2020–2021 VCU Visiting Writers & Scholars Series

PLEASE NOTE:  At present, all Visiting Writers & Scholars events for the 2020-2021 academic year will be hosted virtually by the VCU Cabell Library.  These events will be free and open to the public, but online registration may be required.  Please see specific event listings below for individual event registration links. 


Larry Palmer author pic [View Image]
Larry Palmer 
(Scholarship Boy: Meditations on Family and Race)

September 10, 2020 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Larry Palmer holds degrees from Harvard University and Yale Law School, and he spent most of his career at Cornell University as a law professor and university administrator. He is the author of two scholarly works, Law, Medicine, and Social Justice and Endings and BeginningsScholarship Boy: Meditations on Family and Race is a memoir that details how, in 1958, fourteen-year-old Palmer left his parents and nine siblings at home in St. Louis and boarded a train to attend Phillips Exeter Academy. Palmer reflects on his experiences as a young black boy growing up far from home, learning to fit into a white world without becoming estranged from his closely knit family. The ninth of 10 children, he illustrates the ways his sibling relationships shaped him as he was also being molded by his elite education. His journey from being the "next-to-the-baby" of his family into adulthood reveals the personal and often hidden costs of cultural migration.


Ilya Kaminsky author pic [View Image]2020 Levis Reading Prize
Ilya Kaminsky 
(Deaf Republic)

September 28, 2020 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Ilya Kaminsky is the winner of the 2020 Levis Reading Prize for his poetry collection, Deaf Republic.

Kaminsky is also the author of a previous full-length poetry collection, Dancing in Odessa, (Tupelo Press, 2004), and a chapbook, Musica Humana (Chapiteau Press, 2002), as well as individual poems published in such journals as The American Poetry Review, the Kenyon ReviewThe New Yorker and Poetry, among other publications. His honors include a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and its Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, a Lannan Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets Fellowship.

Sponsors of the Levis Reading Prize include VCU Libraries, VCU Department of English, Barnes & Noble @ VCU, and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, with additional funding provided by the family of Larry Levis.


John Englehardt author pic [View Image]2020 Cabell First Novelist Award
John Englehardt

October 15, 2020 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

John Englehardt, and his debut novel, Bloomland, is the winner of the 2020 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Englehardt is a writer and educator from the Pacific Northwest. He holds an MFA from University of Arkansas, and currently teaches creative writing at Hugo House. His work has appeared in The Southern Review, Entropy, and Vol.1 Brooklyn. Bloomland won the Dzanc Prize for Fiction, was a September Indie Next pick, and named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best books of the year. Englehardt lives in Seattle with his wife and dog.

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award is presented on behalf of VCU’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing program. Sponsors include the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, VCU Libraries, the VCU Department of English, Barnes & Noble @ VCU and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.

For more information please visit the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award web site at:



Kiki Petrosino Kiki Petrosino author pic [View Image]
(White Blood: a Lyric of Virginia)

November 12, 2020 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Kiki Petrosino is the author of four books of poetry: White Blood: a Lyric of Virginia, Witch Wife, Hymn for the Black Terrific and Fort Red Border, all from Sarabande Books. She holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, The Nation, The New York Times, FENCE, Gulf Coast, Jubilat, Tin House and on-line at Ploughshares. She teaches at the University of Virginia as a Professor of Poetry. Petrosino is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Fellowship in Creative Writing from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Al Smith Fellowship Award from the Kentucky Arts Council.


Jessica Hendry Nelson [View Image]Lia Purpura [View Image]Lia Purpura 
(All the Fierce Tethers)
Jessica Hendry Nelson 
(If Only You People Could Follow Directions)

January 26, 2021 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Lia Purpura is the author of nine collections of essays, poems, and translations. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for On Looking (essays, Sarabande Books), her awards include Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright Fellowships, as well as four Pushcart Prizes, the Associated Writing Programs Award in Nonfiction, and others. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Agni, Emergence, and elsewhere. She lives in Baltimore, MD, where she is Writer in Residence at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She has taught in the Rainier Writing Workshop’s MFA program, at Breadloaf Writers Conference, The University of Iowa’s Nonfiction MFA program and at conferences, workshops, and graduate programs throughout the country. Her newest collection of poems is It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (poems, Penguin) and her latest collection of essays is All the Fierce Tethers, (Sarabande Books).

Jessica Hendry Nelson is the author of the memoir If Only You People Could Follow Directions, which was selected as a best debut book by the Indies Introduce New Voices program, the Indies Next List by the American Booksellers' Association, named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Review, received starred reviews in Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly, and reviewed nationally in print and on NPR—including twice in (O) Oprah Magazine. It was also a finalist for the Vermont Book Award. She is also co-author of the forthcoming textbook and anthology Advanced Creative Nonfiction along with the writer Sean Prentiss. Her work has appeared in The Threepenny ReviewPrairie SchoonerTin HouseThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe RumpusThe Carolina QuarterlyColumbia JournalPainted Bride QuarterlyCrab Orchard ReviewPANKDrunken Boat and elsewhere.

The event is free and open to all, but advance registration is required.  Register for this VWS event.


Camille Dungy [View Image]Camille T. Dungy 
(Trophic Cascade)

February 18, 2021 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade, winner of the Colorado Book Award, and the essay collection Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Dungy has also edited anthologies including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry and From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great. A 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, her honors include NEA Fellowships in poetry and prose, an American Book Award, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and two Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominations. Dungy’s poems have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, the Pushcart Anthology, Best American Travel Writing, and over thirty other anthologies. She is University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University.

The event is free and open to all, but advance registration is required.  Register for this VWS event.


Rion Amilcar Scott [View Image]Rion Amilcar Scott 
(The World Doesn’t Require You)

March 4, 2021 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Rion Amilcar Scott is the author of the story collection, The World Doesn’t Require You, a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. His debut story collection, Insurrections, was awarded the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His work has been published in journals such as The New Yorker, The Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, and The Rumpus, among others. One of his stories was listed as a notable in Best American Stories 2018 and one of his essays was listed as a notable in Best American Essays 2015. He was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland and earned an MFA from George Mason University where he won the Mary Roberts Rinehart award, a Completion Fellowship and an Alumni Exemplar Award. He has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writing Conference, Kimbilio and the Colgate Writing Conference as well as a 2019 Maryland Individual Artist Award. Presently he teaches Creative Writing at the University of Maryland.

The event is free and open to all, but advance registration is required.  Register for this VWS event.


MFA Alumni Spotlight Reading
Laura Davenport [View Image]Brian Castleberry [View Image]Rachel Beanland [View Image]Rachel Beanland 
(Florence Adler Swims Forever)
Brian Castleberry 
(Nine Shiny Objects)
Laura Davenport 
(Dear Vulcan)
Tarfia Faizullah 
(Registers of Illuminated Villages)
Rose Szabo 
Rose Szabo [View Image]Tarfia Faizullah [View Image](What Big Teeth)

April 1, 2021 – 7PM
Virtual Event hosted VCU Cabell Library

Rachel Beanland is the author of the novel, Florence Adler Swims Forever, published by Simon & Schuster. The book has appeared on “most anticipated” lists from Good Morning America and Parade magazine, and was recently named a July 2020 IndieNext pick by the American Booksellers Association. Beanland’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in True Story, Creative Nonfiction, and Broad Street magazine, among other publications. She earned her MFA in creative writing, with a fiction concentration, from VCU in 2020, and holds bachelor’s degrees in art history and journalism from the University of South Carolina. Beanland lives in Richmond with her family.

Brian Castleberry is the author of the novel Nine Shiny Objects. His stories have been featured in Narrative, Day One, The Southern Review, and other literary journals. He teaches literature and creative writing at the College of William & Mary, where he is director of the Patrick Hayes Writers Series.

Laura Davenport is the author of Dear Vulcan and the chapbook Little Hates. She received an MFA in poetry from VCU in 2010. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2009, Crab Orchard Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact and Sow's Ear Poetry Review, among others. She is the recipient of a Hackney Literary Award, James River Writers/Richmond Magazine Best Poem award, and a Meridian Editors' Choice award. She lives in Savannah, Georgia and works as director of academic resources at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Tarfia Faizullah is the author of two poetry collections, Registers of Illuminated Villages and Seam. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, three Pushcart prizes, and other honors, Tarfia has been featured in periodicals, magazines, and anthologies both here and abroad. Tarfia presents work at institutions and organizations worldwide, and collaborations include photographers, producers, composers, filmmakers, musicians, and visual artists, resulting in several interdisciplinary projects. In 2016, Tarfia was recognized by Harvard Law School as one of 50 Women Inspiring Change. Tarfia was a 2019 United States Artists Fellow.

Rose Szabo got their MFA in fiction from VCU in 2018. Since then they have been a barista at a partially-franchised Dunkin Donuts/unbranded juice bar, an adjunct instructor with the Department of Focused Inquiry, and recently, the author of What Big Teeth, a book about monsters that debuts February 2021. They live in Richmond with an assortment of people and cats.

The event is free and open to all, but registration is required.  Register for the MFA Alumni Spotlight event.

Previous VCU Visiting Writers

Dorothy Allison • Jimmy Santiago Baca • Richard Bausch • Bruce Beasley • Aimee Bender • Charles Bernstein • John Bresland • Linda Bierds • Robert Olen Butler • Ron Carlson • John Casey • Jade Chang • Victoria Chang • Kelly Cherry • Joan Connor • Rebecca Curtis • Dennis Danvers • Samuel R. Delany • Junot Díaz • Mark Doty • Stephen Dunn • Stuart Dybek • Angela Flournoy • Nick Flynn • Ru Freeman • Mary Gaitskill • Beckian Fritz Goldberg • Linda Gregerson • Jennifer Grotz • Elizabeth Hand • Ron Hansen • Terrance Hayes • Fanny Howe • Barbara Hurd • Richard Jackson • Allison Joseph • Alison Kennedy • Yusef Komunyaaka • Nick Lantz • Katherine Larson • Rickey Laurentiis • Dana Levin • Philip Levine • Kelly Link • Bret Lott • Thomas Lux • Elizabeth McCracken • Erin McGraw • Ling Ma • Thomas Mallon • Dinty Moore • Melinda Moustakis • Emily Nemens • Craig Nova • Stanley Plumly • Roger Reeves • Paisley Rekdal • Sheri Reynolds • David Rivard • Mary Ruefle • George Saunders • Christine Schutt • Alan Shapiro • Solmaz Sharif • Tom Sleigh • Karen Solie • Gerald Stern • Darin Strauss • Jean Thompson • Natasha Trethewey • Ellen Bryant Voigt • Helene Wecker • Colson Whitehead • CK Williams • Charles Wright • Jenny Xie • Dean Young • Michele Young-Stone • Matthew Zapruder

All events are free and open to the public. The series is sponsored by the Department of English of the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences and the Graduate Writers' Association, with additional funding made possible through the generosity of VCU Libraries, Barnes & Noble @ VCU Bookstore, and the family of Larry Levis.

In addition, the Graduate Writers Association sponsors The Moveable Feast, a series of readings given by MFA students. Each spring the series, held at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, features thesis readings by students in their final year in the program.

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