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Visiting Writers Series

Now in its 30th anniversary year, the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series regularly hosts 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, 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 which features the work of authors in the Visiting Writers Series. Students taking this class are invited to join English faculty in a private dinner given for each writer when they visit the 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.

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

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

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Fall 2019 Schedule

The Wife author Meg Wolitzer, poet/essayist/artist Terrance Hayes, and bestselling essayist Susan Orlean are among the headliners for Butler University's Fall 2019 Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series.

The fall series begins September 9 with best selling novelist Madeline Miller. She will be followed by prize winning poet sam sax (October 3), Wolitzer (October 24), Hayes (November 11), and Orlean (November 21). 

We are pleased to announce that all Visiting Writers Series events will now take place in Shelton Auditorium, located at 1000 W. 42nd St. on Butler University's South Campus. Described as, "One of the most unique and beautiful auditoriums in Indianapolis," Shelton Auditorium features incredible acoustics, ample stadium seating and plenty of free on-site surface parking in the lot off W. 42nd St. 

Driving directions from your location to Shelton Auditorium.

Map of South Campus with Shelton Auditorium and Parking Lot

All events are free and open to the public without tickets. 

For more information, call 317-940-9861

More about each author follows.


Madeline MillerMadeline Miller

Monday, September 9, 7:30 PM
Shelton Auditorium

Madeline Miller’s second novel, Circe (2018), a feminist response to the Odyssey, was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. Her first novel, The Song of Achilles (2011), which hypothesized a romance between Achilles and Patroclus in the Iiad, was also a New York Times bestseller and won the 2012 Stonewall Writer of the Year. Miller’s novels have been translated into over twenty-five languages, including Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic, and Greek. Like all classists, Miller believes that retelling stories gives them a way to live again, allowing their ancient wisdoms and equally ancient blind spots to be seen by new generations of readers. Her re-writings imbue age-old tests from Ovid to Homer to Virgil with contemporary relevance.

 For twenty years now, Miller has taught and tutored Latin, Greek, and Shakespeare to high school students. She earned her BA and MA in Classics from Brown University, and studied the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama.




sam saxsam sax
Thursday, October 3, 7:30 PM
Shelton Auditorium

sam sax’s poems continually remind the reader of the implications of living in a body; they speak of desire, sexuality and gender, eros and its manifold delights and dangers, grief, addiction, and the creative power and potential instability of the mind. The poems are formally various: alternately conversational and fragmented, built sometimes of short, radically broken lines, sometimes of prose paragraphs, and sometimes of imported forms such as stage directions for a dramatic script. The result is a kind of jitteriness: a constant moving about through the experience of being human, as if to exist at all is to be in constant motion, the mind and voice attempting to catch up with, and make sense of, the experience of the body. The poems often explore, in particular, queer identity and the history and culture of the Jewish people.

sam sax is the author of two collections of poetry: Madness (2017), winner of the National Poetry Series, and bury it (2018), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, and the MacDowell Colony, and—evidence of his engaging performance style—is a two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion. In 2018 he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and he is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.




Meg WolitzerMeg Wolitzer
Thursday, October 24, 7:30 PM
Shelton Auditorium

Meg Wolitzer is the product of the American suburbia, which she explores with nuance in the multilayered plots of her critically acclaimed novels The Female Persuasion (2018), The Interestings (2013), The Uncoupling (2011), The Ten-Year Nap (2008), The Position (2005), The Wife (2003), This is My Life (1988), and Sleepwalking (1982). She is also the author of The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman (2011), a novel about Scrabble for middle-grade readers, as well as the young adult novel Belzhar (2014). Her short fiction has been published in The Best American Short Stories

 Wolitzer’s substantial novels center on motherhood, sexuality, the life of the artist, and American gender politics through the decades. In her engaging lectures, she draws from the themes of her books, adding entertaining anecdotes and thoughtful insights into her craft and journey as a writer.

Wolitzer has taught creative writing at The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, the MFA program at Columbia University's School of the Arts, Barnard College, Boston University, and Skidmore College. In 2013 she was a guest artist in the Princeton Atelier program at Princeton University. Currently she is a faculty member of the MFA program at SUNY Stony Brook Southampton.  She lives in New York City with her family.




Terrance HayesTerrance Hayes: On the Legacy of Etheridge Knight

Monday, November 11, 7:30 PM

Shelton Auditorium

The National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes will present a special talk on the legacy of the Indianapolis poet Etheridge Knight (1931-1991). Knight dedicated himself to poetry while serving time in the Indiana State Prison in the 1960s, then became a key figure in the Black Arts Movement and a powerful influence, as writer, peer, and teacher, on an untold number of other poets. He spent his final years in Indianapolis and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

Terrance Hayes’ most recent book, a collection of creative nonfiction and visual art inspired by Knight, is To Float in the Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight, which was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award in Non-Fiction.

Over the past two decades, Hayes has emerged as one of contemporary poetry’s most compelling voices on the subjects of race, masculinity, and American culture. His poems are formally inventive, even playful, marked by a fierce wit and a willingness to abide within ambiguity and paradox, as he continually discovers new ways to interrogate what it means to exist in this society, in this place and time. Hayes’ most recent collection of poems, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018), comprises seventy unrhymed free verse sonnets haunted by our current difficult political moment as well as the long cultural history that precedes it. The book was a finalist for both the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Hayes is also the author of five other collections of poetry, including How to Be Drawn (2015), winner of the NAACP Image Award for Poetry; Lighthead (2010), winner of the National Book Award in Poetry; Wind in a Box (2006), finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award; Hip Logic (2002), winner of the National Poetry Series and finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award; and Muscular Music (1999), winner of both the Whiting Writers Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He has been a recipient of many other honors and awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation—what is commonly referred to as its “genius award.”

Hayes was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2017. He serves as Professor of English at New York University and resides in New York City.




Susan Orlean 
Thursday, November 21, 7:30 PM
Shelton Auditorium


New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean has been called “a national treasure” by The Washington Post. Her deeply moving explorations of American stories both familiar and obscure have earned her a reputation as one of America’s most distinctive journalistic voices. A staff writer for The New Yorker for over twenty years and a former contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Vogue, Orlean follows her curiosity into unexpected beats. In The Orchid Thief (1998)—the national bestseller that inspired the Academy Award-winning film Adaptation—Orlean delves into the life of John Laroche, a charismatic, scheming horticultural consultant obsessed with rare orchids, convicted of trying to steal these endangered plants from a state preserve in southern Florida. In Rin Tin Tin (2011), Orlean examines how the iconic and beloved German shepherd captured the world’s imagination and, nearly a century later, remains a fixture in American culture.

 Her latest work is the instant New York Times bestseller The Library Book, an exploration of the history, power, and future of these endangered institutions, told through the lens of Orlean’s quest to solve a notorious cold case: Who set fire to the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, ultimately destroying 400,000 books? The Library Book was named one of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018 and The Washington Post’s Best Books of 2018.

 In a career spanning more than three decades, Orlean has also written for OutsideEsquireThe Boston Globe, and more. She has served as an editor for Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing, and her journalism has been compiled into two collections: The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People (2001) and My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere (2004). Orlean is currently Rogers Communications Chair in Literary Journalism at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, Canada.




A quick look at Spring 2020:

Marie Howe -- Tuesday, January 21

Carmen Machado -- Wednesday, February 5

Kate Bornstein -- Tuesday, March 24

Ada Limon -- Thursday, April 2

Percival Everett -- Tuesday, April 14