 2014, and Best New Poets 2013. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s MFA program, she lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she serves as poetry editor of failbetter.


Sonja LivingstonScott Russell SandersSonja Livingston (Ladies Night at the Dreamland)
& Scott Russell Sanders (Dancing in Dreamtime)
23 Feb 2017   7pm   VCU Cabell Library

Sonja Livingston‘s latest book, Ladies Night at the Dreamland, has been called “a literary search and rescue” that combines imagination and research to conjure the lives of extraordinary and often overlooked historical women. She’s the author of the award-winning memoirs Queen of the Fall  and Ghostbread (winner of the AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction) and recent essays in Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Essay Daily, and The Rumpus. Her work is widely anthologized in texts on writing and craft, including in Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women, Brief Encounters, Short Takes, Poverty & Privilege:A Reader, and others. Sonja’s nonfiction writing has received fellowships from the New York State Foundation for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Deming Fund. Sonja earned an MFA from the University of New Orleans and an M.S. Ed. from SUNY Brockport.

Scott Russell Sanders is the 2016/17 VCU Distinguished Writer in Residence.  He is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including Hunting for Hope and A Conservationist Manifesto. His most recent books are Earth Works: Selected Essays and Divine Animal: A Novel.  A collection of his eco-science fiction stories entitled Dancing in Dreamtime will be published this fall, and a new edition of his documentary narrative, Stone Country, co-authored with photographer Jeffrey Wolin, will appear in 2017. Among his honors are the Lannan Literary Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Cecil Woods Award for Nonfiction, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University. He and his wife, Ruth, a biochemist, have reared two children in their hometown of Bloomington, in the hardwood hill country of Indiana’s White River Valley.


Ru FreemanLeAnne HoweRu Freeman (On Sal Mal Lane)
& LeAnne Howe (Choctalking on Other Realities)
23 March 2017   7pm   VCU Cabell Library

Ru Freeman‘s creative and political writing has appeared internationally. She is the author of the novels A Disobedient Girl  and On Sal Mal Lane,  a New York Times Editor’s Choice Book. Both novels have been translated into several languages including Italian, French, Hebrew, and Chinese. She is the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine. She blogs for the Huffington Post on literature and politics, is a contributing editorial board member of the Asian American Literary Review, and has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Corporation of Yaddo, Hedgebrook, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Lannan Foundation. ​She is the 2014 winner of the Sister Mariella Gable Award for Fiction and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction by an American Woman. ​

LeAnne Howe (Choctaw)’s Choctalking on Other Realities was the winner of the inaugural 2014 MLA Prize for Studies in Native American Literatures, Cultures, and Languages.  She received the Western Literature Association’s 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award for her body of work.  Her novels include Shell Shaker, for which she won an American Book Award; Miko Kings, An Indian Baseball Story, the poetry collection Evidence of Red,  and she’s the co-editor of Seeing Red, Pixeled Skins, American Indians and Film.  Her recent poetry appears in Cutthroat Journal, New Letters Magazine, North American Review, 580 Split, and Red Ink.  Currently she’s at work on a documentary film, Searching For Sequoyah with Ojibwe filmmaker James M. Fortier about the life of Sequoyah, a Cherokee leader and creator of the first written indigenous language in Native North American.   She’s the Eidson Distinguished Professor of American Literature in the department of English at the University of Georgia.


Gretchen CombaKaren SolieGretchen Comba (The Stillness of the Picture)
& Karen Solie (The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out)
13 April 2017   7pm   VCU Cabell Library

Gretchen Comba‘s fiction has appeared in a number of journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The North American Review. She is a recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Short Fiction and the Yemassee Award for Exceptional Contribution to the Magazine. She received her MFA in Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and she teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Karen Solie was born in Moose Jaw and grew up on the family farm in southwest Saskatchewan. Her third collection of poems, Pigeon, won the Pat Lowther Award, the Trillium Poetry Prize, and the Griffin Prize. Her most recent, The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out, was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award. A volume of selected poems, The Living Option, was published in the U.K. in 2013, and is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. In 2015, she was awarded the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize, and in July received the Canada Council for the Arts Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for outstanding achievement by a Canadian artist in mid-career. An associate director for the Banff Centre’s Writing Studio program, she lives in Toronto.


All events are free and open to the public. The series is sponsored by the Department of English of the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences and the Graduate Writers’ Association, with additional funding made possible through the generosity of James Branch Cabell Library Associates, Friends of the Library, the VCU Libraries,  Barnes & Noble @ VCU Bookstore, and the family of Larry Levis.


Previous VCU Visiting Writers

Jimmy Santiago Baca • Richard Bausch • Bruce Beasley • Aimee Bender • Charles Bernstein • Linda Bierds • John Bresland • Carrie Brown •  Robert Olen Butler • Ron Carlson • John Casey • Victoria Chang • Kelly Cherry • Joan Connor • Rebecca Curtis • Dennis Danvers • Samuel R. Delany • Mark Doty • Stephen Dunn • Stuart Dybek • Nick Flynn • Mary Gaitskill • Boris Fishman • Beckian Fritz Goldberg • Linda Gregerson • Jennifer Grotz • Elizabeth Hand • Ron Hansen • Terrance Hayes • Fanny Howe • Barbara Hurd • Richard Jackson • Allison Joseph • Alison Kennedy • Yusef Komunyaaka • Nick Lantz • Katherine Larson • Dana Levin • Philip Levine • Sandra Lim • Kelly Link • Bret Lott • Thomas Lux • Elizabeth McCracken • Erin McGraw • Thomas Mallon • Dinty Moore •  Melinda Moustakis • Craig Nova • Stanley Plumly • Roger Reeves • Paisley Rekdal • Sheri Reynolds • David Rivard • Mary Ruefle • George Saunders • Alan Shapiro • Tom Sleigh • David St. John •   Gerald Stern • Darin Strauss • Jean Thompson • Natasha Trethewey • Ellen Bryant Voigt • Helene Wecker • Colson Whitehead • CK Williams • Charles Wright • Dean Young • Matthew Zapruder