Visiting Writers Series
For 30 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. During their time at Butler University, 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. Towards this end, 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.
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.
For accessibility information or to request disability-related accommodations, please visit www.butler.edu/event-accommodations/.
All Visiting Writers Series events take place in Shelton Auditorium, located at 1000 West 42nd Street on Butler University's South Campus. Free on-site surface parking is available in the lots off Haughey Street and West 42nd Street.
All events are free and open to the public without tickets.
We will continue to closely monitor the ongoing impact of COVID-19. Please continue to check back here or on our Facebook page for specific event information.
Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the Spring 2021 VWS has been cancelled.
Fall 2020 VWS
Poet & Memoirist/National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
Rachel Zucker's poetry is known for its blunt, witty, and complicated takes on marriage, motherhood, familial relationships, and daily challenges. Dan Chiasson writes, “Zucker's name-naming, carping, merciless, and gloriously human body of work thus far suggests that any full account of being an individual has to register how specimen-like and interchangeable our lives often seem.”
Zucker is the author of ten books, including most recently, SoundMachine (2019) and a double collection of poetry and prose The Pedestrians (2014). Her other poetry collections include Eating in the Underworld (2003), The Last Clear Narrative (2004), and The Bad Wife Handbook (2007). Zucker’s fourth collection Museum of Accidents (2009) was named one of the best books of poetry in 2009 by Publishers Weekly and was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Zucker co-edited (with poet Arielle Greenberg) the anthologies Starting Today: 100 Poems for Obama’s First 100 Days (2010) and Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections (2010). After attending a friend’s home birth in 2004, Zucker became interested in the politics and practices of birth and earned certification as a labor doula. She then completed a two-year program to become a childbirth educator, and is the is co-author (also with Arielle Greenberg) of Home/birth: a poemic (2011), a nonfiction book about birth, friendship, and feminism. Her memoir, MOTHERs (2014) details the story of her relationship with her own mother and analyzes the role female poets who inspired and mentored her have played as supplementary maternal forces.
A graduate of Yale and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Zucker has received numerous honors, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell Colony, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Zucker has also won the Salt Hill Poetry Award, the Barrow Street Poetry Prize, the Center for Book Arts Award, and Prairie Schooner’s Strousse Award. Zucker teaches graduate and undergraduate poetry classes at New York University’s Creative Writing Program and is the founder and host of the podcast Commonplace: Conversations with Poets (and Other People). She lives in New York with her husband and three sons.
G. Willow Wilson
Hugo and American Book Award-winning graphic novelist and journalist
G. Willow Wilson is an American comics writer, prose author, essayist, and journalist. Her first graphic novel Cairo, with art by M.K. Perker, was named one of the best graphic novels of 2007 by Publishers Weekly, The Edmonton Journal/CanWest New, and Comics Worth Reading. The paperback edition of Cairo was named one of Best Graphic Novels for High School Students in 2008 by School Library Journal and one of 2009's Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens by the American Library Association.
Wilson, who first encountered comics when she read an anti-smoking pamphlet featuring the X-Men in the fifth grade, is also well known as the co-creator of the Hugo and American Book Award-winning relaunch of the Ms. Marvel title (2013-2018) for Marvel Comics starring a 16-year-old Muslim superhero named Kamala Khan who takes up the mantle after the previous Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, becomes Captain Marvel. In addition, Wilson has written for some of the world’s best-known superhero comic book series, including The X-Men, Superman, and Wonder Woman. In 2015, she won the Graphic Literature Innovator Prize at the PEN America Literary Awards.
In 2010 Wilson released a memoir titled The Butterfly Mosque about life in Egypt during the Mubarak regime, which was named Seattle Times Best Book that year. Her debut novel, Alif the Unseen (2012), was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. The following year it won the (2013) World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, was a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and was long-listed for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Wilson’s most recent novel, The Bird King (2019), is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. It tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. Neil Gaiman (Good Omens, American Gods) praised her saying, “G. Willow Wilson has a deft hand with myth and with magic, and the kind of smart, honest writing mind that knits together and bridges cultures and people. You should read what she writes.” Wilson’s work has been translated into over a dozen languages. She lives in Seattle.
Jo Ann Beard
Whiting Award Winner for Nonfiction
Jo Ann Beard is the author of the groundbreaking collection of autobiographical essays, The Boys of My Youth (1999), and the acclaimed novel, In Zanesville (2011). With The Boys of My Youth — described by Harper’s Bazaar as, “A luminous, funny, heartbreaking book of essays about life and its defining moments” — Beard established herself as one of the leading writers of her generation. Cousins, mothers, sisters, dolls, dogs, best friends: these are the fixed points in Jo Ann Beard's universe, the constants that remain when the boys of her youth — and then men who replace them — are gone. This widely praised collection of autobiographical essays summons back, with astonishing grace and power, moments of childhood epiphany as well as the cataclysms of adult life: betrayal, divorce, death.
Regarding her debut novel, In Zanesville, the New York Times praised it saying, “Beard has a knack for melding the funny and the sad, amplifying small moments into something big" and the Chicago Tribune called it "fierce, funny, brave, and bracingly honest.” Told from the perspective of its nameless fourteen-year-old protagonist, the reader follows her and her best friend, Felicia, on their coming-of-age journey set in 1970s Zanesville, Ohio. With dry wit and piercing observation, Beard shows us that the seemingly mundane streets of America’s countless Zanesvilles actually contain a world of wonders and that the inner lives of the awkward and overlooked inhabitants of such towns often burn with something radiant and unforgettable.
Beard’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Best American Essays, and numerous other magazines and anthologies. She was the 1997 winner of the Whiting Foundation Award for nonfiction and has received nonfiction fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.
Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize Winner/National Book Award Finalist
Award-winning poet Ilya Kaminsky was selected by the BBC as “one of the 12 artists who changed the world in 2019.” Author of three award-winning books of poetry, including the highly-praised Deaf Republic, his work appears in such publications as The New Yorker, New Republic, McSweeney’s, and the New York Times. Kaminsky’s poems are also regularly included in Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies.
Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa. He lost most of his hearing at the age of four after a doctor misdiagnosed mumps as a cold. In 1993, fleeing anti-Semitism, his family was granted political asylum in the United States. After his father’s death in 1994, Kaminsky began to write poems in English. He explained in an interview with the Adirondack Review, “I chose English because no one in my family or friends knew it—no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.”
Kaminsky went on to earn a BA in political science at Georgetown University and a JD at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. In the late 1990s, Kaminsky co-founded Poets For Peace, an organization that sponsors poetry readings across the globe to support relief work. He has also worked as a law clerk at the National Immigration Law Center and at Bay Area Legal Aid, helping the poor and homeless to overcome their legal difficulties.
With language at once ecstatic, plain, and infused with fairy tale, Kaminsky’s poems span ages and voices to summon the stuff of life: love, grief, joy, and laughter. Critic Garth Greenwell praised him saying, “Ilya Kaminsky’s lines buzz with a kind of electric freshness; reading them is like laying your hand on the live wire of poetry. He’s the most brilliant poet of his generation, one of the world’s few geniuses.”
Kaminsky’s 2004 collection Dancing in Odessa won Best Poetry Book of the Year by ForeWord Magazine, the Whiting Writer’s Award, the Dorset Prize, Poetry magazine’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award. His most recent collection, the widely acclaimed Deaf Republic (2019) –– which Kevin Young in The New Yorker called, “a work of profound imagination” –– was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award. It was also a finalist for the Forward Prize (UK), the T.S. Eliot Prize (UK), the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Deaf Republic was a New York Times’ Notable Book for 2019 and was also named Best Book of 2019 by Washington Post, Time's Literary Supplement, The Telegraph, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian, Irish Times, Vanity Fair, Lithub, Library Journal, New Statesman, and other publications.
Kaminsky’s other honors include the Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, the NEA Fellowship, the Milton Center’s Award for Excellence in Writing, the Florence Kahn Memorial Award, Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize, Philips Exeter Academy’s George Bennett Fellowship, and a 2019 Academy of American Poets fellowship.
Recently, Kaminsky was on the short-list for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. His poems have been translated into over twenty languages, and his books have been published in many countries including Turkey, Holland, Russia, France, Mexico, Macedonia, Romania, Spain, and China, where his poetry was awarded the Yinchuan International Poetry Prize. He teaches at the MFA program at San Diego State University and lives in San Diego.
Whiting Award & Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize Winner
Novelist and essayist Alexander Chee was born in Rhode Island and raised in South Korea, Guam, and Maine. His debut novel, Edinburgh (2001), was hailed by the Washington Post Book World as "A coming-of-age novel in the grand Romantic tradition, where passions run high, Cupid stalks Psyche, and love shares the dance floor with death . . . A lovely, nuanced, never predictable portrait of a creative soul in the throes of becoming."
Edinburgh tells the story of twelve-year-old Fee, a shy Korean-American boy growing up in Maine whose powerful soprano voice wins him a place as section leader in his local boys’ choir. While on a retreat, Fee learns that the director sexually abuses the boys he makes section leader, and he is so ashamed he says nothing, not even when Peter, Fee’s best friend, is in line to be next. The director is eventually arrested, and Fee tries to forgive himself for his silence, but when Peter takes his own life, Fee blames only himself. Edinburgh is a winner of the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, the Asian American Writers Workshop Literature Award, the Michener, and was a finalist for the 2003 Ferro-Grumley Prize, and was selected by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews as a Notable Debut of 2001.
His best-selling second novel The Queen of the Night (2016) follows one woman’s rise from pioneer girl to circus rider to courtesan to world-renowned diva in 19th-century Paris.
According to novelist, Hanya Yanagihara (A Little Life, People in the Trees) “One doesn’t so much read Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night as one is bewitched by it. Beneath its epic sweep, gorgeous language, and haunting details is the most elemental, and eternal, of narratives: that of the necessities and perils of self-reinvention, and the sorrow and giddiness of aspiring to a life of artistic transcendence.” The Queen of the Night was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, an Indie Next Pick, and a Best Book of the Year from NPR, Boston Globe, Buzzfeed, Esquire, San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out, Self, Jezebel, The Portland Mercury, Electric Literature, and Entropy Magazine.
Chee’s first essay collection, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (2018) was hailed by the Chicago Review of Books as “An absolute gift of a book for writers everywhere. Every single essay is a pearl.” In these essays, Chee explores his education as a man, writer, and activist—and how we form our identities in life and in art. The collection won the Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction and the Lambda Literary Trustees’ Award, and it was a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir/Biography. It was also named a Best Book by New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, Time, the Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, The Chicago Review of Books, Library Journal, Wired, Esquire, The Paris Review, Mother Jones, Christian Science Monitor, Out magazine, the Washington Independent Review of Books, the New York Public Library, the Chicago Public Library, and NPR, among others.
Chee’s other honors include the 2003 Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in Fiction, a 2010 Massachusetts Cultural Council of the Arts Fellowship, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Civitella Ranieri, the Hermitage, and Ledig House. In 2003, Out magazine honored him as one of their 100 Most Influential People of the Year.
He is a contributing editor at The New Republic, an editor at large at The Virginia Quarterly Review, and a critic at large at The Los Angeles Times. His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Slate, Departures, The Awl, NPR, and others.
Chee is currently an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. He serves on the board of directors of the Authors' Guild of America and splits his time among an apartment in New York City, a house in the Catskills, and an apartment in Bradford, Vermont.