Wilkes University

Past Speakers

Alex BurnsAlex Burns

Alex Burns is founding artistic director of Quintessence Theatre Group (www.quintessencetheatre.org), an ensemble theater dedicated to the performance and adaptation of epic works of classic literature and drama in Philadelphia, Pa. In addition to more than 30 shows at Quintessence, he has directed at the Arden Theatre, Trinity Shakespeare Festival and the Shakespeare Theatre. Burns also served as assistant director for productions at Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and Syracuse Stage, among others.

Burns holds a B.S. in theater from Northwestern University, was the directing fellow at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., and is an alumnus of the Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab and the Jack O’Brien Director Fellowship.

ben lerner

Ben Lerner

Ben Lerner was born in Topeka, Kan. He received fellowships from the Fulbright, Guggenheim and MacArthur foundations, among other honors. Lerner is the author of three books of poetry (The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw and Mean Free Path), two novels (Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04) and several collaborations with artists (including Blossom, with Thomas Demand). His most recent book is the monograph The Hatred of Poetry. Through his work, Lerner strives to explore the relevance of art and the artist to modern culture.

Lerner holds a B.A. in political science and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Brown University. He is Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College.

jean mcgarryJean McGarry

6 p.m. Tuesday, April 17

A native Rhode Islander, Jean McGarry was educated at Regis and Radcliffe colleges, the University of California-Irvine and Johns Hopkins University. Her professional experience includes newspaper reporter and translator, though she has primarily taught writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia, George Washington University and now at the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.

McGarry’s books include Airs of Providence, The Very Rich Hours, The Courage of Girls, Home at Last, Gallagher’s Travels, Dream Date and Ocean State. Her most recent work, No Harm Done, was published by Dalkey Archive Press in 2017. McGarry’s stories have appeared in The Yale Review, Southwest Review and The New Yorker, among others.


Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli

Born in Mexico City in 1983, Valeria Luiselli published a book of personal essays entitled Papeles falsos (Sidewalks) in 2010 and her work has been published in magazines and newspapers such as Letras Libres and the New York Times. Her first novel, Los ingrávidos (Faces In The Crowd) was originally published by Sexto Piso in April 2011 and in the UK by Granta in May 2012. In 2014 she was named one of the 5 under 35 by the National Book Foundation in the US and her most recent novel, La historia de mis dientes (The Story of My Teeth) is one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015 and won the LA Times Book Prize for Fiction 2016. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Asymptote, McSweeney and Granta. She has recently completed a PhD in Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in 14 languages.


Henry VeggianHenry Veggian

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Henry Veggian is a Senior Lecturer in  American Literature at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.   His work has appeared in boundary 2Modern Fiction StudiesAmerican StudiesReader and Quaderni d'Italianistica. His essay on Thomas Pynchon's Vineland is in the collected volume Pynchon's California (University of Iowa Press).                                                

Veggian was raised in and around the editorial offices of Il Progresso Italo-Americano, the historic Italian language newspaper of New York City, and honors that memory by maintaining steady editorial work at boundary 2, Rodopi Editions' Dialogue Series, and an essay collection about the writing of President Barack Obama.  Veggian's most recent book is Understanding Don Delillo (University of South Carolina Press).

Rivka Galchen 

Rivka Galchen

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In 2006, Rivka Galchen published her first collection of short stories, entitled American Innovations. In one of these stories, a young woman’s furniture walks out on her. In another, the narrator feels compelled to promise to deliver a takeout order that has incorrectly been phoned in to her. In a third, the petty details of a property transaction illuminate the complicated pains and loves of a family. The New York Times calls Galchen's writing, "skillful, imaginative, often funny." Time has called her "conspicuously talented."

Rivka Galchen received her MD with a focus in psychiatry from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. In 2006, she completed her MFA at Columbia University School of the Arts, where she was a Robert Bingham Fellow. She has published essays in The Believer and Scientific American, and she is the winner of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. 

Galchen's first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances, became a finalist for the Mercantile Library's John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, the Canadian Writers' Trust's 2008 Fiction Prize, and Canada's Governor General's Award. In 2010, she was selected as one of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" writers to watch.  She is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow.

Shelley Puhak

Shelley Puhak

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Shelley Puhak is the author of two poetry collections, the more recent of which, Guinevere in Baltimore, was selected by Charles Simic for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Her debut, Stalin in Aruba, was a finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award and was awarded the Towson Prize for Literature. Puhak’s poems have appeared in many journals, most recently Kenyon Review Online, Missouri Review, Ninth Letter, North American Review, and Verse Daily. Her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, and Salon.

Puhak earned her MA in English Lit from the University of Delaware and her MFA in Poetry from the University of New Orleans. She has received grants and awards from DISQUIET International Literary Program, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Maryland State Arts Council. Puhak teaches at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where she is the Eichner Endowed Professor. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and son.

Andrew Krivak

Andrew Krivak

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Andrew Krivak is the author of The Sojourn, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the 2012 recipient of both the Chatauqua Prize and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction. 

He is a graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, the writing program at Columbia University and holds a doctorate from Rutger’s University. Krivak was born in Wilkes-Barre and raised in nearby Dallas, Pa. He resides with his wife and three children in both Somerville, Mass. and Jaffrey, N.H.

Maggie MessittMaggie Messitt

7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016

Maggie Messitt is the author of The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa. After a decade spent reporting from inside underserved communities in Southern Africa and Midwestern America and founding a writing school for rural African women, Messitt’s reportage and essays have been published (or are forthcoming) in Creative Nonfiction, Essay Daily, Mother Jones, River Teeth, The Rumpus, and the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance magazine, among others. Messitt is a 2015 Kenyon Review Peter Taylor Fellow and a Scholar-in-Residence at Bowers Writers House. Messitt has a BA in journalism and faith, peace, and justice (an interdisciplinary human rights program) from Boston College and a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College.

Phil Klay

Phil Klay (Image Credit: Hannah Dunphy)

7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10
Henry Student Center Ballroom, 84 W. South St.

Phil Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a public affairs officer. After being discharged, Klay received his M.F.A. from Hunter College. He is the author of Redeployment (The Penguin Press), a powerful collection of short stories that takes readers to the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his book and public lectures, Klay explores the complex feelings of brutality, faith, guilt and fear that a soldier experiences during war, while also revealing the isolation and despair that can accompany a soldier’s homecoming.

With his stark, realistic depictions of war, Klay’s book has been praised as “one of the best debuts of the year” by the Portland Oregonian. Author Karen Russell calls his writing “searing and powerful, unsparing of its characters and its readers.” His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Granta, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

Lynn Emanuel

Emmanual7 p.m. Monday, March 16
Kirby Hall Salon, 202 S. River St.

Lynn Emanuel holds a B.A. from Bennington College, an M.A. from the City College of New York, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She has taught at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Bennington Writers' Conference, and The Warren Wilson Program in Creative Writing. Currently, she is a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

She is the author of four books of poetry: Hotel Fiesta; The Dig; Then, Suddenly; and Noose and Hook. Her work has been featured in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Poetry eight times and is included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry.

Emmanuel has been a poetry editor for the Pushcart Prize Anthology, a member of the Literature Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a judge for the National Book Awards. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Eric Matthieu King Award from The Academy of American Poets, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and a National Poetry Series Award.