The University of Massachusetts Amherst
HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu

Visiting Writers Series

Visiting Writers Series Fall 2019

Celebrating its fifty-sixth year, the nationally renowned Visiting Writers Series at UMass Amherst presents emerging and established writers of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. The Series is sponsored by the MFA for Poets and Writers and the Juniper Initiative, and made possible by support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the University of Massachusetts Arts Council, and the English Department. Events are at 8 pm. Readings are wheel-chair accessible, free and open to the public.

(View Fall 2019 Series Poster)

September 26, 2019 at 8PM, Old Chapel: André Alexis & Mona Awad

Andre Alexis Author PhotoAndré Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His most recent novel, Fifteen Dogs, won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His other books include Pastoral (nominated for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize), Asylum, Beauty and Sadness, Ingrid & the Wolf, Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa and Lambton, Kent and Other Vistas: A Play.


Mona Awad Author PhotoMona Awad's debut novel, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl (Penguin), won the Amazon Best First Novel Award, the Colorado Book Award and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Arab American Book Award. It was also long-listed for the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour and the International Dublin Award. Her new novel, Bunny, was released June 11, 2019 with Viking Press, Penguin Canada, and Head of Zeus in the UK. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, TIME magazine, Electric Literature, VICE, The Walrus, LARB and elsewhere. She was an instructor in the Literary Arts department at Brown University and in the English Department at the University of Denver. She has also worked as a freelance journalist and a food columnist for the Montreal-based magazine, Maisonneuve. She earned an MFA in fiction from Brown University and an MScR in English from the University of Edinburgh where her dissertation was on fear in the fairy tale. She recently completed a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English literature at the University of Denver.


October 17, 2019 at 8PM, Old Chapel: Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie Author PhotoKamila Shamsie is the author of seven novels, which have been translated into over 20 languages. Her most recent novel, Home Fire, won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, was long listed for the Man Booker Prize, and shortlisted for eight other awards. Burnt Shadows was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in the US and the Premio Boccaccio in Italy. Three of her novels have won awards from Pakistan’s Academy of Letters. Her first novel, In the City by the Sea, was her MFA thesis at UMass Amherst (MFA'98). A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and one of Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’, she grew up in Karachi, and now lives in London.


November 14, 2019 at 8PM, Fine Arts Center Concert Hall: Ocean Vuong *

Ocean Vuong Author PhotoOcean Vuong is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 24 languages worldwide. A recipient of a 2019 MacArthur "Genius" Grant, he is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize.

Vuong's writings have been featured in The AtlanticHarpersThe NationNew RepublicThe New YorkerThe New York TimesThe Village Voice, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as a 2016 100 Leading Global Thinker, alongside Hillary Clinton, Ban Ki-Moon and Angela Merkel, Ocean was also named by BuzzFeed Books as one of “32 Essential Asian American Writers” and has been profiled on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PBS NewsHour, Teen VogueInterviewPoets & Writers, and The New Yorker.

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he serves as an Assistant Professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at Umass-Amherst. 

Please note venue change: This event will now be held at the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center Concert Hall

* This event is co-sponsored by the UMass Amherst Libraries.


CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER--December 5, 2019 at 8PM, Old Chapel: Mary Ruefle 

Mary Ruefle Author PhotoMary Ruefle is the author of many books, including Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016), Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has also published a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed! (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007), and is an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. Her most recent book, Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), was long listed for the National Book Award in poetry. She lives in Bennington, Vermont.


Visiting Writers Series Spring 2019:

(Reading Series Poster)

February 7th, 2019 at 8PM, Old Chapel: Jordy Rosenberg

Author Photo Jordy RosenbergJordy Rosenberg is the author of Confessions of the Fox, a New York Times Editor's Choice selection and longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. He is a professor of 18th-Century Literature, Gender and Sexuality Studies + Critical Theory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

February 21st, 2019 at 8PM, Old Chapel: Kevin Killian

Author Photo Kevin KillianKevin Killian, one of the original “New Narrative” writers, has written three novels, Shy (1989), Arctic Summer (1997), and Spreadeagle (2012), a book of memoirs, and three books of stories. He has also written four books of poetry, most recently Tony Greene Era, from Wonder Books. With Peter Gizzi he has edited My Vocabulary Did This To Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (2008)—for Wesleyan University Press. Wesleyan also brought out Killian and Lew Ellingham’s acclaimed biography of Spicer in 1998. For the San Francisco Poets Theater Killian has written forty-five plays, and the anthology he compiled with David Brazil—The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater 1945-1985—has become the standard book on the subject.  Recent projects include Tagged, Killian’s nude photographs of poets, artists, writers, filmmakers and intellectuals; and, with Dodie Bellamy, Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977-1997 (Nightboat Books).  Two new projects appear in November 2018: Fascination: Memoirs, from Semiotext(e)/MIT, including Triangles in the Sand, Killian’s memories of the musician Arthur Russell; and Stage Fright (from Kenning)—ten plays from the ad hoc performance group San Francisco Poets Theater.  He teaches writing to MFA students at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. (Print a poster)

April 12th, 2019 at 7PM, Old Chapel: Horacio Castellanos Moya

Author photo Horacio Castellanos MoyaHoracio Castellanos Moya is a writer and a journalist from El Salvador. He has published twelve novels, five short story collections, two essay books, and a diary. His novels have been translated into thirteen languages; six of them (Senselessness, The She-Devil in the mirror, Dance with Snakes, Tyrant memory, Revulsion and The Dream of My Return) are available in English. He was granted residencies in a program supported by the Frankfurt International Book Fair (2004-2006) and in the City of Asylum program in Pittsburgh (2006-2008). In 2009, he was guest researcher at the University of Tokyo with a fellowship granted by the Japan Foundation. The Government of Chile awarded him the Manuel Rojas Iberoamerican Prize for Fiction 2014, for his body of work. As a journalist, he was editor of news agencies, magazines and newspapers in Mexico, Guatemala and his own country for two decades. Currently he is associate professor in the Spanish Creative Writing MFA at the University of Iowa.

April 13th, 2019 at 7PM, Old Chapel: Danez Smith

Author photo Danez SmithDanez Smith is a Black, Queer, Poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award; they also wrote [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Danez's work has been featured widely, appearing on platforms such as Buzzfeed, The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, Best American Poetry, Poetry Magazine, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness. Danez’s third collection, “Homie”, will be published by Graywolf in Spring 2020. 


Visiting Writers Series Fall 2018

September 27, 2018 at Great Hall, Old Chapel, 144 Hicks Way: Christine Schutt

photo Christine SchuttChristine Schutt is the author of the novels Prosperous Friends; Florida, a National Book Award finalist; and All Souls, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  She is also the author of three collections of stories,  Nightwork and A Day, A Night, Another Day, Summer, and most recently, Pure Hollywood. Among other honors, Schutt has twice won the O. Henry Short Story Prize.  She is the recipient of the New York Foundation of the Arts and Guggenheim Fellowships.  Schutt lives and teaches in New York.

October 18, 2018 at Great Hall, Old Chapel, 144 Hicks Way: Hoa Nguyen

Born in the Mekong Delta and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Hoa Nguyen is the author of five books of poetry, including As Long As Trees Last and Red Juice: Poems 1998 - 2008. Her most recent book Violet Energy Ingots, also from Wave Books, received a 2017 Griffin Prize for Poetry nomination. She teaches creative writing and poetics for Ryerson University, Bard College, and Miami University as well as in a popular long-running, private workshop.   

October 25, 2018 at Memorial Hall, 134 Hicks Way: MFA Creative Writing Instructors

The MFA for Poets and Writers invites the UMass community to join us for a reading by poets and fiction writers pursuing their MFA who are instructors for undergraduate courses in creative writing (254, 354) and reading fiction (140). Readings will be followed by a panel discussion about the writing process and the many ways of being a writer, as well as information about the undergraduate Creative Writing Letter of Specialization within the English Major. Readers will include Joe Crescente, Amanda Dahill-Moore, Emmalie Dropkin, Zach Frank, Emily Hunerwadel, Taylor McGill, Alyx Raz, and Rabia Saeed. This event is free and open to the public.

November 8 at Memorial Hall, 134 Hicks Way: Martín Espada

Espada photo Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York. He has published almost twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poems from Norton is called Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016). Other books of poems include The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), Alabanza (2003), A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (2000), Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (1993) and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (1990). His many honors include the 2018 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, an American Book Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The title poem of his collection Alabanza, about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona, and has been issued in a new edition by Northwestern University Press. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. (photo: David González)

December 6, 2018 at Memorial Hall, 134 Hicks Way: Gina Apostol

Gina Apostol is the author of four novels. The latest, Insurrecto, about a road trip into the heart of Duterte's Philippines and the history of the relationship between the Philippines and the United States, is also anthologized as "The Unintended" in A Kind of Compass: Stories on Distance; Manila Noir; Go Home!; and Massachusetts Review. A work-in-progress, William McKinley's World, like Insurrecto, uses her research on the Balangiga massacre and the Philippine-American war to cast a lens on our contemporary times. Her third book, Gun Dealers' Daughter, won the 2013 PEN/Open Book Award and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize. Her first two novels, Bibliolepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, both won the Juan Laya Prize for the Novel (Philippine National Book Award). Her essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Foreign Policy, Gettysburg Review, and others. She lives in New York City and western Massachusetts and grew up in Tacloban, Philippines.