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Author S.L. Wisenberg will visit classes, meet individually with student writers, and headline two public events today and tomorrow as this year’s Closs Writer-in-Residence.

Wisenberg will read from her prose 7:30 p.m. today in the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights auditorium (room 104). A book signing and reception will follow.

She will lead an informal workshop, “Getting Started,” for members of the Lafayette community 4:15 p.m. tomorrow in Pardee Hall room 321. Participants should bring a notebook, pen, and paper, or a laptop.

Wisenberg will consult with student writers individually about their work and will meet with groups of students in English department courses taught by Beth Seetch, lecturer in English and coordinator of the College Writing Program; Patricia Donahue, professor of English and director of the College Writing Program; and Alix Ohlin, assistant professor of English.

For more information about the events, contact Seetch at seetchm or x5233.

The English department hosts a writer for a student-focused residency each year through the Ruth Mary Callahan Closs Fund, which originated with the late poet Fred Closs ’51, associate professor of English and founder of the Theodore Roethke Poetry Festival.

“Professor Fred Closs, who was always profoundly dedicated to our students’ creative writing, has left us a wonderful gift that enables us to invite a writer to campus to work individually with our students,” says Suzanne Westfall, professor and head of English and acting director of the theater program. “Fred’s spirit and love for Lafayette lives on each time the Closs Writer-in-Residence visits our campus.”

Wisenberg’s writing focuses on American Judaism and the legacy of the Holocaust. Fittingly, her visit coincides with the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of Nov. 9, 1938, in Germany, which was marked by violence against Jews and destruction of Jewish businesses and property.

“S.L. Wisenberg’s background as a journalist and as a writer of both serious fiction and experimental non-fiction make her a terrific resource for our students,” says Seetch. “Plus, she’s an individual who has made a career as a writer in several contexts, so students who converse with her can imagine career paths for themselves as writers; they can imagine where their writing might take them. And — this may seem a small thing –because Sandi is a Midwesterner (born in Texas and a long-time resident of Chicago), she offers a different voice from those writers our students might otherwise encounter in person.

“Lafayette’s location allows us to bring in many writers from New York, Princeton, and the northeast corridor in general. The Closs Fund has allowed us to think outside our region this year.”

Robert L. Cohn, Philip and Muriel Berman Professor of Jewish Studies, adds, “For students, such as those in my First-Year Seminar, Jewish Humor, who are doing college writing for the first time, it will be great for them to meet the writer of what they are reading and hear her talk about her craft. Because the writings that they read are published, they tend not to think that their own efforts at writing are in any way comparable. So it is important that they hear from a professional writer how she came to write and what the process is of her own writing.”

Wisenberg, who co-directs the graduate program in creative writing at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., has published The Sweetheart Is In, a collection of short stories published in 2001 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, and Holocaust Girls: History, Memory & Other Obsessions, a book of essays published by University of Nebraska Press. Her work has been published in dozens of magazines and newspapers, including the New Yorker, Chicago Reader, Miami Herald, Tikkun, North American Review, Crain’s Chicago Business, and Michigan Quarterly Review. Her stories, essays and poems are included in almost 20 anthologies.

Wisenberg earned an MFA in English from the University of Iowa in 1983 and a B.S. from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1979. Her honors and awards have included several fellowship stipends from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Pushcart Prize for fiction, 1996; the Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, 1987, 1989, 1996, and 2001; first place, Belles Lettres personal essay contest, 1993; an Individual Artist Fellowship, Illinois Arts Council, 1992; a Finalist Award, 2002; a Writing Fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., October 1990-May 1991; a finalist designation by the Associated Writing Programs 1990 Award Series for a creative nonfiction book-length manuscript; residencies at Millay Colony for the Arts in 1986 and at the Ragdale Foundation, 1987, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, and 2000; and the 1985 Media Award, Dade County (Fla.) Psychological Association, for articles on adult survivors of incest.

“It is writing to be savored, to reread, to read aloud to someone else,” writes the Chicago Tribune of Holocaust Girls. “Wisenberg’s insightful essays are gems not to be missed,” adds Booklist. According to the Boston Globe, “The Sweetheart Is In offers rich material for anyone interested in family connections and disconnections or in the struggle of modern women to find fulfillment among increasing options — and for any reader who loves the short story in all its evolving forms.”

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