Visiting writers bring ‘unique’ literary styles to Susquehanna

By Kelsey Rogers, Assistant Living & Arts Editor 

Fiction writers Claire Vaye Watkins and Derek Palacio gave readings of their works on Oct. 26 in Weber Chapel as part of Susquehanna’s Seavey Reading Series.

Watkins is known for “Battleborn,” a collection of short stories that take place in rural Nevada, giving readers an insight of what happens on the outskirts of the American West.

Watkins received the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award and a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame.

She is also a Guggenheim Fellow, which is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated a capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts, according to the Guggenehim Foundation website.

Earning her MFA from Ohio State University, Watkins wrote “Battleborn” as part of her thesis, which was published in 2012. Since then, she released a novel titled “Gold Flame Citrus” in 2015. She is currently an assistant professor at the University of Michi- gan and previously taught at Bucknell and Princeton. During her visit to Susquehanna, Watkins decided to read a new piece of work to the audience, titled “The 10 Item Edinborough Post-Partum Depression Scale.”

“I picked it because the climax is set at Wegman’s,” Watkins joked with the crowd. “It’s not often that you get to read a piece for the exact people it was written for.”

The story was in the form of a common diagnostic tool used to detect post-partum depression in new mothers. The format and ideation was drawn from the overlap that occurs between fiction and nonfiction, according to Watkins.

The story is written in sections, based on the 10 questions that are asked in the diagnostic exam.

“I remember to tell people how many there are,” Watkins said. She noted that no matter how much fun the reader is having, they are questioning how many items are on the list.

Derek Palacio, a former adjunct professor at Susquehanna and Bucknell, gave a reading of his debut novel, “The Mortifications,” which was published in 2016.

Along with his novel, Palacio has also written a novella, “How to Shake the Other Man,” which was published in 2013 and the short story “Sugarcane” which appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories 2013.

“The Mortifications” follows a Cuban family that flees to the Northeast, leaving everything they had known for a new life. As years pass and they grow and transform in their new world, they learn that the father they left behind is still alive.

Palacio decided to read a selection from the end of the novel, where the life of the book is coming to a close.

“It’s a favorite part of mine,” Palacio said. “One of the very first things that I knew that happened in this book was that [the daughter] would become a mystic.”

Palacio said he knew that the character would help others transition from life into dying and death, but nothing else that would happen.

“It was a kind of a really rare and beautiful plot moment to see the way that the role would become integral to the final movement,” Palacio said.

Sophomore Kaila Snyder said the authors gave her inspiration for her own writing, whether it be poetry or prose.

“I thought both of the writers today were unique in their own ways,” Snyder said. “I thought it was a great event.”

Sophomore Justin Yavorski said it was interesting to witness two different perspective of writing.

“I really liked the personalities of the authors,” said Yavorski, who is a creative writing major.

The Seavey Reading Series features seven writers throughout the duration of the 2017-2018 school year. The next writer to make an appearance will be Ishion Hutchinson on Nov. 13 in Stretansky Hall.

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