BOONE, N.C. — This spring, virtual visits from four award-winning authors — Anna Deavere Smith, Charles Dodd White, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle and Carter Sickels — compose Appalachian State University’s Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series. From the page to the stage, their works present a range of perspectives from both literary characters and real-life individuals who have faced adversity — including war, white supremacy, racism and AIDS.
In the series’ first livestream event, Smith, an award-winning playwright, actor and professor, will perform “Reclaiming Grace in the Face of Adversity” — a speech that draws upon Smith’s research for her play “Let Me Down Easy,” including interviews with individuals who have demonstrated grace in the face of dramatic challenges. The event, which is part of App State’s “The Schaefer Center presents …” performing arts series, will be moderated by Dr. Paulette Marty, professor of theater arts. Preregistration is required.
During prerecorded events, White, Clapsaddle and Sickels — all novelists from the Appalachian region — will read from their work and deliver talks on the craft of writing, which provide aspiring writers with examples on how to refine their writing techniques, develop sounder work habits and gain a greater appreciation of the writing process.
“I’m delighted Appalachian State University is bringing — albeit virtually — writers of such relevance to campus,” said App State’s Mark Powell, author, associate professor of creative writing and director of both the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series and App State’s creative writing program. Powell has also served as a first reader for students’ Honors College theses.
Of visiting novelist White, Powell said, “Charles Dodd White has written a well-received novel about white supremacy in East Tennessee, and Appalachia in general. ‘How Fire Runs’ is a condemnation of such and something of an expose — timely and important.”
Powell cited NPR’s description of Clapsaddle’s debut novel, “Even As We Breathe,” stating, “This is a novel of intimacy and poignancy but also an exploration of how war and racism affect people’s daily lives.” Clapsaddle is the first enrolled member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee to publish a novel.
Carter Sickels’ “The Prettiest Star” has been named both a Kirkus Best Fiction Book of 2020 and one of O Magazine’s Best LGBT Books of 2020. The Los Angeles Review of Books wrote that the novel “deserves a place in the canon of AIDS literature alongside the likes of Larry Kramer and Rebecca Makkai.”
Video links for the novelists’ recordings will be featured on the Visiting Writers Series webpage and will be available to the public and the campus community until May 20. Each author’s video will be made available on the day of their scheduled appearance in the series, beginning with White’s on Feb. 18.
Smith’s visit is sponsored by the Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, with support from the Visiting Writers Series and others.
More on the visiting authors
Playwright Anna Deavere Smith
Smith, who currently appears in the ABC series “Black-ish” and the ABC legal drama “For the People,” uses theater to explore issues of community, character and diversity in America.
Best known for crafting more than 15 one-woman shows drawn from hundreds of interviews, Smith turns conversations into scripts and transforms herself onstage into a number of characters. In her speaking events, she discusses what she calls the many “complex identities of America,” interweaving her discussions with portrayals of people she has interviewed to illustrate the diversity of emotions and points of view on controversial issues.
She has won numerous awards for her work, including an Obie Award and the 2017 Nortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show. Her play “Fires in the Mirror” was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize, and “Twilight: Los Angeles” was nominated for a Tony Award.
She is a professor in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Novelist Charles Dodd White
White is the author of four novels, including “How Fire Runs” and “In the House of Wilderness.”
“Both action-packed and introspective, ‘How Fire Runs’ is a timely literary thriller that is hard to put down,” said “Southernmost” author Silas House, who appeared in App State’s fall 2019 Visiting Writers Series. “Charles Dodd White continues to prove himself as one of the best prose stylists of Appalachian literature in a novel that transcends region to become raw commentary on this volatile moment in America.”
Swallow Press called White’s “In the House of Wilderness,” “a harrowing story of choice and sacrifice,” in which a young woman who, after months of wandering homeless through the landscape of Appalachia, finds herself part of a family driven by exploitation and abuse.
White has received the Appalachian Book of the Year Award and the Chaffin Award for his fiction. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is an associate professor of English at Pellissippi State Community College. White is slated to give a craft talk on the role of activism in art as part of the Visiting Writers Series.
Novelist Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
Clapsaddle’s debut novel, “Even As We Breathe,” was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2020. Her first novel manuscript, “Going to Water,” won the 2012 Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium and was named a finalist for the 2014 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.
Charles Frazier, New York Times bestselling author of “Varina” and “Cold Mountain,” said Clapsaddle’s debut novel “is a fresh, welcome and much needed addition to the fiction of the Appalachian South and its neglected people and places. Clapsaddle creates characters with sensitivity, subtlety, humor and warmth.”
Clapsaddle, who lives in Qualla, holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William and Mary. She is the former co-editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Writers Network.
She will serve as the final judge for App State’s 2021–22 Truman Capote Literary Trust Creative Writing Scholarship in creative prose. Through her Visiting Writers Series craft talk, titled “The Living Story,” she plans to explore methods for infusing physical sensation into writing through practice, observation and structure.
Novelist Carter Sickels
Sickels, an assistant professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University, is the author of novels “The Prettiest Star” (Hub City Press, 2020) and “The Evening Hour” (Bloomsbury, 2012).
Among its many honors, “The Prettiest Star” has been named a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, one of the Women’s National Book Association’s 2020 Great Group Reads Selections and an Indie Next Pick for April 2020. His debut novel “The Evening Hour” — a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and a Lambda Literary Award — was adapted into a feature film that premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
In its review of “The Prettiest Star,” Lambda Literary wrote the novel is “a sensitive, unashamed look at how much has and hasn’t changed since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. It shows how difficult is it to live in a world that sees one as different but it also reflects how it’s possible to wade through that sea of ignorance, as long as you have enough to keep you afloat.”
Sickels’ essays and fiction have appeared in a variety of publications, including The Atlantic, Oxford American, Poets & Writers and others. He is the editor of “Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity.”
In his Visiting Writers Series craft talk, titled “Writing with Empathy,” Sickels plans to explore strategies for writing empathetic characters — “how to create complex, flawed and deeply human characters, and write from different points of view,” he said.
More on the series
Books by the visiting authors are available for purchase through the University Bookstore. The university’s Belk Library and Information Commons has created a Spring 2021 Visiting Writers Series guide that provides information about each author and shows which of the authors’ books are available through the library.
Spring 2021 schedule
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About the Department of English
The Department of English at Appalachian State University is committed to outstanding work in the classroom, the support and mentorship of students, and a dynamic engagement with culture, history, language, theory and literature. The department offers master’s degrees in English and rhetoric and composition, as well as undergraduate degrees in literary studies, film studies, creative writing, professional writing and English education. Learn more at https://english.appstate.edu.
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The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Appalachian State University is home to 17 academic departments, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. CAS aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. More than 6,400 student majors are enrolled in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing App State’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
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As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.