Alum’s new collection of fiction published

Richard Spilman (’68) writes that his new collection of short stories, The Estate Sale, is now out from Texas Review Press / Texas A&M Consortium and available through

The collection won The George Garrett Prize, and Spilman says he has “enough stories, already, for another book, but I will probably wait a little longer before sending that book around.”

Spilman, who teaches creative writing at Wichita State University, earned an M.A. from San Francisco State and a Ph.D. from SUNY-Binghamton after graduating from IWU. His first collection of stories, Hot Fudge, was a New York Times Notable Book in 1990, of which Joseph Heller wrote, “An outstanding talent of remarkable versatility . . . Richard Spilman writes with telling imagination about men and women, about the young and the elderly, about people who know and people who do not. In Hot Fudge he has given us a book that is humorous, ironic, and perceptive, a work of honesty and integrity that is always deeply moving.”

Tongue & Ink featured writers announced

Tributaries’ annual undergraduate writing conference, Tongue & Ink 2011, will be held on February 25-26, with fiction writer Laura van den Berg and poet/creative writing program expert Seth Abramson announced as the featured writers.

Laura van den Berg’s first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books, 2009) was a selection for the Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” program. Her fiction has appeared in The Pushcart Prize XXIV and Best American Non-required Reading 2008. Van den Berg is currently Tickner Fellow in Creative Writing at the Gilman School and a fiction editor at West Branch.

Seth Abramson is the author of The Suburban Ecstasies (Ghost Road Press, 2009) and a contributing writer for The Creative Writing MFA Handbook. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2008, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Poets & Writers, and New American Writing. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Abramson received the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize from Poetry magazine and is currently a doctoral student in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The full conference schedule will be announced as details become available.

Alumni update: Valerie Higgins

What can you do with an English major? Well, Valerie Higgins (’08) applied for and got a full-time position as Assistant Archivist at the Ryerson and Burnham Archives of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she says she spends most of her time processing collections and creating finding aids.

“Processing collections entails organizing the materials and physically preparing them for access by researchers,” Valerie writes. “The Ryerson and Burnham Archives collect the papers of artists and architects whose work complements the permanent collections in the Art Institute’s curatorial departments, so I get to work with a wide variety of collections.

“So far, I have processed the papers of a weaver who wrote several significant books in her field and whose work is featured in the museum. I am currently processing the files of a landscape architect who designed landscapes for many buildings in the Chicago area and the papers of an author who wrote several books on Frank Lloyd Wright,” Valerie writes.

“Once I’ve processed a collection, I write a finding aid which contains a brief biographical sketch of the creation of the collection, a description of the scope and content of the materials, and an outline of the materials in the collection. As an archivist, I must constantly determine the significance of groups of materials within the context of the collection based on my analysis of its parts. I feel that I frequently draw on the analytical skills I developed as an English major,” she writes, adding, “My research and writing skills have also assisted me in creating finding aids. I’ve really enjoyed my work so far, and I feel so lucky to get to spend every day at the Art Institute.”

Students and faculty invited to pre-speaker event

In anticipation of Linda Gregerson’s reading on Thursday, Jan. 20, at 4:00 p.m. in the Merwin Gallery, Sigma Tau Delta invites students and faculty to an informal discussion of Gregerson’s poetry in the Beutner Seminar Room, English House basement, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, from 4-5 p.m. Gregerson will not attend the discussion.

Unlike the reading, which is free and open to the public, this event is only open to IWU students and faculty. Those wishing to attend should email Professor Joanne Diaz ( so that she can make enough photocopies of Gregerson’s poems to go around.

Want to be on Tributaries staff next year? Attend tonight’s meeting!

Students who have an interest in serving on the Tributaries editorial board for next year should head over to the Tributaries office in Memorial Center tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 8:00 p.m. To get to the office, go up the staircase toward Main Lounge and then go up a second flight of stairs. The Cartwright Room is on one end of the floor, and The Argus office is at the other. The Tributaries office is on the left, just before you get to The Argus office.

Distinguished poet Gregerson to visit on Jan. 20

Linda Gregerson, a 2007 National Book Award finalist and a recent Guggenheim Fellow, will give a reading  at Illinois Wesleyan on Thursday, Jan. 20, at 4 p.m. in the Merwin Gallery. The reading is free and open to the public.

Gregerson is the Caroline Walker Bynum Distinguished University Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, where she teaches creative writing and Renaissance literature.

“Gregerson’s rich aesthetic allows her best poems to resonate metaphysically,” The New Yorker wrote. Poems of hers have appeared in The Best American Poetry as well as in Poetry, Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. Among her many honors are an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, three Pushcart Prizes, and a Kingsley Tufts Award.

In her new volume, Magnetic North, Gregerson makes clearer than ever her passionate premise that the metaphysical only and always derives from our profound embeddedness in physical reality. Read “Spring Snow” from Magnetic North; “Waterborne” from Waterborne (2002); “Target” from The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep (1996); “Maudlin; Or, The Magdalen’s Tears” from Fire in the Conservatory (1982).

Write an essay on “Does Poetry Matter?” and have a shot at a medal

America’s premier amateur philosophy contest, The Great American Think-Off, awards gold, silver, and bronze medals to the eventual winners plus money for expenses if chosen for the finals. This year’s great debate question is “Does Poetry Matter?”

We all know what Professors Theune and Diaz think, but what about the rest of you? Participants should check out the details at The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center’s Great American Think-Off website. The deadline for an essay of 750 words or less is April 1, 2001 (postmarked by, or emailed by)—no fooling. There’s no entry fee.

Tributaries release party/reading slated for Jan. 13

Tributaries, IWU’s student-run literary magazine, will celebrate the release of their most recent issue on Thursday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m. in the Davidson Room of Memorial Center. There will be a sign-up sheet at the door for contributors to read some of their published work.  The event is open to the public, with English majors and minors especially encouraged to attend.

Volume 11, edited by Hannah Kiefer and Casimir Frankiewicz, features 41 contributors, including Brianna Kratz, Bryn Saunders, Jacqui Zeng, Laila Andoni, Kristin Fields, Courtney Keenan, and Natalie Lalagos. The issue also features artwork, some of it in full color.

Bray featured in Illinois Wesleyan University Magazine

Professor Robert Bray was featured in the Winter 2010-11 issue of Illinois Wesleyan University Magazine in a story that is also available, sans pictures, in an online version.

“The Literary Lincoln: Discovering what Abraham Lincoln read offers important clues about who he was, according to a new book by English professor Robert Bray,” by Rachel Hatch and Tim Obermiller, deftly summarizes Bob’s most recent book, Reading with Lincoln, which is available at the IWU Bookstore and online at The book, which explores the relationship between Lincoln’s reading and his speeches, writings, and political policies, is this year’s selection for the Sigma Tau Delta Book Club.