The spring 2012 Readers’ Series will feature the acclaimed authors Jonathan Franzen — a National Book Award recipient who has graced the cover of TIME magazine — and C.K. Williams, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.
The Binghamton Center for Writers (BCW), established six years ago, hosts the Readers’ Series in collaboration with the creative writing program at Binghamton University.
Christine Gelineau, associate director of the creative writing department, said the BCW Readers’ Series is sponsored by the BU English department.
“Each spring semester the series brings to campus contemporary writers whose creative work we believe will be of interest to anyone who enjoys fiction and/or poetry,” Gelineau wrote in an email.
Maria Gillan, a professor of English, general literature and rhetoric, said the speakers are chosen using two criteria. Two are recipients of Binghamton University’s two book awards, the John Gardner Fiction Award and the Milt Kessler Poetry Award. The other readers are suggested by the creative writing faculty.
Authors of books of poetry and fiction may submit their works to the creative writing department to be considered for the awards, according to the department’s website. Two members from the department serve as judges, one for each award, and select the work that they feel represents the strongest works of poetry and fiction of the year. The winners of the awards receive $1,000 each.
This year’s Readers’ Series consists of six readers across five presentations. Jonathan Franzen and C.K. Williams are the 2011 recipients of the John Gardner Fiction Award and the Milt Kessler Poetry Award, respectively. Novelist Minrose Gwin, graphic novelist Katherine Arnoldi, poet Marilyn Nelson and publishers Vivian Shipley and Jim Reese have also been selected to present for the series.
“There are a number of factors to consider in setting up the readings,” Gillan said. “Once we find who the judges have chosen as the winners of the [Book Awards], we choose additional readers based on diversity of gender and ethnicity, and also based on getting writers who are willing to come to Binghamton to read.”
Gelineau said she believes the Readers’ Series would appeal to all students because they choose authors with wide appeal who write on a broad range of topics.
Jonathan Franzen, the recipient of the John Gardner Fiction Award for his novel “Freedom,” will read at 6:15 p.m. on March 7 in the Mandela Room. Franzen is a National Book Award winner, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a New York Times’ bestselling author. His other works include novels the “Twenty-Seventh City” (1988), “Strong Motion” (1992) and “The Corrections” (2001) as well as a collection of essays and a memoir.
“Students should be aware that Jonathan Franzen is a major American writer and this is an opportunity to hear him read and discuss his work that they will remember in the years to come,” Gillan said.
C.K. Williams, the recipient of the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award for his collection “Wait,” will be reading at 8 p.m. on March 20 in Science II room 149. Williams is a Pulitzer Prize winner, a National Book Award winner and author of 13 collections of poetry.
Gillan said she was able to book Williams for the BCW Readers’ Series because she knows him personally.
“He also felt very happy about getting the BU Milt Kessler Award because he thought it brought attention to this book and he was anxious to do that,” Gillan said. “He had a nonfiction book out the same year and that got lots of attention, and he felt it drew attention away from this book of poems.”
In the past, the Readers’ Series has featured authors such as Ted Kooser in 2005, the same year he won the Pulitzer Prize and was also named Poet Laureate of the United States, Maxine Kumin, Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1981-82 and Mark Doty, National Book Award winner for poetry in 2008.
Gillan recommended that students get their books signed by the authors and ask questions because it is a great opportunity to have a one-on-one discussion with them.
The Readers’ Series opens at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in Science I room 149 with a reading by Minrose Gwin, author of the novel “The Queen of Palmyra.” All events are free and open to the public.