Homecoming, June 1-5, 2016

Getting Your Work Out into the World



5:30-6:30 Feature Author: Michael White, author of Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir. (College Street Ballroom, 812 S. Second Street – formerly Kosair Building—3rd floor) Book signing to follow. Books provided by Follett.

7:00 p.m. Alumni Dine-Around at a variety of restaurants. Sign up for the dine-around by emailing Katy Yocom at kyocom@spalding.edu by May 25. Participants meet in the Brown’s second-floor lobby to walk to restaurants.



1:00-1:30 p.m. Registration (Brown Hotel, 2nd floor, Bluegrass Room) Pick up short reading for a Literary Chat on ekphrasis (the description or treatment of a work of art in writing). The chat takes place at 1:00 p.m. Saturday. Also pick up a voucher for $5 off a pre-festival dinner at Sicilian Pizza and Pasta tonight!

1:30-2:00 p.m. Alumni Gathering (Brown Hotel, 2nd floor, Bluegrass Room) Gather, say hello to old friends, and hear a Welcome Home from Sena. Light refreshments.

2:00 p.m. Urban Bourbon Trail (Tour leaves from the Brown Hotel, 2nd floor, Bluegrass Room) Led by Marjetta Geerling. Catch up with us at any point on the trail between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. Text Marjetta at 305-695-9619 for the group’s current location.

2:00-4:15 p.m. Alumni Workshops

  • Playwriting (Brown Hotel, 3rd floor, Louisville Room, left off elevators)
  • Partial Novel (Brown Hotel, 3rd floor, Board Room, left off elevators)


2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Discussion session (Brown Hotel, 2nd floor, Bluegrass Room) “Creative Practice: How Do You Approach the Blank Page?” Moderated by Katy Yocom.


5:30-6:45 p.m. Spalding’s Celebration of Recently Published Books by Faculty (Brown Hotel, 16th floor, Gallery Ballroom).

  • Fenton Johnson, The Man Who Loved Birds
  • Robin Lippincott and Julia Watts, Rufus + Syd
  • Crystal Wilkinson, The Birds of Opulence
  • Charlie Schulman, Natural History X

Book signing to follow. Books provided by Carmichael’s Bookstore.


7:00-8:00 p.m. Dinner. Use the voucher you picked up at Registration for $5 off a pre-festival dinner at Sicilian Pizza.


8:15-9:30 p.m. 10-minute Alumni Play Festival and Film Festival (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Secretariat B). Hosted by Justin Dobring and Laura Morton Mattingly.






9:00-10:00 a.m. Guest Lecturer (Brown Hotel, 3rd floor, Crystal Ballroom)

Varian Johnson, guest

If It Were Easy, Everyone Would Do It:

Real World Advice for Today’s Working Writer

In this session, Varian Johnson speaks about the vagaries of the writing life from his personal experience.


10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Alumni Workshops. (Brown Hotel, 3rd floor, Crystal Ballroom)

  • Playwriting
  • Partial Novel


10:15-11:15 a.m. A choice of faculty lectures. (Brown Hotel)


Jeremy Paden, translation faculty

Translating Mestre with Hyperbatons and Popular Wrestling Expressions

(Brown Hotel, 3rd floor, Broadway A)

No language, even ones that have descended from a common tongue, are similar. Each has its own history, distinct rhythms, separate rules. Each also is inflected locally in different ways: the way slang develops, how loan words get used. The task of the writer is to render experience, thought, emotion, music, through the artistic manipulation of language. The job of the translator is to bring this—these words, experience, music, thought, feelings—over into another language with a different music, a separate linguistic and literary history, another set of grammatical rules. Artful translation is not simply the literal transfer of words from one language into another, but it is the attempt offer up an interpretation of the literary text in the first language into a literary, artistic text in the second. While there are always challenges with this attempt, each writer, each text presents its own unique challenges. And though these unique differences between writers and texts are important, what the translator wrestles with is language. The contemporary Spanish poet Juan Carlos Mestre, winner of five of Spain’s most prestigious awards for poetry, presents a set of unique challenges to the translator. The two principal ones we will discuss are 1) his use of high and low language, of literary, poetic expressions, and popular idioms. Indeed, idioms are oftentimes the hardest thing to translate. And, 2) his use of the hyperbaton, or syntactical inversion. While this is a presentation on poetry and translation concentrating on specific challenges Mestre’s poetry sets for the translator, the conversation will focus on language—grammar, syntax, history—and in that sense, be a craft talk that examines those decisions made when translating and their implications.


Writing for Children and Young Adults (also prose writers)

Varian Johnson, guest

The Metaphor: So Much More Than a Simple Comparison

(Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Citation)

We all know what metaphors are; we use them all the time. But are we haphazardly sprinkling metaphors into our work, or are we truly using the device in a way that elevates our work from the dull to the spectacular? In this presentation, author Varian Johnson will not only revisit the nuts and bolts of the metaphor, but will also discuss the use of metaphor as a controlling image in a novel. Suggested Pre-reading: Getting the Girl by Markus Zusak, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Every Time a Rainbow Dies by Rita Williams-Garcia.


Dramatic Writing

Kevin Willmott, guest

The Process of Making the Spike Lee Joint—Chi-Raq

(Brown Hotel, 3rd floor, Broadway C)

Willmott will talk about how the idea of Chi-Raq was developed from the ancient Greek play Lysistrata, including the origins, process, adaptation, and key elements retained from the play and those that changed or were abandoned. In addition, how the ancient play was updated including specifics to the problem of gun violence in Chicago. Finally, Willmott will speak on how this project was different than other films he has worked on in the past.


11:30 a.m.-noon. Graduation Lecture in Fiction

Scott O’Connor, “Uncommon Intimacy: Using Unconventional Techniques to Create Meaningful Relationships in Fiction” (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Citation)

Noon-1:30 p.m. Lunch. Alumni have lunch on their own.


1:30-2:15 p.m. Diana M. Raab Professional Development Sessions (Brown Hotel)

  • Publishing Your Poetry: Panel with Priscilla Atkins (moderator), Jerriod Avant, Marci Johnson, Cole Bellamy (Broadway A)
  • “The Social Pitch,” with Marjetta Geerling (Citation Room). We all know to work on our written pitching skills—the query letter, the blurb, the synopsis. But what happens when you’re at a conference or social gathering and an agent or editor asks that dreaded question: “What’re you working on?” How do you sum up years of research, complex characters, hundreds of pages, and countless revisions in a way that is not only cohesive but will also prompt someone, hopefully that agent or editor you’re talking with, to ask to see it? In “The Social Pitch,” we’ll examine tactics for handling a verbal pitch in a conversational way. We’ll also engage in exercises and activities to help you develop a pitch for a project you plan to shop. Although not required, participants are encouraged to bring drafts of pitches, query letters, blurbs, or synopses for a current project.


2:30-3:15 p.m. Diana M. Raab Professional Development Sessions (Brown Hotel)

  • Playwrights: Getting Your Work Out into the World. Panel with Amina McIntyre (moderator), Nicole Kearney, Kim Stinson-Hawn, Tommy Trull (Broadway A)
  • “Repurposing the ECE for Conference Presentations,” with Omar Figueras and Eva Gordon (Citation Room)
  • Practice Pitch Sessions, with Vicki Weaver. Vickie plays the role of agent in a session that lets alumni practice pitching their novel or other book-length work. Slots must be reserved in advance by emailing Vickie at dirtyoven@yahoo.com. (Location arranged with Vickie)

3:45-5:00 p.m. Celebration of Recently Published Books by Alumni. All students, alumni, and faculty welcome. Book signing to follow at SPLoveFest book expo. Books provided by Carmichael’s Bookstore. Hosted by Bonnie Johnson. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Citation Room)

– Kit Alloway (’08, writing for children & young adults), Dreamfever

– Lynda Archer (’05, fiction), Tears in the Grass

– Martha Bourlakas (’12, creative nonfiction), Love Feast: Together at the Table

– Joe Gisondi (’10, creative nonfiction), Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot

– Vanessa Gonzales (’13, fiction), The Light in the Sound

– Bill Goodman (’12, creative nonfiction), Beans, Biscuits, Family, and Friends

– Juyanne James (’07, fiction), The Persimmon Trail and Other Stories

– Mary Knight (’13, writing for children & young adults), Saving Wonder

– Jill Kelly Koren (’08, poetry), The World of a Body


5:00-6:00 p.m. SPLoveFest. Alumni and students display their books, journals, and anthologies and/or bring promotional material regarding artistic endeavors such as plays, movies, podcasts, literary services, blogs, websites, and more. Hors d’oeuvres and cash bar. Alumni Celebration of Recently Published Books readers sign their books. Books provided by Carmichael’s Bookstore. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Secretariat)


6:00-8:30 p.m. Dinner on your own.


9:00 p.m. Alumni After-Party Literary Reading and 10-year reunion. The Class of 2006 is hosting a reading. Reading slots open to ALL alums. Everybody welcome! Dance party to follow at Sully’s! Teneice Durrant hosts. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Citation)







9:00 – 9:45 a.m. Agent talk for alums. (ELC Troutman Lectorium)

Alice Speilburg

Narrative Pull: How to Keep Agents and Editors Reading

Agents and editors request a full manuscript from a very small portion of the submissions they receive. Once they’ve made the request, publishing pros hope that your manuscript will be “the one” as much as you do. The sample you sent drew them in, and they’re looking for that special something to continue throughout the rest of the novel. One big determining factor is narrative pull. In this class we’ll discuss how to maintain a strong narrative pull between the opening and the climax, focusing on atmospheric tension, internal and external conflict, and pacing.


10:00-11:15 a.m. Agent session for alums and students. (ELC Troutman Lectorium)

Alice Speilburg

Mastering Your Query

Looking at query letters from a literary agent’s perspective, we will cover the basic structure of a query letter, tips and tricks for improving it, and tactics to avoid. Participants will have a chance to get inside the agent’s head and ask questions about the submission process. At the end of the presentation, each participant will write (or revise) a query letter for their book. If time allows, we’ll have a chance to share and critique a few.


11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Brunch Mixer for alumni, Spring 2016 graduates, faculty, and staff. Catered by Jarfi’s Catering. (Mansion Drawing/Dining Room)


1:00-2:00 p.m. Literary Chat. The topic for this session is ekphrasis, the description or treatment of a work of art in writing. We’ll read several brief examples of ekphrasis in both prose and poetry. Our discussion will include how art can enliven, structure, and inhabit a work, as well as whatever other aspects of craft or content strike our fancy. (ELC Troutman Lectorium)


2:15-3:15 p.m. PGRA reading. (ELC Troutman Lectorium)

– Cory Jackson (’12), fiction, author of If I Lie

– Sandi Hutcheson (’12), creative nonfiction, author of Looks Great Naked

– Shad Farrell (’13), fiction

– Maria Steinmetz (’14), writing for children & young adults

– Kelly Morris (’13), fiction

– Sara Truitt (’15), creative nonfiction

– Teneice Durrant (’06), poetry, author of Night for Weeks

2:15-3:15 p.m. Regional Alumni Breakout Sessions. Alumni meet together, then break out by region to discuss possible regional events. (Start in LIB329. Breakout rooms: 3rd floor lobby; LIB326; LIB327; LIB202; Library Lecture Lounge, lower level)


3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Alumni Workshops.

  • Playwriting (LIB327)
  • Partial Novel (LIB328)


6:00 p.m. Graduation. (Brown Hotel, 3rd floor, Crystal Ballroom)


7:00 p.m. After-graduation reception. All welcome. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, J. Graham’s Cafe)


7:30 p.m. Champagne Toast and Farewell Dinner. Purchase ticket from Katy to attend. (Brown Hotel, 1st floor, Secretariat)





Spalding Alumni Day at the Downs. The Spalding University Alumni Association hosts the Day at the Downs for all Spalding alumni. Tickets are $40 and include the following:

  • Admission to Churchill Downs
  • Seating on Millionaire’s Row – Reserved for Spalding only
  • Complimentary racing program
  • Delicious lunch
  • Silent auction
  • Door prizes!


Dress is business casual. Lunch is served 11:30a.m. -2:30 p.m., and includes coffee, soft drinks and iced tea. Additional beverages are available at the cash bar.


Purchase your ticket at https://spalding.edu/event/2016-alumni-day-at-the-downs/


Have a safe trip! Put the next Homecoming on your calendar now: May 31-June 4, 2017.



Priscilla Atkins received her MFA in May 2008 from Spalding University. She grew up in central Illinois, went to college in Massachusetts, taught in Los Angeles (Studio City) for a year, and at age 22 shipped her car to Hawaii (with no job lined up) where she stayed for ten years. She has published poems in hundreds of journals––from the petite (The Small Pond) to the sublime (Poetry London). She lives in Holland, Michigan and teaches women’s and gender studies. She has a collection, The Café of Our Departure (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015).

H. Jerriod Avant is from Longtown, Mississippi. A graduate of Jackson State University, Jerriod has earned MFA degrees from Spalding University and New York University, where he was a Writers in the Public Schools Fellow. A graduate of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop at Brown University, his poems have appeared in the Mississippi Review, Boston Review, Pinwheel, Louisville Review, The Rumpus, Callaloo and other journals. Jerriod is the recipient of two Pushcart nominations, finalist for the 2015 Mississippi Review Prize, recipient of the Joseph F. McCrindle Online Editorial Fellowship at Poets & Writers, a 2015 Vermont Studio Center residency and a 2015-2016 Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship.

Cole Bellamy is a writer and educator from Tampa, Florida. He is the author of three collections of poetry, Lancelot’s Blues, The Mermaid Postcard, and American Museum. His writing has appeared in Penumbra, The Louisville Review, The Sandhill Review, Switched on Gutenberg, and Moonshot. He is the co-founder and organizer of the Tampa Free Skool, and the founder of Lucha Libro Tampa Bay, a live competitive writing series. He teaches poetry at the Morean Arts Center, and teaches English and creative writing at Saint Leo University.


Omar Figueras lives in Miami Beach, Florida, and graduated from Spalding University’s MFA Program May 2013, where he served as his class’s Graduation Representative. He has presented papers—including versions of his ECE and Graduation Lecture—for panels and conferences in France, Austria and the UK. Most recently, he was on a panel at AWP Los Angeles titled: “Innocents Abroad: Developing a Successful Creative Writing Study Abroad Program.” Aside from being an adjunct professor at Miami-Dade College where he teaches Composition I and II, Omar is a full-time real estate paralegal for a law firm in downtown Coral Gables.


Marjetta Geerling is the author of Fancy White Trash (Viking, 2008), which was selected for American Library Association’s 2009 Best Books for Young Adults and for the 2009 Rainbow List. Marjetta grew up in Southern California and received her BA in Women’s Culture and Creative Expression from the Johnston Center for Integrated Studies at the University of Redlands. She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University, and is an assistant professor of English at Broward College. She is currently represented by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency.


Eva Sage Gordon holds an MFA (fiction concentration) from Spalding University and an MA in English from Saint Louis University, Madrid. Her fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry have been published in New Plains Review, The Louisville Review, Prism Review, New Southerner, and elsewhere. Her play, Second Acts, was performed by drama students at the Université de Nice in 2013. She is co-author of The Everything Guide to Writing Children’s Books, 2nd Edition. She currently serves as managing editor for HipLatina.com, and teaches writing at Broward College. She has presented papers at academic and creative writing conferences in Madrid, Istanbul, and London, and looks forward to speaking to fellow Spalding Alums and students about the process of transforming ECEs into successful conference abstracts and presentations.


Marci Rae Johnson teaches English at Wheaton College (Illinois). She is also the poetry editor for WordFarm press. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Collagist, Quiddity, Hobart, Redivider, Redactions, Books & Culture, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Louisville Review, The Christian Century, and 32 Poems, among others. Her first collection of poetry won the Powder Horn Prize and was published by Sage Hill Press in 2013, and her second full length collection was released by Steel Toe Books in early 2016. Her poetry chapbook won the Friends of Poetry chapbook contest for Michigan authors in 2014 and was published by Celery City Chapbooks.


Varian Johnson is the author of six novels, including The Great Greene Heist, an ALA Notable Children’s Book Selection, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, and a Texas Library Association Lonestar List selection. His novels for older readers include My Life as a Rhombus, named to the Texas Library Association Tayshas High School Reading List and the New York Public Library “Stuff for the Teen Age” list, and Saving Maddie, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book. Varian was born and raised in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering. He later attended the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Varian now lives outside of Austin, Texas with his family.


Nicole Kearney is a writer/producer whose plays have been produced in New York, Louisville, San Francisco, Orlando and Indianapolis. Her streaming series can be seen online on Nicole Kearney Productions Network (NKPN) at youtube.com/nicolekearneyproductions. She has a MFA from Spalding University.


Amina S. McIntyre is an Atlanta, Georgia based playwright and creative worship artist. Her production/reading credits include: Working Title Playwrights at OnStage Atlanta, TipMyCup Productions at the Roy Arias Theater in New York, Wabash College, Colby College, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Spalding University, Indiana Theater Association ITWorks 2008, Sabrina McKenzie Ministries’ EPIC Women’s Conference, Hickory Museum of Art and Fort Wayne Fringe Festival and Atlanta One Minute Play Festival (invited playwright three consecutive years). Amina was the 2011 Visiting Playwright in Residence at Lenoir-Rhyne University and recipient of local awards including 2015 -2016 Working Title Playwrights’ Ethel Woolsen Lab and 2014 Office of Cultural Affairs Emerging Artist of the Year. Amina received a BA in Anthropology at Colby College, an MA in African American and African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University, Bloomington and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. She is an ordained minister, author of 30 Days of Peace and Praise, a book of inspirations, and currently pursuing her Masters of Theological Studies degree program at Emory University. Amina is managing director of Karibu Performing Arts, LLC/Songs of Karibu and the Atlanta Region Young Ambassador for the Dramatists Guild.


Jeremy Paden (Spalding MFA translation faculty) is the author of one chapbook of poems, Broken Tulips (Accents Publishing, 2013). His poems have appeared such places as Adirondack ReviewAtlanta ReviewBeloit Poetry JournalCalifornia Quarterly, Cortland ReviewLouisville ReviewRattle, and other journals and anthologies. He has been nominated for a Pushcart and was a 2013 finalist of the Nazim Hikmet poetry competition. His translations of poems from the Spanish have appeared in Words Without Borders and are forthcoming in other magazines and journals. His articles on Latin American and Spanish literature have appeared in Calíope: Journal for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic PoetryColonial Latin American ReviewReview of International American StudiesRomance Quarterly, and other journals and books of collected essays. He received his Ph.D. in Spanish and Latin American literature from Emory University. And he is an associate professor of Spanish at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, where he teaches classes on, among other topics, Latin American poetry and literary translation. In spring of 2015 he was awarded a Bingham Teaching Excellence Award, Transylvania’s highest honor for teaching.

Alice Speilburg is a literary agent at Speilburg Literary Agency and has worked in publishing since 2008. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, and she is a board member of Louisville Literary Arts. Alice is currently building her client list and is looking for books in the following categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mainstream fiction, Middle-Grade, Young Adult, Biography, Food, Gender Issues, Health, History, Literary Journalism, Music, Pop Culture, Relationships, Science, and Travel. For more information, please visit her website: http://speilburgliterary.com or connect with her on Twitter @AliceNicoleH.


Kim Stinson is the North Carolina Regional Representative of The Dramatists Guild of America. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Spalding University, an MA in theatre from Miami University, and a BFA in technical theatre from UNC School of the Arts. Stinson currently runs the theatre program at Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) in Hickory, North Carolina. In April 2015, she won the CVCC Excellence in Teaching Award. Stinson and her students write original works for the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Department of Humanities, as well as run simulations with EMS and nursing departments on campus. Stinson’s plays, Courageous Paths, Appalachian Geisha, and “Santa Lost His GPS” have received productions. Two of her short plays placed in the Appalachian Writers Association Josefina Niggli Award for Playwriting. Stinson also received a grant from the United Arts Council of Catawba County to write a play about Catawba County women. Stinson’s monologue, “Dance it Out,” appears in the monologue anthology interJACtions: Monologues at the Heart of Human Nature. “Post Partum Blue,” a one-act play, was published in the spring 2008 issue of The Louisville Review. More recently, in November 2015, her short play “Plasticity” was published in The Louisville Review.


Tommy Trull‘s plays have been produced all over the country, including recent productions in NYC, Chicago, LA, and DC. His pop-culture drama The 27 Club was selected as a “Best of the Fringe” for the NY International Fringe Festival, and was published by Indie Theatre Now. His play Honeyboy won the Southeastern Theatre Conference’s New Play Award, and was featured in Southern Theatre magazine. Additionally, he is a three-time winner of the Mark Gilbert New Play Award. His plays, poems, and short stories have been published in several literary magazines, including The Louisville Review and Border Crossings. Tommy received his MFA in dramatic writing from Spalding University, and teaches theatre at Greensboro College.


Michael White was educated at the University of Missouri and the University of Utah, where he received his PhD in English and Creative Writing in 1993. His poetry books are The Island, Palma Cathedral (winner of the Colorado Prize), Re-entry (winner of the Vassar Miller Prize), and Vermeer in Hell (winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Editors’ Prize). His memoir, Travels in Vermeer, was longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award. He has published poetry and prose in The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, The Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. White is currently chair of the Department of Creative Writing at UNCW.

Kevin Willmott is an award winning filmmaker who has written and directed six feature films. They include: Ninth Street, CSA—Confederate States of America, The Only Good Indian, The Battle for Bunker Hill, Destination Planet Negro!, and Jayhawkers. He has also worked as a screenwriter for 20th Century Fox, NBC, and director Oliver Stone, among others. Most recently he co-wrote and serves as co-executive producer of Chi-Raq directed by Spike Lee. He is a published playwright and has worked as an activist for peace and civil rights issues. He is a graduate of Marymount College of Kansas and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is an associate professor at the University of Kansas.

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