They are a diverse bunch of writers, but Julia Alvarez, Billy Collins, Dori Sanders and the late John Updike have one thing in common: They have all paid visits to Hickory.
Since 1988, they have been among nearly 200 writers who’ve read and discussed their work at Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Visiting Writers Series. Now, this stellar series has produced an anthology, “What Writers Do,” to celebrate its achievement.
The book (Lorimer Press; $29.95) includes poems, fiction and nonfiction from 35 writers who have taken part in the annual literary series. Some selections, including memoir excerpts from Updike’s “Self-Consciousness” and the late Reynolds Price’s “A Whole New Life,” have been previously published.
But many poems and stories will be new to readers. Several nonfiction pieces also offer insight into the writing process itself.
In “Ghost, Come Back Again,” for instance, Joseph Bathanti describes how his first visit to Thomas Wolfe’s boyhood home in Asheville launched his writing life. In “Finding Louise,” Josephine Humphreys tells how a chance meeting with a Lumbee Inidian woman on a bus inspired her to write “Nowhere Else on Earth.”
Co-editors of this volume are Anthony Abbott, a poet and retired Davidson College English professor, and Rand Brandes, the Lenoir-Rhyne English professor who started and continues to direct the series.
The two split up the work of contacting authors and requesting submissions, and both ended up securing pieces with which they’re particularly pleased.
Brandes points to “Beacons at Bealtaine,” a poem by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. It has appeared on a website, but has never been collected in a book.
Abbott is proud to have Lee Smith’s “Goodbye to the Sunset Man,” an essay recounting the mental illness and death of her son. “It’s an astonishing piece,” he says.
The volume includes lots of engaging author photos by Hickory photographer David Crosby, plus some photos of contributing writers’ desks and workspaces.
Lenoir-Rhyne has hosted more than 150 authors who aren’t in this book, and that number grows each year. Already, Brandes is working on the next anthology.
The college is launching the book 4-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at Hickory's Barnes & Noble, 2405 Highway 70 Southeast. Nearly a dozen contributing writers will attend.