The Carson McCullers Center is proud to present the sixteenth issue of its quarterly newsletter.
Columbus State University’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Carson McCullers; to nurturing writers and musicians and educating young people; and to fostering literary, musical, artistic, and intellectual culture in the United States and abroad.

What's Next
Carson McCullers Literary Festival
The McCullers Center is proud to announce that U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo will be headlining the Carson McCullers Literary Festival with two featured appearances February 21-22, 2020, the weekend nearest Carson McCullers’s 103rd birthday on February 19th.  A reception will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, February 21, followed by a reading and book-signing at 7:30 pm. Harjo will also make an appearance Saturday, February 22, at 10:00 a.m., to talk about poetry and writing. Additional readings and master classes by novelist Melissa Pritchard and poet Sandy Meek will also be held that morning. The Carson McCullers Literary Festival will be hosted at the Riverside Theatre Complex Main Stage on CSU’s RiverPark Campus in Columbus, GA (6 West 10th Street).

The culminating event for the literary festival will be an awards ceremony honoring the winners of the Carson McCullers Literary Awards.  Awards will be given to CSU and high school students in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, as well as prizes in expository essay, playwriting, and screenwriting, with $300 for first place, $200 for second place, and $100 for third place. 

This event is co-presented by Chattahoochee Valley Libraries and CSU’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians and is sponsored in part by the Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance, the Muscogee County Friends of Libraries, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Reading Poetry in General (and Joy Harjo in Particular)
Award-winning poet and McCullers Center Director Nick Norwood gives us an entertaining overview of how to appreciate good and great poetry, with a focus on the work of our NEA Big Read author Joy Harjo. A great introduction to her appearance later in February!
Tues., February 11 @ 7:00pm
Auditorium, Columbus Public Library

Carson McCullers Center Collaborates with Chattahoochee Valley Libraries for 3rd Time as Part of NEA Big Read to Bring U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo to Columbus for Carson McCullers Literary Festival in February

CSU’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, in partnership with the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, is pleased to announce that United States Poet Laureate JOY HARJO will be coming to Columbus in February for a series of readings and classes with students and the public.

Ms. Harjo’s appearance will be the culminating event in this year’s NEA Big Read, the national program where an entire community is encouraged to read and study one book. This year’s title is the poet’s emotional and moving compilation How We Became Human. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

A month-long series of programs on Native American literature, history, and cultural arts will precede Ms. Harjo’s appearances on February 21 and 22.

The public will have two opportunities to see and meet the Poet Laureate:

◊ Friday February 21 – 7:00pm reception, 7:30pm reading and book-signing. Copies of How We Became Human and other works will be available for purchase.

◊ Saturday February 22 – 10:00am – Master Class on writing poetry – A wonderful chance to learn and grow as a writer. Ms. Harjo will offer tips, advice, and more during this workshop presentation. Joining her for readings of their work will be essayist and author Melissa Pritchard and poet Sandra Meek.

Both events will be held on the Riverside Theatre Main Stage, Columbus State University, 6 West 10th Street, Columbus.

This event marks the third occasion on which the McCullers Center has collaborated with the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries in observance of the NEA Big Read.  The first collaboration between the two organizations occurred in 2013 with the NEA Big Read of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried that culminated in a joint hosting of the Southern Literary Festival headlined by O’Brien himself.  Then, in 2017, the McCullers Center and the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries collaborated as part of the NEA Big Read again in celebration of Carson McCullers’s 100th birthday.  The NEA Big Read for that year was The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and concluded with a screening of acclaimed actress Karen Allen’s short film adaptation of the McCullers’s short story “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.”  The organizations’ newest NEA Big Read collaboration promises to uphold the standard of excellence set in previous years.

Esteemed Actors Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig Visit Carson McCullers's Home in Nyack
The Carson McCullers Center recently welcomed two special guests to the Carson McCullers House in Nyack—Academy Award-winning actress Rachel Weisz and her husband actor Daniel Craig, both of whom have new films coming out this spring, as Weisz co-stars with Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow and Craig stars in his fifth James Bond feature No Time to Die. Weisz, who first read the work of Carson McCullers as a teenager in London, wrote her thesis on McCullers at Cambridge and says of Carson "she is dear to my heart." While filming Black Widow in Atlanta this fall, Weisz contacted the McCullers Center about the possibility of visiting the Smith-McCullers House in Columbus, which ultimately could not be managed because of her work schedule, but McCullers Center Director Nick Norwood was able to arrange for her to visit the McCullers House in Nyack on Saturday, December 14. Norwood gave the couple a tour of the house and the three of them spent a few hours talking about McCullers, her work, and her life in Nyack and Columbus. Craig, who portrayed British poet Ted Hughes in the film Sylvia (2003), and Weisz, who “read English” at college, were keen to discuss McCullers’s themes and lasting influence. 

In Case You Missed It...
AP English Students at Nyack High School Tour Carson McCullers's Home in Nyack
AP English students from Nyack High School toured the Carson McCullers House in Nyack on September 13 after reading The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter for their AP program. They were brought into the house in separate groups of about 25 students each.
David Diamond Reading & Recital Series
This fall, CSU's Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, Schwob School of Music, and Bo Bartlett Center hosted the annual David Diamond Reading and Recital Series at the Bo Bartlett Center. On September 25, creative writing student Casi Turner read original pieces in between musical numbers by the Schwob Woodwind Quintet and Schwob Bassoon Quartet from CSU's Schwob School of Music. At the second and final David Diamond event of the semester on October 23, creative writing student Taylor Aspinwall read original prose accompanied by soprano Katherine Ambrester and guitarist Fred Springer of the Schwob School of Music.
The David Diamond Series was established in 2013 as an opportunity for the finest students from CSU's Creative Writing program and the Schwob School of Music to showcase their work. The series is named after David Diamond, the acclaimed 20th century composer who was a close friend with Carson McCullers.
Suzanne Vega Performs Tribute to Carson McCullers in Nyack
On October 5, singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega performed an evening of her classic hits as well as songs inspired by Carson McCullers at the Old Nyack High School auditorium.  Vega also spoke about the influence of Carson McCullers on her life and music and interacted with the audience about McCullers's legacy through a Q&A moderated by the Director of the Carson McCullers Center, Dr. Nick Norwood. 

As written by Melanie Rock of Nyack News & Views, “Vega has been a McCullers devotee since reading her short story Sucker as a teen. Initially drawn to the authentic characterizations of adolescent cruelty, insecurity, isolation, vengeance, and love, she grew to admire McCullers’s powerfully relatable ‘androgynous persona and non-girlie tone.’  A close comparison of both women’s repertoires draws clear thematic connections. In a 2001 profile for The New Yorker, Hilton Als succinctly wrote that McCullers ‘defines the status quo by living outside it.’ Vega’s music similarly reflects the ‘othered’ experience, most evident in her hit song Luka, which depicts the quiet trauma of child abuse through the voice of a boy victim.
In 2011, Suzanne Vega premiered a project unlike any of her previous ones. With music co-written by Duncan Sheik, whose libretto credits include Spring Awakening and American Psycho, she launched a one-woman show titled Carson McCullers Talks About Love, casting herself in the title role. ‘It’s a thrill to take liberties in Carson McCullers’s persona,’ Vega says. ‘I am dressed as Carson McCullers, in a variation of what she might wear. It’s my interpretation. It’s a platform for her spirit to be revealed.’ Her 2016 CD, Lover, Beloved: An Evening With Carson McCullers, is a collection of music from the show, relying on rich layers of ukulele, upright bass, trombone, banjo, and piano, infused with a playful, jaunty flair. ‘I wanted an old-fashioned Rodgers and Hammerstein quality,’ Vega says, perhaps as a nod to McCullers’s early ambitions as a classically trained pianist.  Jerry Portwood of Rolling Stone described the album as a ‘witty, bluesy passageway into a previous era.’”

You can watch the full video of this beautiful concert at the following link:
McCullers Center Hosts Five Creative Writing Workshops for Area High School Students at Smith-McCullers House
Throughout October and November, the Carson McCullers Center hosted five free, fun, and instructive creative writing workshops for area high school students at the Smith-McCullers House.  These workshops featured special topics in fiction, poetry, screenwriting, creative nonfiction, and playwriting led by esteemed writers from the community and were designed to help high school students prepare manuscripts for the 2020 Carson McCullers Literary Awards, which will be presented along with monetary prizes at the Carson McCullers Literary Festival headlined by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo February 21-22, 2020.
Georgia Poetry Circuit Features Reading by Poet Ryan Wilson
This fall, award-winning poet Ryan Wilson visited Columbus State University as part of the Georgia Poetry Circuit. On November 8, CSU and the McCullers Center hosted a poetry reading for Wilson on CSU’s Main Campus, where the GPC poet read excerpts from his poetry collections and held a Q&A with students and guests in attendance.
Columbus State University and the Carson McCullers Center are proud to partner with the Georgia Poetry Circuit, which brings three poets annually to the CSU campus and provides enrichment for students through free and open readings, workshops, and Q&A sessions.

Ryan Wilson was born in Griffin, GA, in 1982, and raised in nearby Macon. He is the author of The Stranger World (Measure Press, 2017), winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, and he is the Editor-in-Chief of Literary Matters ( His work appears widely in periodicals such as Best American Poetry, Five Points, The Hopkins Review, The New Criterion, The Sewanee Review, and The Yale Review. He also regularly publishes critical prose, for which he has won the Jacques Maritain Prize, the Eleanor Clark Award, and The Sewanee Review’s Walter Sullivan Prize. Currently, he is the Office Administrator and C.F.O. of The Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW), and he teaches at The Catholic University of America. He and his wife live north of Baltimore.
Marguerite and Lamar Smith Writing Fellow Gives Reading at CSU
This fall, the Carson McCullers Center welcomed the 14th Annual Marguerite and Lamar Smith Writing Fellow, Samuel Kọ́láwọlé, to Columbus where he resided as artist-in-residence at the Smith-McCullers House, Carson McCullers’s childhood home, from September to December.  During this time, Kọ́láwọlé worked on the manuscript of his novel The Hunt, a fantasy work based on West African mythology, and provided a reading on November 19 on CSU’s Main Campus to showcase the work created during his fellowship.

Samuel Kọ́láwọlé was born and raised in Ibadan, Nigeria. His work has appeared in AGNI, Gulf Coast, Kweli and elsewhere. He has also contributed to anthologies within and outside the African continent.
A finalist for the Graywolf Prize for Africa, Kọ́láwọlé has been the recipient of fellowships from the Norman Mailer Center in New York City; the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and writing residencies from Wellstone Center in Redwoods California, and the Island Institute. He is a graduate of the noted Clarion West Writers Workshop for writers of Science fiction and Fantasy and he is a Charter member of the African Speculative Fiction Society.
Kọ́láwọlé studied at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and holds a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing with distinction from Rhodes University, South Africa, and an MFA in Writing and Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, USA.  
Named in honor of Carson's parents, The Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers was inspired by McCullers's experience at the Breadloaf Writer's Conference in Vermont and, especially, the Yaddo Arts Colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. To honor the contribution of these residency fellowships to McCullers's work, the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians awards fellowships for writers to spend time in McCullers's childhood home in Columbus, Georgia. The fellowships are intended to afford the writers in residence uninterrupted time to dedicate to their work, free from the distractions of daily life and other professional responsibilities.
Writopia Lab Begins Holding Creative Writing Workshops for Schoolchildren at Carson McCullers's Home in Nyack
The Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians is pleased to announce that it is collaborating with the non-profit organization Writopia Lab to offer creative writing workshops for schoolchildren in the Carson McCullers House in Nyack beginning this winter. 

Writopia Lab is an organization comprised of published authors and produced playwrights who lead creative writing workshops for youth ages 6 to 18, and its mission is to “foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in children and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.”

Students participating in Writopia Lab’s student-centered and author-led creative writing workshops gain skills in writing, editing, analysis, and effective communication and are encouraged to complete at least one well-developed, polished piece throughout the course of their workshop.  The workshops allow a community of young writers to find each other, connect via their literary passions, and have lots of fun.

According to Anu, the site facilitator of the workshops being hosted at the McCullers House in Nyack, "Workshops have begun, and they are three weeks along into their projects, which are mostly short fiction pieces. They also tried some persuasive essaying, collaborative writing exercises, and Writopia Lab games like charades and other warmups, all with grammatical or literary twists. One group is the 9-10 year olds, the other is 11-13 year olds. The main thing to highlight about these workshops is that they are a 'third space,' separated from school and home, where they can develop independent projects and experience full ownership of their creative work. Each workshop establishes its own group dynamic and rules, so the writers get to connect with and support one another as they need."
Hudson Valley Film Hosts Film Screenings at Carson McCullers's Home in Nyack
This fall saw a continuation of the collaboration between the Carson McCullers Center, River River Writers’ Circle, and Hudson Valley Film to host film screenings at the McCullers House in Nyack.  On October 19, the short film Dak Toka Taino was screened and followed by a Q&A with Director Alba Garcia-Rivas. 

A young girl, Marabelí, visits her grandma, Abuela Yaya, after Hurricane María. Marabelí expresses her fears of survival while Abuela Yaya comforts and reminds her of their resilient ancestors and challenging history. This film warmly reflects in the future of Puerto Ricans.

Dak'Toká Taíno is a short film inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane María in Borikén (Puerto Rico) on September 17, 2017.
Director Dr. Nick Norwood Gives Reading at River River Writers' Circle Holiday Party in Nyack
This December, widely-published poet and Director of the Carson McCullers Center Dr. Nick Norwood gave a “luminous reading” at the annual holiday open mic hosted by River River Writers’ Circle at the McCullers House in Nyack.  Poems were shared, and poignant words and sweet treats were enjoyed at this well-attended event.
Watch this slide show to see what we've been up to...

From the Director

            We’re thrilled to have newly named U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo headlining the Carson McCullers Literary Festival in late February. Our co-presenters for the event, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, have received a Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the McCullers Center has received a grant from the Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance to sponsor Harjo’s appearances in Columbus. This makes our third such collaboration with Chattahoochee Valley Libraries. Together we presented appearances by National Book Award-winning novelist Tim O’Brien in 2013 and appearances by acclaimed Hollywood actress and director Karen Allen in 2017. As with those previous collaborations, this one will feature a host of other related events, including library talks on Native American cultures of the Southeast by historian Billy Winn, a talk on reading poetry in general and the works of Joy Harjo in particular by myself, and a school visit to the Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts by Joy Harjo. Please see the Libraries’ event webpage for the full listing of activities:
            For the third straight year we held Saturday creative writing workshops for high school students at the Smith-McCullers House in Columbus. Many of the participating students have submitted poems, essays, stories, plays, and screenplays for the Carson McCullers Literary Awards, and many of them will receive prizes at the Awards Ceremony, which will conclude this year’s Literary Festival. We’re proud to be offering these workshops and to be supporting the creative aspirations of young people. In fact, it’s part of our mission. We’re also proud of the further development of creative writing workshops for young people at the Carson McCullers House in Nyack. We’ve partnered with Writopia Labs in holding weekly sessions for local grade school children, a program that just got underway in December. We look forward to a long association with Writopia, who will help us further fulfill our mission in Nyack.
            We greatly appreciate the support we receive from admirers of the work of Carson McCullers from all around the world. To be in my position and to have the opportunity to interact with those admirers—during house tours in Columbus and Nyack and through other forms of direct contact initiated by the admirers themselves—has been terrifically rewarding, not to mention inspiring, gratifying, and edifying. Two years ago, for instance, I greeted a retired engineer from Japan who read McCullers in college and took advantage of his first opportunity of being in Georgia to visit the Smith-McCullers House. He came bearing gifts in the form of Japanese translations of her work. Last summer, I welcomed a journalist from Spain, who said, with tears in her eyes, “This is a dream come true for me to be in this house.” In October, I stood onstage with Suzanne Vega before a full house at the old Nyack High School auditorium discussing her decades-long involvement with the work of Carson McCullers, including her one-woman show based on Carson and her album Lover/Beloved: Songs from an Evening with Carson McCullers, from which her performance drew that night. And in December, I spent two hours with Academy Award-winning actress Rachel Weisz and her husband, the famous actor Daniel Craig, at the Carson McCullers House in Nyack talking about Carson’s life and work, from which Weisz quoted lines off the top of her head. Upon learning of the programs the McCullers Center has created for young people in Nyack and Columbus, Weisz said to me, “Carson would be happy.”

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