ERIE, Pa. — The writing in Amy Hempel’s five collections, including the newest, “Sing to It,” lands somewhere between poem and short story. The minimalist approach — some of the stories are told in a single sentence — invites the reader to imagine, and more fully inhabit, the moment at hand.
“Her stories assemble extraordinary sentences,” the New Yorker wrote. “And each purified sentence is itself a story, a kind of suspended enigma.”
Hempel will read from her work, which “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk cites as an influence, during Penn State Behrend’s fall Smith Creative Writers Reading Series. Five authors will be featured during the readings, which begin Sept. 2. The programs, which are free and open to the public, will be hosted on Zoom, due to continuing concerns about public gatherings during the pandemic.
The Smith Creative Writers Reading Series is produced by the college’s Bachelor of Fine Arts 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 series will feature these writers:
- Sept. 2: Marie-Helene Bertino, the author of “Parakeet,” a New York Times Editor’s Choice novel. Her novel “2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas” was named one of NPR’s Best Books in 2014, and “Safe as Houses,” a story collection, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Bertino has been awarded the O. Henry Prize and the Pushcart Prize and was the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellow in Cork, Ireland, in 2017. Bertino's talk can be viewed at this link.
- Sept. 9: Amy Hempel, the author of five story collections, including “Sing to It,” which was published in 2019. Her numerous honors and awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship, an inaugural United States Artists Foundation Fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Prize for Fiction and the Vursell Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hempel has taught fiction writing at Harvard, Bennington and New York University; her work has been translated into more than 20 languages. Hempel's talk can be viewed at this link.
- Sept. 16: Frank Paino, a Cleveland poet whose work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, the Briar Cliff Review, Catamaran and North American Review, among other publications. Paino has written three volumes of poetry, including “Obscura,” which was published in 2020. He has received the Pushcart Prize, the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature and a 2016 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. Paino's talk can be viewed at this link.
- Oct. 21: Caroline Chavatel and Audrey Gradzewicz, contributing writers for Lake Effect, Behrend’s international literary journal. Chavatel is the author of “White Noises,” which won the Laurel Review’s 2018 Midwest Chapbook Contest. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Sixth Finch and other journals. Gradzewicz, a Buffalo native, has had poems published in Thrush, Mid-American Review, Guernica and other journals.
To learn more about the Smith Creative Writers Reading Series and Behrend’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, visit behrend.psu.edu/readings or call 814-898-6108.
Assistant director, news and information, Penn State Behrend