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Margaret Renkl’s LATE MIGRATIONS: A Natural History of Love and Loss

Margaret Renkl’s Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss is our Residency Book in Common

by Kathleen Driskell, Chair, Sena Jeter Naslund-Karen Mann Graduate School of Writing, Spalding University

Creative Nonfiction is our featured cross-genre area for the Spring 2022 residency at the Naslund-Mann School of Writing, and I am delighted to announce that our residency book in common is Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss by best-selling author and New York Times Op-Ed columnist, Margaret Renkl, who will be our distinguished visiting writer at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing.

All students and faculty read Late Migrations before coming to residency in preparation for our first-night discussion of the common read on Saturday, May 21.

Margaret Renkl visits Spalding University May 24-25. On Tuesday, May 24, Renkl will talk about her writing with students, faculty, students, alums, and community guests. A book-signing follows Renkl’s presentation. The next morning, Wednesday, May 25, our visiting distinguished writer attends a Q & A which is closed to all but Naslund-Mann students, alumni, and faculty.

Publisher Milkweed Editions says of Late Migrations:

In brief essays, Renkl traces a tender and honest portrait of her unforgettable

parents and of the bittersweet moment that accompany a child’s transition to

caregiver. Braided into the overall narrative, she also offers observations on the

world surrounding her suburban Nashville home. Ringing with rapture and

heartache, these essays convey the dignity of bluebirds and rat snakes, monarch

butterflies and native bees.

Late Migrations was an “Our Monthly Pick” at Barnes & Noble and is winner of the 2020 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Award; Renkl’s book was also named a finalist for the 2020 Southern Book Prize and named a Best Book of the Year by the New Statesmen, the New York Public Library, Chicago Public Library, Foreword Reviews, and the Washington Independent Review of Books. Late Migrations was a “Read with Jenna” selection, and Renkl and her work were featured recently on The Today Show.

I’m particularly interested in looking at the braided structure of Renkl’s book, which includes looks at the public and private and transcriptions of family interviews—and as one of our focuses at Spalding is the interrelatedness of the arts, I’m interested in hearing how students and faculty feel the accompanying illustrations (by Renkl’s brother) affect your reading experience.

Margaret Renkl, in addition to being the best-selling author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, has also published Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times; her essays appear each Monday. Late Migrations and Graceland feature a number of her New York Times’ essays. Her work has also appeared in Guernica, Literary Hub, Oxford American, among others. To learn more about Margaret Renkl’s work click here.

As Creative Nonfiction is our featured genre area this spring, one of my plenaries will be a close reading and discussion of literary technique and elements in three excellent textual models of creative nonfiction: Jo Ann Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter” (many of you are acquainted with Beard’s important essay, but I’m looking forward to discussing it with you more intently); Brent Staples’s “Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space,”; and Aimee Nezhukatmathil’s essay “Touch-me Nots,” from her recent essay collection World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments. Nezhukatmathil’s short essay provides the model for our cross-genre writing assignment. Electronic access to all three texts will be provided on our student portal, but more about that later.

The Faculty Books and Scripts in Common for this spring’s residency are:

Fiction: Angela Jackson-Brown, When Stars Rain Down

Poetry: Debra Kang Dean, Totem: America (Tiger Bark, 2018)

Creative Nonfiction: Robin Lippincott, Blue Territory

Writing for Children/YA: Ellen Hagan, Reckless, Glorious, Girl

Playwriting: Charlie Schulman, Married Life (script posted on portal) Screenwriting: Helena Kriel, Rhino

Each student should read the Faculty Book or Script in Common in the workshop area of their Spring 2022 residency to prepare for FBIC discussion that will take place 3-4 pm ET, Sunday May 1. The Zoom meeting links for will be posted in the Thursday Memo and on the portal by April 28.

I hope you enjoy reading and thinking about Late Migrations and the faculty books in common in your residency area and are looking forward to attending the Spring 2022 residency, May 21-28. We look forward to being with you!


Kathleen Driskell is chair of the Sena Jeter Naslund-Karen Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. She’s the author of four collections of poetry including Blue Etiquette, a finalist for the Weatherford Award; Next Door to the Dead, winner of the 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award, and Seed Across Snow, a Poetry Foundation national bestseller. Her poems and essays have appeared in many magazines including Shenandoah, Southern Review, and Appalachian Review, and have been featured in anthologies and online at Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and American Life in Poetry. She is currently Chair of the Board of Directors of AWP.


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