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University of Iowa News Release


June 2, 2011

UI Writing University will stream and archive June 13-17 readings

The University of Iowa's Writing University website -- -- will stream and archive five literary readings, at 7 p.m. June 13-17. The streams will originate in free event in Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

The busy schedule, coinciding with the opening week of the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, will feature:

--Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna Ann Joslin Williams reading from her new novel, "Down From Cascom Mountain," on Monday June 13.
--Cedar Rapids native Betty Auchard sampling her collection of personal essays, "Home for the Friendless," on Tuesday, June 14.
--Norwegian fiction writer Johan Harstad reading from a new translation of his novel "Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All The Confusion?" on Wednesday, June 15.
--Poets Denise Low and Kathryn Kysar reading from their work on Thursday, June 16.
--Christine Sneed reading from her first collection of short stories, "Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry," on Friday, June 17.

Williams sets her slow, wistful debut novel in and around the fictional town of Leah, N.H., created by her father, National Book Award winner Thomas Williams.

The novel opens as Mary Walker returns to her deceased parents' summer home with her new husband, Michael. The isolated house, barely accessible by road, is nestled in the valley below the densely forested Cascom Mountain, and, within a few pages, Michael falls to his death up on the mountain, leaving Mary to be consoled by characters facing trials of their own.

Robert Olmstead, the author of "Coal Black Horse," wrote, "Here in are the qualities of enduring greatness, our turbulent natures, instructions for life. Inside these covers there's a woman's profound love, a terrible and beautiful world, the claw of grief. Her story is told with grace and dignity and the kind of writing we hunger for: straight and true, spare and generous."

The eldest of three in an unconventional family making their way through the Depression, Auchard narrates a humorous and poignant recollection. Her young parents tie and untie the marital knot three times amidst a string of separations, and when relatives become too weary to keep the children, she and her siblings are dropped off at the Home for the Friendless, where they enjoy three meals a day, indoor plumbing, a grassy playground and plenty of holiday parties. When the family reunites two years later, the roller coaster resumes.

Auchard is the author of the IPPY Award-winning "Dancing in my Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood," endorsed by celebrity widows Jayne Meadows and Rosemarie Stack. Her stories and essays have been published in the San Jose Mercury News, Today's Senior and the "Chocolate for a Woman's Soul" series. Her website is

Thirty-something Norwegian writer/musician/all-around pop icon Harstad has been making quite a splash -— or, perhaps, splashdown —- with his debut novel, which was published in 11 countries before making its way to America and was made into a TV series starring "The Wire's" Chad Coleman.

The book tells the story of Mattias, a 30-something gardener living in Stavanger, Norway, whose idol is Buzz Aldrin, second man on the moon. The epic story of Mattias's pop-saturated odyssey through the world of unconventional psychiatry, souvenir sheep-making, the Cardigans, and space: the space between himself and other people, a journey maybe as remote and personally dangerous as the trip to the moon itself.

Dedi Felman of Words Without Borders summarized, "Like Jonathan Safran Foer, Harstad combines formal play and linguistic ferocity with a searing emotional directness."

On Thursday Low, the poet laureate of Kansas, will read from "Ghost Stories of the New West: From Einstein's Brain to Geronimo's Boots," and Kysar will read from her new collection of poems, "Pretend The World."

Low's collection takes readers on a head-to-toe discovery of colliding cultures, shifting winds and legendary figures who still populate the Great Plains region. She has written 20 books of poetry and essays, including "Natural Theologies: Essays on Literature of the Middle Plains" and "Words of a Prairie Alchemist."

Kysar is the author of a previous collection of poems, "Dark Lake," and is the editor of the essay collection "Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers."

Sneed's debut short-story collection was awarded the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her provocative stories explore unbalanced relationships, particularly between men and women of differing ages. The collection was also chosen as one of the seven best books of 2010 by Time Out Chicago's books editor, Jonathan Messinger.

A faculty member at DePaul University, she has published stories in "Best American Short Stories," the New England Review, Ploughshares, Pleiades, Glimmer Train, the Massachusetts Review, Meridian, Other Voices, the Greensboro Review, River Styx, Phoebe, the South Dakota Review and many other journals. Her website is

The Writers' Workshop is a unit of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Graduate College.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jan Weismiller, Prairie Lights,; Winston Barclay, University News Services,