Writers series seeks to ‘broaden students’ horizons’

Brian Oliu & Tasha Coryell
COURTESY / GVSU Writing Department

Brian Oliu & Tasha Coryell COURTESY / GVSU Writing Department

Maisie Wiler, Staff Reporter

The Grand Valley Writers Series begins anew on Sept. 16. This year’s series will feature a diverse cast of authors from multiple genres.

The series will open with Brian Oliu and Tasha Coryell, followed by Stephen Mack Jones Nov. 5.  On Feb. 3, GVSU Professors Caitlin Horrocks and Beth Peterson will be participating. The series will come to a close in the spring, finishing off with José Olivarez on March 19 and Sarah Einstein on March 30.

Each event will consist of a “craft talk,” held in the mid-afternoon, and a reading and book signing, held in the evening. Craft talks will be presented by the visiting authors as short lessons on style, genre and publishing. The evening readings and book signings will be of a more casual nature and will offer students an opportunity to speak with the featured authors.

The Grand Valley Writers Series, now in its 19th year, began in 2001 when the university’s Writing Department was founded. Professor and author Amorak Huey, the coordinator of the series, calls the event something of a “national caliber that you might see in a graduate program,” and “a chance to celebrate the arts.”

The invitation of writers from across the country gives students access to a new set of voices, Huey said. Authors were chosen by GVSU’s Writing Department for their unique talents and perspectives, which Huey anticipates will “broaden students’ horizons” beyond what they learn in the classroom.

“These writers are people just like our students,” Huey said. “Inviting them demystifies the magic of writing, and the art becomes accessible to our students.”

The first of the visiting authors are spouses Brian Oliu and Tasha Coryell, who currently reside in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Their craft talk will take place at 3 p.m. Sept. 16, location to be affirmed; their readings and book signings will take place between 6-7:30 p.m. in the Mary Idema Pew Library multi-purpose room on the same day.

“I’m really excited,” said Coryell, who recently published a short-story collection entitled “Hungry People.” “I just had my first book come out last year and I haven’t traveled to any schools to do readings yet, so I’m really excited to talk about it.”

Coryell met Huey through Twitter. Although a rivalry exists between the two — Huey is an Auburn fan, whereas Coryell teaches at Alabama — Coryell said that Huey was kind enough to ask that she and her husband be part of the 2019-20 Writers Series.

Oliu, Coryell’s husband and self-proclaimed donut enthusiast, anticipates the opportunity to speak with students about “writing what they love.” He advises young writers not to shy away from the objects of their obsessions; Oliu, after all, writes frequently about donuts, video games and pop culture.

“I think about writing as a collaboration with the things I love, and hey, there’s always something to be said about video games and donuts,” Oliu said.

Student writers of all calibers are invited to participate in the Series. Coryell and Oliu hope to meet writers interested in the art to any degree.