Avid Readers Treated to Works of New and Established Author-Performers

July 25, 2017

Novelists, poets, memoirists from the Iraq war, and a songwriter known for his narrative creations were among the distinguished visiting artists who read and performed over the course of seven days during July at University Campus. Early-evening events were held each day, and were open to the public. Admission was free. Each of the guest artists also spoke in daytime sessions to students on campus for the summer residency session of Saint Leo University’s Master of Arts in creative writing program.

Several of the visiting speaker/performers create in more than one art form. The week of events was bookended by singer-songwriter Craig Finn, and writer and filmmaker Benjamin Busch (pictured). Benjamin Busch Busch is known to some television viewers for his acting performances during three seasons of the HBO series The Wire. But he is also known for his memoir Dust to Dust,  chronicling his boyhood along with two tours of duty in Iraq as a U.S. Marine. In addition, he met with creative writing students who are veterans and are exploring their experiences in their work for their master’s degrees.

Finn is best known as the frontman of the acclaimed rock band The Hold Steady, with whom he has released six studio albums. Finn performed a solo acoustic set, featuring songs from We All Want the Same Things, his third solo album. He also spoke and answered questions about the backgrounds of his songs, which are often narratives about people.

Each public reading-performance over the seven days was devoted to two presenters.

The full schedule included the following published authors.

Novelist Ian Stansel  appeared the same evening as Finn. Stansel read from his debut novel, The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo

Author Tom Bligh read from a recent short story. Bligh has been honored by the Maryland Arts Council, and his work has appeared in publications including The Cincinnati Review  (fiction) and the Oxford American (nonfiction).

Saint Leo alumna and writing instructor Brooke King, who writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry about her experiences as a U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq war, read a variety of works. King is at work on her memoir Full Battle Rattle.

literary and marriage partners Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble

Literary and marriage partners Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble presented together (pictured). Both hold positions at Southern Illinois University, where Joseph teaches poetry and edits the literary journal Crab Orchard Review. Joseph is the author of 17 books and chapbooks of poetry, including the recent Voice, and Mercurial. Tribble is managing editor of the journal, and is author of the 2017 release, And There is Many a Good Thing.

Another married couple presented the next day to the delight of the audience: David Kirby and Barbara Hamby, who are on the faculty of Florida State University in Tallahassee. Kirby is a highly respected poet, essayist, critic, and children’s author, and likes to talk about how popular music appears in his work and influences him. He has received many awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing from the Florida Humanities Council in 2016. His most recent collection of poetry is called Get Up, Please.  Hamby is a scholar who also writes poetry, nonfiction, and short fiction, and has received several distinguished and grants. Her most recent book is On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems.  

Steve Kistulentz, director of the Saint Leo graduate program in creative writing, read from his forthcoming novel Panorama, to be published in early in 2018. He is also a published poet.

Anne Barngrover, a new assistant professor of English and creative writing at Saint Leo University, read from her poetry. She is the author of three collections of poetry, including Brazen Creature, forthcoming in 2018. 

Tampa native, poet, and Saint Leo faculty member Gianna Russo read from several of her works Russo is known locally for founding and running the Sandhill Writers Retreat at Saint Leo University, a one-day workshop held each year in May. Her most recent collection of published poetry is called Moonflower

Patrick Crerand, who teaches both in the graduate creative writing program and undergraduate English and writing courses, read from a new, humorous short story based on his family’s desire for a piano during his boyhood. Crerand co-founded and edits the online literary journal Lightning Key Review and his work has appeared in several journals. 

Tom McAllister  read from his poignant debut novel The Young Widower’s Handbook, published in 2017. His next novel, How to be Safe, comes out in early 2018, and he is also a literary podcaster.

Benjamin Busch wrapped up the series with some short fiction works and readings from Dust to Dust.  He also recounted how he took a chapter that he had originally create for memoir and instead used it for a well-reviewed original movie called Bright. Students were able to see Bright during the residency and it is commercially available to viewers. Busch acted in the 2011 film in addition to writing the script and directing it.

The Saint Leo University Master of Arts in creative writing is a two-year, low-residency program that offers tracks of study in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. It is also the only graduate creative writing program in the country that offers an optional track of study in veterans writing and war literature. Learn more here: /academics/graduate/creative-writing.aspx.