Three departments team up for Creative Nonfiction Week

By CiaraShook

Pulitzer Prize finalist and local Chicago writer Luis Alberto Urrea will speak to students, faculty, staff and the public for Columbia’s ninth annual Creative Nonfiction Week.

Creative Nonfiction Week will have various activities and events that stress the importance and relevance of the broad literature genre  in a modern society.

Creative Nonfiction Week, Oct. 19 – 23, will feature lectures, conversations and readings by faculty members and students, as well as guests such as Urrea, Laurie Lindeen, Chris Rose and John D’Agata.

Sam Weller, assistant fiction writing professor and project coordinator of Creative Nonfiction Week, said the week is a unique collaboration among the English, Fiction Writing and

Journalism Departments.

“It’s a cool example of how three departments can team up to make an event better for all of our students, which at the end of the day is our goal here,” Weller said.

Weller joined forces with Jenny Boully of the English Department and Teresa Puente of the Journalism Department to organize the weeklong event.

Weller said that from his perspective in the Fiction Writing Department, Creative Nonfiction Week shows that the bedrock of creative nonfiction is storytelling and those techniques extend from the fiction writer, novelist and the short-story writer.

“As a professor in [fiction writing], I want to make those connections for my students,” Weller said.

Boully said creative nonfiction is becoming popular again because more interesting nonfiction books and essays are being published.

“It’s now becoming sexier and has been getting more attention,” Boully said. “I think that’s in large part to the more interesting nonfiction books and essays that are being published.”

Puente said a lot of writing forms fit in the creative nonfiction genre, such as the personal essay, travel writing, blogging and memoirs.

“There are so many different styles of writing and sometimes it’s hard to define them as just one,” Puente said. “[Creative Nonfiction Week] is a phenomenal opportunity for students to hear some of the best creative nonfiction writers in the country.”

Urrea, who will give a keynote speech the evening of Oct. 19, has published books about border and immigration issues including Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life and The Devil’s Highway: A True Story.

“At a time when immigration is such an important issue in this country, we thought that he would be a really good speaker to highlight this year,” Puente said.

The Journalism Department will bring in Chris Rose, a columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper. He is one of the leading voices on the American tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, Weller said.

The Fiction Writing Department welcomes memoirist Laurie Lindeen, who released Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story in 2007, which is about the Twin Cities’ alternative music scene of the 1980s.

John D’Agata, a writer who has recreated the essay in relationship to poetry, comes to Columbia for the English portion of Creative Nonfiction Week.

“He’s a leading voice in terms of the future of the American essay as it were,” Weller said. D’Agata will speak in the Ferguson Auditorium of the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Student and faculty writers will be giving readings for Creative Nonfiction Week. The student readings are Oct. 19 at 3:30 p.m. and include writers Nicole Faust, Sophia Ulmer, Kristen Fiore, Jon Gugala, Lisa Cisneros and Thomas Pardee. The faculty readings are Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m. and include writers Aviya Kushner, Lisa Schlesinger and Yolanda Joe.

A closing reception and readings from South Loop Review: Creative Nonfiction will be Oct. 23 at 3:30 p.m. in the Quincy Wong Center for Artistic Expression on the first floor of the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.

Most Creative Nonfiction events will be held in Film Row Cinema, located on the eighth floor of the Conaway Center at 1104 S. Wabash Ave., unless otherwise mentioned.