GV Writers Series began with fiction readings from Deesha Philyaw


GVL / Lauren Seymour

Ayron Rutan, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University Writers Series began Friday with a fiction reading from award-winning author Deesha Philyaw. 

A Q&A was also held following the reading as an opportunity for attendees to inquire about Philyaw’s work. 

The GVSU Writers Series showcases the works and talents of a dynamic and diverse range of writers. The series has had a long history of bringing distinguished and emerging writers to campus to read their work, visit classes, and interact with students across the GVSU community. 

Philyaw is an American author, columnist, and public speaker. Her work mainly focuses on the topics of race, sex, gender, and pop culture. 

Philyaw was extremely excited about the Writers Series’ offer to do the reading. She credited her enthusiasm to her wanting to connect with young people in a way that makes them think, and hopefully inspire them to write as well. 

I accepted right away because talking with, and hopefully encouraging, young people, especially emerging writers, is one of my favorite parts about being a writer in the world,” Philyaw said. “I find that young people have the most interesting, most honest questions about stories and writing. I love the dialogue their questions spark.”

Philyaw kicked off the event by reading excerpts from four stories in her collection, titled, “Snowfall,” “Not Daniel,” “How to Make Love to a Physicist,” and “Peach Cobbler.” 

She discussed how each story came to be, what she loves about them, and the process of writing them and building her collection. 

Philyaw said that she hopes students and other attendees will be inspired by her work, create a dialogue, and learn about what it takes to be a writer. 

“I hope students were entertained and engaged, and I hope they continue to ask questions about the stories, the craft of writing, and writing as a discipline and a career,” Philyaw said. “I hope they came away from the event energized and inspired to work hard and persist at what they love.”

Philyaw is most known for her debut short story series “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” which won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. The series was also a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. 

In addition to this, Philyaw is the co-author of “Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce,” written in collaboration with her ex-husband. 

Her work has been listed as Notable in the “Best American Essays” series, and her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” “McSweeney’s,” “Harvard Review,” “ESPN’s The Undefeated,” “The Baltimore Review,” and various anthologies.

Philyaw will soon be seen on a much larger scale than that of the GVSU Writer’s Series. 

She is currently working on a second short story collection, a pilot for the TV adaptation of her book for HBO Max. 

Philyaw will also be the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi next fall.