Spring 2021 Visiting Writers Series

George Mason University’s Creative Writing Program joins Mason’s University Libraries in presenting the Spring 2021 Visiting Writers Series, featuring two writers each in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Writers will meet for virtual afternoon workshops with students from Mason’s MFA program in creative writing and will then participate in virtual programs that same evening—open to the public and combining brief readings and conversation with hosts from Mason’s creative writing community. All evening programs will begin at 7 p.m.

Visit creativewriting.gmu.edu for more information closer to each event.


Thursday, February 11: Karen Russell (fiction)

Karen Russell won the 2012 and the 2018 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and one of The New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2011. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim award and is a former fellow of the NYPL Cullman Center and the American Academy in Berlin. She graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University and received her MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. She is the Endowed Chair of Texas State University’s MFA program, where she teaches in the fall semesters.


Thursday, February 18: Reginald Dwayne Betts (nonfiction)

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He is the author of a memoir and three books of poetry. His memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison (Avery/Penguin, 2009), was awarded the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction. His books of poetry are Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James, 2010), Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015), and Felon (W.W. Norton, 2019). Betts is a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, 2011 Radcliffe Fellow, and 2012 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow. In 2012, Betts was appointed to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by President Obama. He is the graduate of Prince George’s Community College, the University of Maryland, the MFA Program at Warren Wilson College, and Yale Law School. Currently, he is a PhD candidate at Yale Law School. Betts is also the founder and director of the Million Book Project, an initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will place curated 500-title collections inside 1,000 prisons across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.


Thursday February 25: Ted Conover (nonfiction)

Ted Conover is the author of six books, most recently Immersion: A Writer’s Guide to Going Deep. He is best-known for Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, an account of his ten months spent working as a corrections officer at New York’s Sing Sing prison. Newjack won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Conover’s other books include Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes, Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America’s Mexican Migrants, Whiteout, and The Routes of Man. A Marshall Scholar, Conover is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Amherst and of a Guggenheim Fellowship; he has also taught at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He writes for the New York Times Magazine, New Yorker, and many other publications. His most recent article is “The Last Frontier,” the cover story of the August 2019 Harper’s Magazine. Conover is a professor at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. 


Thursday, March 11: Ayşe Papatya Bucak (fiction)

Ayşe Papatya Bucak is the author of The Trojan War Museum and Other Stories which was awarded the 2019 Spotlight Award by the Story Prize. Her writing has been published in a variety of journals including One Story, Bomb, The Iowa Review, Guernica, and Witness. Two of the stories from The Trojan War Museum were reprinted in the O. Henry and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and the collection was short-listed for the 2020 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award for a Debut Short Story Collection. She is an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University.


Thursday, March 18: Arthur Sze (poetry)

Arthur Sze has published ten books of poetry, including Sight Lines (2019), which received the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry; Compass Rose (2014), a Pulitzer Prize finalist; The Ginkgo Light (2009), selected for the PEN Southwest Book Award and the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Book Award; Quipu (2005); The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998, selected for the Balcones Poetry Prize and the Asian-American Literary Award; and Archipelago (1995), selected for an American Book Award. His new and collected poems, The Glass Constellation, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in April 2021. He has also published one book of Chinese poetry translations, The Silk Dragon (2001). Sze is the recipient of many honors, including the Jackson Poetry Prize, a Lannan Literary Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowships. He is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts.  


Thursday, April 1: Kerri Webster (poetry)

Kerri Webster is the author of three books of poetry: Trailhead (published in 2018); Grand & Arsenal (winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, selected by Jane Mead and published in 2012) and We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone (winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series, selected by Elizabeth Robinson and published in 2005). She has authored two chapbooks: Psalm Project (Albion Books, 2009), and Rowing Through Fog, selected by Carl Phillips as a winner of the Poetry Society’s Chapbook Fellowship (2003). The recipient of awards from the Whiting Foundation and the Poetry Society of America, she has taught in the MFA programs at Washington University in St. Louis and Boise State University. Webster currently lives in Idaho, where she adjuncts and works as a Writer in the Schools for The Cabin, a literary arts organization.