ERIE, Pa. — Joanna Lowell’s 2016 novel “Dark Season” is a Gothic romance with a feminist slant: The heroine, who has epilepsy, solves a crime by convincing others that her seizures are communications from the dead.
Lowell, whose real name is Joanna Ruocco, is a winner of the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. She ignores the limits of genre, and that makes her a good fit for Penn State Behrend’s 2020 Smith Creative Writers Reading Series, which also will feature a short story writer who covered the 2012 presidential election for Esquire magazine.
The fall series will feature five writers, before closing with the “Sweet Sorrow” reading, which highlights the work of new graduates of Behrend’s creative writing program. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all readings will take place via Zoom.
"While, of course, we would rather host these writers in person, we're excited to see how the series will translate to the online format," said Tom Noyes, program chair of the bachelor of arts in creative writing. “At the very least, we look forward to seeing some out-of-town folks in the audience. Perhaps our program will be able to make some new friends and reconnect with some old ones thanks to Zoom."
The Smith Creative Writers Reading Series is produced by the college’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) program in creative writing – the only program of its kind at Penn State – with support from the Clarence A. and Eugenie Baumann Smith Fund. All readings begin at 6 p.m.
The fall readings will feature these writers:
- Sept. 17: Kathryn Nuernberger, a poet who has published three collections of original work. Her first book, “Rag & Bone,” won the 2010 Antivenom Prize. Her second, “The End of Pink,” won the 2015 James Laughlin prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her talk can be viewed at https://psu.zoom.us/j/99628045204#success
- Sept. 24: Lynn Emanuel, the author of five books of poetry, including “Hotel Fiesta” and “The Dig.” Her work has been featured in the Pushcart Prize Anthology, the Oxford Book of American Poetry and American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry. Emanuel is the founder of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series, which she directed for 20 years. Her talk can be viewed at https://psu.zoom.us/j/98723355867#success
- Oct. 8: Kyle Minor, the author of “Praying Drunk,” which won the 2015 Story Prize Spotlight Award. His writing – including coverage of the 2012 presidential election – has appeared in Esquire, The Atlantic, Iowa Review, Best American Mystery Stories and the New York Times Book Review. His talk can be viewed at https://psu.zoom.us/j/99788093414#success
- Oct. 15: Aimee Pogson, whose short story “Unnatural” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She teaches in the B.F.A. program in creative writing at Behrend and is an editor at Lake Effect, the college’s international literary journal. Her talk can be viewed at https://psu.zoom.us/j/91243378735#success
- Oct. 22: Joanna Ruocco, author of “The Week,” “Field Glass,” and “Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith: A Diptych,” which won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. She teaches at Wake Forest University and chairs the independent, author-run press Fiction Collective Two. Her talk can be viewed at https://psu.zoom.us/j/91916778876#success
- Nov. 12: The fall series concludes with the “Sweet Sorrow” reading, which features the original work of graduating students in Behrend’s B.F.A. program. Their talks can be viewed at https://psu.zoom.us/j/92411427167#success
To learn more about the Smith Creative Writers Reading Series and Behrend’s B.F.A. in creative writing, visit behrend.psu.edu/readings or call 814-898-6108.