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Week-long WritersFest to kick off this Sunday


PITTSBURG, Kan. — The second annual WritersFest, a week of literary- and writer-related events directed by the Pittsburg State University Department of English, will kick off on Sept. 17. It will provide the campus and the community, as well as visiting high school classes, opportunities to hear from two notable writers. 

This year’s WritersFest will bring to Pittsburg Juliet Patterson, author of “Sinkhole — A Legacy of Suicide,” and Tracy Brimhall, Kansas Poet Laureate and author of the recent “Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod.” 

Patterson’s memoir has been called “a sublimely elegant, fractured reckoning with the legacy and inheritance of suicide in one American family.” After her father’s suicide in 2009, Patterson kept trying to make sense of the loss, trying to understand why so many men in her family, including both grandfathers, had died that way.  

In Pittsburg with her mother for her father’s funeral, Patterson learned about and soon began researching area abandoned mines, extensive undermining, and “sinkholes.” This historical research helped her imagine the final days of both of her grandfathers — one a fiery, pro-labor politician and the other a melancholy businessman.  

“Sinkhole” looks not only at Patterson’s family history in Southeast Kansas, but at the unfolding story of immigration, coal mining, labor disputes, and commerce in the area. It layers personal, familial, political, and environmental histories to provide not answers, but “essential, heartbreaking truth.”

“Sinkhole” was a finalist for the 2023 Minnesota Book Award. It was named one of the best memoirs of 2022 by Library Journal. 

Brimhall, a professor who directs the creative writing program at Kansas State University, was named Kansas Poet Laureate by Gov. Laura Kelly in 2023 and will serve a four-year term.  

Brimhall has described poetry as being “the thing that helped me be where my feet are. It helps keep me alive and aware of myself and deeply present in the world.”  

She is the author of four collections of poetry: “Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod;” “Saudade;” “Our Lady of the Ruins,” winner of the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize; and “Rookery," winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her newest collection, “Love Prodigal,” will be published in 2024. 

Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, New England Review, Ploughshares, Orion, Believer, The Nation, and The New Republic. Her essays have appeared in Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and Gulf Coast. Some of her work has also been featured on PBS Newshour and Best American Poetry 2013 and 2014. 

All WritersFest events are free and open to the public. They include:

Sept. 17 

At 2 p.m. at Miner’s Hall Museum in Franklin, author Juliet Patterson will discuss Southeast Kansas immigrant and mining history. Patterson's book deals with the legacy and inheritance of suicide in one American family, but also takes a deep look into her roots in Southeast Kansas.  

Sept. 18 

At 6:30 p.m. at Pittsburg Public Library, Patterson will discuss Sinkhole. 

Sept. 19 

At 2 p.m. in Room 302, Grubbs Hall at Pitt State, Patterson will discuss poetry and will guide attendees through writing exercises.  

At 3:30 p.m. (location TBD), Patterson will meet with students in Students for Sustainability and the Wildlife and Fisheries Society to discuss issues of sustainability and the environment as she encountered them while researching Sinkhole.  

At 7 p.m., for the first keynote event, Patterson will conduct a reading from Sinkhole in the Governors Room of the Overman Student Center at Pitt State. A reception will follow and books will be available for purchase. 

Sept. 20 

At 10 a.m. a workshop for high school and university students, “Writing Resumes and Cover Letters,” will be held in 414 Grubbs Hall, led by University Professor Casie Hermansson. She'll focus on creating documents for job or scholarship applications.  

At 10 a.m. in Ballroom C of the Overman Student Center, a workshop for high school and university students, “How to Write a Story that Gets Noticed: Acing the Writing Contest,” will be led by Professor Lori Martin and Associate Professor Chase Dearinger.  

At 11 a.m. in Ballroom C, Patterson will talk about poetry and will guide attendees through writing exercises. 

At noon in Ballroom C, a panel and question and answer session called “The Author’s Desk” is planned.   

At 6 p.m. at Books and Burrow, 212 S. Broadway, Patterson will discuss Sinkhole with the Book Club.  

Sept. 21 

At 7 p.m. in 109 Grubbs Hall, the second keynote event will be a poetry reading by Kansas Poet Laureate Traci Brimhall. A reception will follow and books will be available for purchase. 

Sept. 22 

At 11 a.m. in 113 Grubbs Hall, and at noon in 301 Grubbs Hall, Brimhall will visit classes to discuss “Tension and Surprise in Poetry.”  

Patterson’s appearances are sponsored by the Women’s Studies Lecture Series, Distinguished Visiting Writers Series, and the Student Fee Council. Brimhall’s appearances are sponsored by the Distinguished Visiting Writers Series and the Student Fee Council.

For more information, contact Lori Martin at [email protected] or 620-235-4696.