Voices: Celebrating the Beauty and Diversity of America’s Literary Landscape will offer its fourth round of author readings on Thursday, Apr. 22, 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.
The April reading will focus on the theme of Beyond Hillbilly Elegy, featuring the voices of Appalachia through the work of author, storyteller, and photographer Greg Clary; poet Byron Hoot; novelist Damian Dressick; and author and essayist Christina Fisanick. Two Pitt-Greensburg seniors, Joseph Alexander and Colin Covada, will read excerpts from their work.
“The late, great author Chuck Kinder called Pittsburgh ‘The Paris of Appalachia.’ We are delighted to welcome voices from our corner of the world and show people that books like ‘Hillbilly Elegy’—not to mention the movie—aren’t the beginning and end of our story,” said Lori Jakiela, professor of English and director of Creative & Professional Writing at Pitt-Greensburg. “Our Appalachia is rich with literary talent and history, and the writers for this month’s Voices are wonderful examples of that."
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, the Academic Village, and the Student Government Association. The series is 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,” said Jakiela.
This month, two senior creative & professional writing majors will share their work. Colin Cavada will read from his chapbook, Maybe We Know Nothing About Love, a collection of short stories in the spirit of Raymond Carver that focuses on the lives of working-class people in Jeannette, PA. Joseph Alexander will read from his speculative novella, A Journey Just to Walk, about an unlikely friendship between a young man and a robot in search of her human body.
Biographies for the authors participating in the April 22 event:
Greg Clary and Byron Hoot met at writing workshops and events and, with their shared love of Appalachia, began a collaboration that led to the publication of their book Piercing the Veil: Appalachian Visions (Amazon.com, 2020), a collection of photography and poems. Their work provides a panorama of place, people, and interpretation through the eyes of Clary and the words of Hoot. Both men were born and raised in West Virginia and their connection to the physical and emotional landscapes there are evident in their photos and poems, described as photo ekphrastic poems—photos prompting the poems by capturing the natural art of reality in an instant.
Greg Clary is a professor emeritus of rehab and human services at Clarion University. In his retirement, he started pursuing his interest in photography and poetry. Clary has spent his entire life in Appalachia. Born and raised in Turkey Creek, WV, he resides in Sligo. His photographs and poems have been published in The Sun, Looking at Appalachia, The Watershed Journal, Rye Whiskey Review, and elsewhere.
Byron Hoot was born and raised in Morgantown, WV, and he lived there until he went to college, a 12-year excursion. He never returned to West Virginia but he never left it. Appalachia, the hills and streams, the people, his memory of those first 18 years are deeply embedded. He now lives in northwestern Pennsylvania . . . still in Appalachia, continuing his work as a published poet. His work has appeared in The Watershed Journal, Tobecco Literary Arts Journal, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He is co-founder of The Tamarack Writers and The Fernwood Writers Retreat.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania’s coal country Damian Dressick is the author of the novel 40 Patchtown (Bottom Dog Press). His creative work has appeared in more than 50 literary journals and anthologies, including W.W. Norton’s New Micro, Post Road, New Orleans Review, Cutbank, failbetter.com, Hippocampus, Smokelong Quarterly, HeartWood, and New World Writing. A Blue Mountain Residency Fellow, Dressick is the winner of the Harriette Arnow Award and the Jesse Stuart Prize. His story collection Fables of Deconstruction is forthcoming from CLASH Books in early 2021. He co-hosts WCONA: LIVE!, a virtual reading series that brings some of the best Appalachian writers to the world. Dressick teaches writing at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
Christina Fisanick, PhD, is an associate professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania where she teaches expository writing, creative nonfiction, and digital storytelling. She is the author of more than 30 books, including memoirs, such as The Optimistic Food Addict (MSI Press, 2016), and a textbook, Digital Storytelling as Public History (Routledge, 2020), co-authored with Robert Stakeley. In addition, her essays and poetry have appeared in dozens of publications, including Survivor Lit, The Awakenings Review, Still, and the Journal of Appalachian Studies. She is the co-host of WANA LIVE!, the reading series of the Writers Association of Northern Appalachia.
Colin Cavada, the winner of the 2020 Scott Turow Prize for Excellence in Fiction, 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.
Joseph Alexander is a creative and professional writing major. He has published several books, most recently A Journey Just to Walk.
The year’s final presentation of the Voices reading series will be held Apr. 29 at 8 p.m. The event will feature a combination of guest authors and Pitt-Greensburg student writers, including:
Steve Henn, author of Guilty Prayer (Main Street Rag Press, 2021);
Rebecca Jung, author of the chapbook Home Journey;
Joseph Alexander, author of A Journey Just to Walk – Fiction/Young Adult/Science Fiction
Colin Cavada, author of Maybe We Don’t Know the First Thing About Love – Fiction/Literary
Matthew Grayo, author of Calling All Loves – Poetry
Madison Jarnot, author of Genealogy of Memory – Nonfiction/Memoir/Essays
Krystal Keller, author of Scavenging Little Crows – Fiction
Alexis Williams, author of I Hate it Here (Sometimes) – Nonfiction/Memoir