Voices: Celebrating the Beauty and Diversity of America’s Literary Landscape will offer its second round of author readings on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m. This virtual gathering is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and is designed to celebrate the richness of human lives and stories. The event is free and open to the public. Please register in advance at http://bit.ly/2021VoicesRegistration to receive a confirmation email containing the information needed to join the Zoom gathering.
The second event in the series will feature memoirist/spoken word artist Brian Broome; acclaimed Syrian short-short story author Osama Alomar; poet, playwright, and oral historian Kelli Stevens Kane; and poet Rich Gegick. Pitt-Greensburg senior Colin Cavada, a published writer who is currently at work on a collection of short fiction, will join these authors in reading from his work at this event.
“Author Chuck Kinder used to call Pittsburgh ‘The Paris of Appalachia,’ in no small part because of the abundance and diverse range of literary talent here,” said Lori Jakiela, MFA, professor of professional and creative writing at Pitt-Greensburg. “All of this month's Voices writers have some connection to Pittsburgh. Syrian poet Osama Alomar, though we lost him to Chicago, spent years in Pittsburgh as a writer-in-residence at the City of Asylum. Richard Gegick, a native of my hometown Trafford, PA, writes beautifully about our working-class lives. Kelli Stevens Kane, an August Wilson Center fellow whose work as a poet, playwright, and oral historian reveals the multi-layered experiences of culture and race in our particular Paris, is breathtaking. And I am so excited to hear Brian Broome, whose forthcoming memoir Punch Me Up to the Gods has received advance praise from authors like Augusten Burroughs and Kiese Laymon.”
Building on the campus’s long-running Written/Spoken Series, Voices showcases Pitt-Greensburg's focus on experiential learning by bringing together undergraduate student-writers with award-winning authors. The readings are funded in part through Pitt’s Year of Engagement initiative as well as through the Pitt-Greensburg Office of Student Life, Academic Village, and Student Government Association. The series is being coordinated by Jakiela, Sheila Confer, EdD, director of the Academic Village, and Albert Thiel, director of Campus Center and Student Engagement.
“One unique thing about the Voices series is that it pairs student authors with our visiting writers. This month, Colin Cavada, a senior Creative & Professional writing major, will be reading from his manuscript-in-progress, Bottle Shop, a collection of short stories in the spirit of Raymond Carver that focuses on the lives of working-class people in Jeannette, Pennsylvania,” said Jakiela. “Colin's manuscript is part of his senior capstone project. Our writing majors complete and publish chapbook-length collections before they graduate. This experience, along with experiences like the Voices series, prepares our student-authors to take their place as good literary citizens in Pittsburgh and beyond.”
Biographies for the authors participating in the February 25 event:
Osama Alomar, a current writer-in-residence at the City of Asylum Pittsburgh, is considered among the most well-respected Arabic poets writing today. Born in Damascus, Syria, in 1968 and now living in Pittsburgh via Chicago, he is a prominent practitioner of the Arabical-qisa al-qasira jiddan, the “very short story.” Alomar is the author of Fullblood Arabian in English, three collections of short stories, and a volume of poetry in Arabic. His first full-length collection of stories, The Teeth of the Comb, was published by New Directions in April 2017. His short stories have been published in Newyorker.com, Noon, Conjunctions.com, The Coffin Factory, Electric Literature, and The Literary Review. Alomar’s current work is a new novel about the Syrian War tentatively called The Womb, as well as another project called The Book of Meditations about the range of concepts surrounding the human experience.
Brian Broome, a poet and screenwriter, is K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and instructor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is pursuing an MFA. He has been a finalist in The Moth storytelling competition and won the grand prize in Carnegie Mellon University's Martin Luther King Writing Awards. He also won a VANN Award from the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation for journalism in 2019. His debut memoir Punch Me UP to the Gods is available for pre-order now.
Richard L. Gegick is from Trafford, Pa. His first full-length poetry collection, Greasy Handshakes, was published by WPA Press in 2019. His poems and short stories appear in Barrelhouse (online), Burrow Press Review, Chiron Review, Hot Metal Bridge, and Nerve Cowboy. A 14-year service industry veteran, he recently left his job to focus on a freelancing career.
Kelli Stevens Kane is a poet, playwright, and oral historian. Author of Hallelujah Science (Spuyten Duyvil, October 2020), Kane is a Cave Canem Fellow, an August Wilson Center Fellow, and a recipient of Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grants from The Pittsburgh Foundation. She's studied at VONA, Hurston/Wright, and Callaloo. Her work has appeared in North American Review, Little Patuxent Review, Under a Warm Green Linden, Painted Bride Quarterly, African Voices, and Split This Rock. Kane has read her poetry and oral history and performed her one-woman show, Big George, nationally.
Colin Cavada is a creative and professional writing major and editor of Pitt-Greensburg's literary magazine, Pendulum. He is an avid book reviewer whose writing appears in Medium, The Insider, Pendulum, and more. He is currently at work on a collection of short fiction, Bottle Shop, about the lives of working people in western Pennsylvania.
The spring 2021 Voices: Celebrating the Beauty and Diversity of America’s Literary Landscape line-up will continue with the following:
March 25 -- Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelly, international award-winning crime writer Bill Boyle, National Book Award finalist Deesha Philyaw, and poet Nancy Krygowski.
April 22 -- Beyond Hillbilly Elegy -- featuring voices of Appalachia: Novelist Damian Dressick; author, storyteller, and photographer Greg Clary; and poet Byron Hoot.