October 3, 2022
by Kathleen Driskell, Chair
On behalf of the faculty and staff of the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing, I’m delighted to share a preview of the marvelous, enriching sessions we have scheduled for our students and alumni during the Fall 2022 residency, November 12-19 on Spalding’s campus in Louisville.
The cross-genre area for fall is writing for children and young adults, and our distinguished visiting writer is Randy Ribay, whose young-adult novel Patron Saints of Nothing was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Ribay will also be awarded our 2022 Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature for Patron Saints of Nothing, our residency book in common. All students and faculty read Patron Saints of Nothing before coming to residency. During the first evening of residency, we’ll have a community discussion about the novel, and Ribay will visit later in the week to talk about and read from his work. The next morning, he’ll have a Q & A with students and faculty, one of my favorite regular sessions of residency. You can learn more about Randy Ribay, his YA novel, and the awarding of the 2022 Spalding Prize in my earlier post.
I’m very much looking forward to sharing my cross-genre plenary lecture “Boom! Thwack! A Crash Course in Contemporary Picture Book Writing.” I know from experience that a lot of people believe writing a picture book is easy, but that just isn’t so. As I’ll be asking all residency students to write a picture book text as their cross-genre assignment, I want to explore the literary devices used by prize-winning picture book authors, beginning with the seminal night-night book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I think students will be surprised by the variety of sophisticated literary devices used by picture book authors, and after completing the assignment, students will be able to take that knowledge back to the other genres they work in.
I also look forward to presenting my talk “Once Upon This Time: The Enduring Influence of the Grimms.” Though the Grimms are in many ways responsible for beginning what we now know as children’s literature, that’s not at all what they set out to do when first collecting German folktales. Nonetheless, their influence continues in nurseries and grade school classrooms and in pop culture across the world.
As our interrelatedness-of-the-arts event, we have scheduled a private performance by the world-famous Louisville Leopard Percussionists. If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing the Leopards, you’re in for a joyous treat. In 1993, Diane Downs, a teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in Louisville, opened a forgotten closet to find instruments she thought her students might enjoy playing. Today, The Louisville Leopard Percussionists is an ensemble of grade-school kids from Louisville-area schools who have been featured on HBO and national television. They have played as warm-up acts for Sheila E and Ozzy Osbourne. Check out this 2015 feature from NPR that discusses how Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin boosted millions of Youtube views for a video of a Leopards performance.
As always, workshop is the backbone of residency, and we’re pleased that this fall, one of the poetry workshops will be facilitated by Naslund-Mann friend and guest Mitchell L. H. Douglas. Douglas is the author of a number of poetry collections, including \blak\ \al-fə bet\, winner of the Persea Books Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award, and Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem, an NAACP Image Award and Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominee. His poetry has appeared in Callaloo, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (University of Georgia Press), and Ninth Letter, among others. He is a cofounder of the Affrilachian Poets, a Cave Canem graduate, and Associate Professor of English at IUPUI.
Other fall workshop leaders include Lee Martin and John Pipkin, both in fiction; Lynnell Edwards in poetry; Jason Kyle Howard in creative nonfiction; Leah Henderson in writing for children and young adults; Kira Obolensky in playwriting; and Sam Zalutsky in screenwriting.
Other faculty members will be dropping into residency to present lectures, including Bruce Romans and Larry Brenner, both in screenwriting; Kenny Cook in fiction; and Dianne Aprile and Erin Keane in creative nonfiction.
We’re also pleased to welcome a number of guests to fall residency: George Ella Lyon, picture book author; Shawn Pryor, an author of many graphic novels, including a number for middle-grade readers; Kristen Renee Miller, poet, translator, and incoming Editor in Chief at Sarabande Books; Michelle Tyrene Johnson, playwright; and Sergio-Andreo Bettencourt Urbina, playwright.
We celebrate Marjetta Geerling, who will present our inaugural Distinguished MFA Alumni Lecture. Marjetta’s lecture “The Eye of I: First-Person Narration in Young Adult Literature.” We are grateful to the Snowy Owl Foundation for their generous gift, which will help support the 2022-2023 Distinguished MFA Alumni Lecture Series.
Last July, in our closing faculty meeting in Paris, Leah Henderson suggested that we present a panel of faculty to answer random questions our graduate writing students might have. I thought this was a wonderful idea, and this fall we’ve scheduled the panel “Ask Us Anything” with faculty members representing each genre we teach. Be thinking of questions—really, anything at all—that you may want to ask faculty in your area of concentration but also other areas.
At the end of the week, we’ll welcome alums participating in SpaldingCon, our annual conference for Spalding alumni. Faculty members present workshops both in person and virtually.
As we have in the recent past, we require students, faculty, and alumni to be fully vaccinated before attending residency. Find more information about those requirements in the Thursday Memo. We are currently encouraging all residency participants to wear masks, and all students, alumni, and faculty should be prepared to mask at residency if Covid infection rates climb and university masking requirements change in order to create a safe learning space for all at residency.
I do look forward to welcoming you all home to Spalding soon.
Kathleen Driskell is chair of the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University. She’s the author of five 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 newest collection, The Vine Temple, a chapbook in the Cox Family Series at Carnegie Mellon University Press, is due out in February 2024. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in many magazines including The New Yorker, Rattle,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.