There has hardly been a better time to be an English major at the University of Michigan. I would almost say never, but considering that writers like Robert Frost, Charles Baxter, and Lois Lowry have graced our halls over the years, it’s hard to tell. What I do know, however, is that this year we have the good fortune of having not only brilliant and prestigious professors, but also a vast number of student groups and public readings, and two large scale writing-centric events. Here, in no particular order, are five reasons why it’s great to be a part of the English community this year:
- Quality & Renown of our faculty–Professors include novelists Peter Ho Davies, V.V. Ganeshananthan, and Michael Byers, plus poets Cody Walker and Linda Gregerson. That doesn’t even cover the many other excellent English professors here, like Ralph Williams, who came of retirement to continue teaching (if you haven’t taken a class with him, I highly recommend it).
- Public Readings-The University has three great events’ series: the Zell Visiting Writers Series, Mark Webster Reading Series, and the J. Edgar Edwards Reading Series. The Zell Visiting Writers Series has authors come almost every Thursday at 5:10 to give a reading in the Art Museum. This year’s roster includes guests such as David Mitchell and Terrance Hayes. The Mark Webster Reading Series features MFA students every Friday at 7p.m. in the Helmut Stern Auditorium at the Art Museum. Finally, the J. Edgar Edwards Reading Series highlights the work of first year MFA students periodically through the year at the Work Gallery on State Street.
- Undergraduate English Communities–You can join the staff of or submit to a student literary magazine, like Xylem, the RC Review, or, of course, Fortnight (we are always accepting submissions at firstname.lastname@example.org!). If you are looking to get feedback from fellow students on your work you can join Writer’s Community, a group of students committed to giving writing advice. As far as student readings and performances go, there are also the “Word of Mouth” story slams and the U-M Poetry Slam team performances to check out as well.
- The first ever State of the Book is at Rackham–This semester we have the fortuity of being the central location of the State of the Book, a day long symposium held at Rackham on October 6th. The State of the Book will feature a book fair, panels, and performances, led by writers like Charles Baxter, Philip Levine, and Bonnie Jo Campbell. What’s more, Dave Eggers will release the latest Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology on site. You can join the event or find out more here.
- The Great Write-Off is here, too–During the three days leading up to the State of the Book, the Great Write-Off, a fundraiser for six Michigan nonprofits (826michigan, Dzanc, Fiction Writers Review, InsideOut Literary Arts Project, National Writers Series and the Neutral Zone) will take place. Here in Ann Arbor, Espresso Royale has donated the front of its State Street store for writers to go, write, and enjoy discounted drinks and snacks. The Undergraduate English Association (UEA) even has its own team for undergraduates to join if they don’t want to register as an individual (to join, go here: http://www.gifttool.com/athon/OurTeamPage?ID=2063&AID=2154&TID=13376). At the end, those who have raised at least $50 for the nonprofit of their choice will win a t-shirt, and the top five UEA students will receive a limited edition hand letterpressed version of Charles Baxter’s poem “Marry Me”. These prizes will be given away and others raffled off at a Pizza Party in Angell Hall at the end of the Write-Off on Friday, October 5th. You can join the event here or like the Facebook page here.
There is no doubt in my mind that it’s an exciting time to be an English major (or writer or reader for that matter) at the University. So crack open your blank journals, join the Write-Off/get inspired by a visiting author/learn from an MFA student, and write. And when you’re finished, send your pieces to us!