Delbrook Visiting Writers Series

Butler University | Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series

For more than 35 years, the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series has regularly hosted public readings and Q&A sessions with some of the most influential people in contemporary literature. Visiting authors such as Toni Morrison, Billy Collins, Kurt Vonnegut, Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Atwood, Allen Ginsberg, Sharon Olds, Amy Tan, and Colson Whitehead not only share their work with the Indianapolis community but also interact directly with undergraduate and graduate students in Butler’s English classes and MFA program.

Butler offers a 300-level English course that features the work of authors in the Visiting Writers Series. Students taking this class are invited to join English faculty in a private dinner with each writer when they visit campus, and have the opportunity to formally introduce the writers at their public readings.

The Visiting Writers Program is coordinated by the Department of English and offers 10–12 events each year, all of which are free and open to Butler students, faculty, and staff as well as the Indianapolis community, making the Butler University Visiting Writers Series one of the largest and most comprehensive in the country.

Spring 2024 Speakers

National Book Award Finalist and

Guggenheim Fellow

January 31, 2024 – 7:30 PM

Schrott Center for the Arts

Brandon Hobson is the author of four adult novels, including his latest work The Removed about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago. Where the Dead Sit Talking, was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award, winner of the Reading the West Award, and longlisted for the Dublin International Literary Award. Set in rural Oklahoma during the late 1980’s, it is a startling, authentically voiced and lyrically written Native American coming-of-age story. In 2023, Hobson published his first children’s book, The Storyteller, a middle-grade adventure about a Cherokee boy dealing with anxiety while experiencing Cherokee history and lore.

Hobson has won a Pushcart Prize, and his fiction has appeared in such places as McSweeney’s, Conjunctions, American Short Fiction, NOON, and elsewhere. In 2022, Brandon was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Brandon Hobson is an assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University, and he also teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. He is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation Tribe of Oklahoma and lives with his family in New Mexico.

Reese’s Book Club YA Pick and

Best-Selling Indianapolis Author

February 15, 2024 – 7:30 PM

Shelton Auditorium

Leah Johnson always wanted to be a superhero, but she became a writer instead, which she thinks is the next-best thing. Her best-selling debut novel, You Should See Me in a Crown, was a Stonewall Honor Book, the inaugural Reese’s Book Club YA Pick, and named one of Time’s 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time. Leah lives in Indianapolis, where she writes books about Black girls with big hearts, plays fetch with the best dog in the world, and talks about Miles Morales to anyone who will listen. Ellie Engle Saves Herself is her middle grade debut. You can find Leah at Loudmouth Books, her Indianapolis-based independent bookstore, online at, or on Instagram @ByLeahJohnson.

National Book Award Winning Journalist

February 29, 2024 – 7:30 PM

Schrott Center for the Arts

One of our most trenchant observers of democracy, Masha Gessen is the author of 11 books, including the National Book Award-winning The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia and The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. A staff writer at The New Yorker, they have covered political subjects including Russia, L.G.B.T. rights, Vladamir Putin, Donald Trump, and the rise of autocracy, among others.

Gessen’s latest book, Surviving Autocracy, is a bracing overview of the calamitous trajectory of American democracy under the Trump Administration. The book garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. Gessen’s understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled and fully evident in the National Book Award-winning The Future Is History. The Washington Post described it as “ambitious, timely, insightful and unsparing.” The book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was awarded the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism and the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction. The Man Without a Face, a New York Times bestseller, is a chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to his own people and to the world. As a journalist living in Moscow, Gessen has experienced this history firsthand, prompting The Wall Street Journal to praise, “In a country where journalists critical of the government have a way of meeting untimely deaths, Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most popular man in Russia.”

Masha Gessen has contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, and Slate, among other publications. Gessen served as a trustee and vice president of PEN America and was the advisor to and inspiration for PEN America’s Russian Independent Media Archive, a digital archive focused on preserving the last two decades of independent Russian journalism. Gessen is a staff writer at The New Yorker. They have taught at Amherst, Oberlin, and Bard Colleges and in Fall 2023 joined the faculty at Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY as their first Distinguished Professor. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship, the Hitchens Prize, and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary, Gessen has lived in New York since 2013 after more than 20 years as a journalist and editor in Moscow.

Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize Winner and Essayist

March 21, 2024 – 7:30 PM

Shelton Auditorium

Tiana Clark is the author of the poetry collection, I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood, winner of the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and Equilibrium, selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Clark is a winner for the 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award (Claremont Graduate University), a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, and the 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. She is a recipient of the 2021-2022 Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship and 2019 Pushcart Prize. Clark is the 2017-2018 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. She is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.

Clark is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (M.F.A) and Tennessee State University (B.A.) where she studied Africana and Women’s studies. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House Online, Kenyon Review, BuzzFeed News, American Poetry Review, Oxford American, The Best American Poetry 2022, and elsewhere. She teaches at the Sewanee School of Letters. She is the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College.

Clark is currently working on her next two books, Begging to be Saved, a memoir-in-essays reckoning with Black burnout, millennial divorce, faith, art making, and what lies on the other side of survival; and Scorched Earth, a poetry collection, tracing the complexities of relationship beginnings and endings, loneliness, desire, and joy, which sold to Jenny Xu at Atria.

National Poetry Series Winner

April 17, 2024 – 7:30 PM

Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Michael Torres was born and raised in Pomona, California where he spent his adolescence as a graffiti artist. In 2016 he received his MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, was a winner of the Loft Mentor Series, received an Individual Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, and was awarded a Jerome Foundation Research and Travel Grant to visit the pueblo in Jalisco, Mexico where his father grew up. In 2019 he received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and The Loft Literary Center for the Mirrors & Windows Program. A former Artist-in-Residence at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France as well as a McKnight Writing Fellow, he is currently a 2021-22 Jerome Hill Artist Fellow.

His first collection of poems, An Incomplete List of Names, was selected by Raquel Salas Rivera for the National Poetry Series, named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020, and was featured on the podcast Code Switch.

His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2020, The New Yorker, POETRY, Ploughshares, Smartish Pace, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Georgia Review, The Sun, and many other publications.

The Visiting Writers Series appreciates the generous support of the Vivian S. Delbrook Fund and the NEH Ayres Fund.

To make special arrangements for school groups, book clubs, and community organizations, call 317-940-9861.

All Visiting Writers Series events take place in Shelton Auditorium or Schrott Center for the Arts, both of which are located on Butler University’s campus. Shelton Auditorium is located at 1000 West 42nd St. on Butler University’s South Campus. This location offers free on-site surface parking in the lots off Haughey Street and West 42nd Street.