SMU’s DeGolyer Library celebrates Joe Coomer’s life in letters

Author Joe Coomer, SMU '81
Award-winning author and SMU alumnus Joe Coomer will be celebrated in a retrospective exhibition running through May 24 at SMU’s DeGolyer Library.

The career and achievements of acclaimed author and SMU alumnus Joe Coomer is celebrated in a retrospective exhibition running through Friday, May 24, 2013 in SMU’s DeGolyer Library.

“Joe Coomer: A Life in Letters” explores Coomer’s creative process using handwritten drafts, manuscripts, galleys, letters, first editions, translations and other materials drawn from the literary archive he recently donated to DeGolyer Library.

The gift of more than 20 boxes of materials includes essays and stories, tests, a transcript and other papers from Coomer’s time as an undergraduate in SMU’s creative writing program. He graduated in 1981.

Known for his graceful prose and memorable characters, Coomer has published eight works of fiction, two non-fiction books and one collection of poetry. His writing has been praised by The Boston Globe as “fresh and authentic” and as “compelling” and a “genuine pleasure” by The New York Times.

The Decatur Road: A Novel of the Appalachian Hill Country by Joe Coomer
A 30th-anniversary edition of Joe Coomer’s debut novel, ‘The Decatur Road: A Novel of the Appalachian Hill Country,’ has been published by SMU’s DeGolyer Library. Coomer graduated from the University in 1981.

“Joe Coomer is one of the great voices to emerge from SMU’s English department and creative writing program,” says Russell L. Martin III ’78, ’86, DeGolyer director. “We are honored and delighted to have his papers, where they will join our growing collection of the archives of other contemporary writers. It is also fitting, during SMU’s centennial, that we recognize our own.”

A 30th-anniversary edition of Coomer’s debut novel, The Decatur Road: A Novel of the Appalachian Hill Country, will be published by DeGolyer Library in conjunction with the exhibit. He will sign copies and talk about his work at a reception and lecture Thursday, April 18 as part of the SMU Founders’ Day weekend. The event will begin at 6 p.m. at the library and will be free and open to the public.

First published in 1983, the book won the Jesse A. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction from the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters in 1984. He started writing the book as an SMU student.

“I wrote three of the short segments for an independent study with Marsh [Terry]. He liked them, so after I graduated, I wrote 55 more,” Coomer says.

Terry ’53, ’54, who retired in 2007 as the E. A. Lilly Professor of English, founded the creative writing program and the SMU Literary Festival and became Coomer’s mentor and friend.

“Joe Coomer transferred into SMU and came to my office in Dallas Hall and asked, ‘Are you the writing teacher?’ I nodded my head and did my best, and Joe turned out to be the leader of our nationally celebrated SMU Literary Festival. John Updike and Raymond Carver heard him read at the festival and were impressed,” Terry recalls.

> Read the full story from SMU News


Prize-winning authors visit for 2012 SMU LitFest

The SMU Literary Festival, an annual event celebrating good writing, will feature readings by prize-winning authors, as well as receptions, student conferences and book signings. Sponsored by the Department of English in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, LitFest 2012 author readings will take place Thursday, March 22 through Saturday, March 24. All events are free and open to the public.

“We are beyond pleased at the level of talent in our lineup this year,” said David Haynes, head of the University’s Creative Writing Program. “This is an incredible opportunity for our students and the extended SMU community.”

Author readings will be held in the Texana Room of SMU’s DeGolyer Library. For more information and the schedule of events, visit the SMU LitFest website.

A look at this year’s featured writers:

  • Dean Bakopoulos is the author of two novels, Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon (2005) and My American Unhappiness (2011), both published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts award, and is currently a visiting professor of fiction at Grinnell College in Iowa.
  • Shannon Cain’s debut story collection, The Necessity of Certain Behaviors, is the winner of the 2011 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her stories have been awarded the Pushcart Prize, the O. Henry Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • Eduardo Corral‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, Huizache, Indiana Review, The Journal, Jubilat, New England Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Post Road, Quarterly West, Salt Hill and Witness. His work has been honored with a “Discovery”/The Nation award and a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference scholarship,
  • Amina Gautier is the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for her short story collection At-Risk (University of Georgia Press). Seventy of Gautier’s stories have been published, appearing in Best African American Fiction, Callaloo, Chattahoochee Review, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, North American Review, Shenandoah, and Southern Review.
  • Tyehimba Jess’ first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005.” He received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and was a 2004-5 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.
  • Krys Lee is the author of recently published Drifting House. Her short stories and articles have been published or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Narrative MagazineCalifornia QuarterlyAsia Weekly and Conde Nast, UK.
  • Corey Marks, editor of American Literary Review, is author of Renunciation, a National Poetry Series selection, and The Radio Tree, a Green Rose Prize winner. His poems have appeared in New England Review, Ploughshares, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and The Virginia Quarterly Review.
  • Martha Rhodes is the author of four poetry collections: At the GatePerfect Disappearance (winner of the Green Rose Prize), Mother Quiet, and The Beds. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

> Visit the SMU LitFest homepage

SMU’s 2011 Literary Festival arrives March 24-26

pipkinDeGolyer Library‘s newest iteration of the SMU Literary Festival is headed back to campus this week. The three-day event, running Thursday, March 24-Saturday, March 26, will feature eight different authors and poets offering readings and discussions to the campus in DeGolyer’s reading rooms.

The opening events on Thursday, March 24 begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room, with fiction writer Rosalyn Story and poet Matt Hart as the featured scribes for the night. A 30-minute reception will precede the evening’s activities.

Two series of writers will be featured on Friday, March 25, also taking place in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room. Fiction writers John Pipkin (pictured) and Cynthia Phoel will share readings at 3 p.m., and they will be followed by writer Benjamin Percy and poet Rick Barot at 7 p.m. Another half-hour reception will precede the 7 p.m. events.

A noon luncheon will take place on Saturday, March 26, which will include a discussion with the selected authors and poets. In addition, the winners of this year’s undergraduate writing competition will be announced and honored. The luncheon takes place in Heroy Hall, Room 153. This is the only part of the Lit Fest for which an RSVP is required – send yours by calling 214-768-2945 or e-mailing the SMU Lit Fest at Gmail.

devansAfter the luncheon, the Lit Fest’s closing act includes writer Danielle Evans (pictured) and poet C. Dale Young, both of whom will give readings of their work in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room at 2 p.m.

“The SMU Lit Fest has been a great, long running tradition here on campus,” says senior Matthew Anderson, a creative writing major who plans on attending the events. “It doesn’t get as much coverage as it should. The varieties and styles of the writers they bring in make for a great experience, especially if you’re into writing as an art or a craft, or just for fun.”

For more information, visit the DeGolyer Library website or check out this handy WordPress site dedicated to the Lit Fest. (It includes a quick overview of the featured writer’s works, and clicking on their names in this article will lead to their own websites, where bios and samples of their work can be found.)

Authors visit campus for SMU Lit Fest 2010

SMU Lit Fest 'Literature in Bloom' posterAuthors, poets and students will meet on the Hilltop for the 2010 SMU Literary Festival April 22-24. This year’s guest speakers include Jill McCorkle, Tracy Daugherty, Marjorie Sandor, Phillip S. Bryant, Robin Black, Elizabeth Eslami, Robert V.S. Redick and Mary Stewart Hammond.

The schedule of events:

April 22 (Cosponsored with the Gilbert Lecture Series)

  • Reception at 6 p.m. in the Texana Room, DeGolyer Library
  • Reading at 6:30 p.m. in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room, DeGolyer Library: Jill McCorkle

April 23

  • Reading 3-4:30 p.m. in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room: Robert V.S. Redick and Elizabeth Eslami
  • Reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Texana Room
  • Reading at 7 p.m. in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room: Tracy Daugherty and Marjorie Sandor

April 24

  • Lunch and discussion noon-2 p.m. (RSVP to, 214-768-2945)
  • Reading 2-3:30 p.m. in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room: Mary Stewart Hammond and Robin Black
  • Seating begins at 8 p.m. for Closing Cabaret in the Varsity, Hughes-Trigg Student Center
  • Performance 8:30-10 p.m.: “Stomping at the Grand Terrace,” Philip S. Bryant and Carolyn Wilkins

All events are free and open to the public.

> Read author biographies at the SMU Lit Fest blog

Students, authors gather at SMU’s 2009 LitFest

Five authors will share their work and their perspectives on the writing process with the SMU community during the University’s 2009 Literary Festival, scheduled for April 16-17 in Dallas Hall and DeGolyer Library.

This year’s guests were chosen by Creative Writing Director David Haynes and Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Key, both of the Department of English in Dedman College. They include:

Scott BlackwoodScott Blackwood (top right), author of We Agreed to Meet Just Here, which won the 2007 AWP Award for the Novel. His award-winning collection of stories, In the Shadow of Our House, was published by SMU Press in 2001.

Melissa Kirsch (middle right), author of The Girl’s Guide to Absolutely Everything (Workman, 2007), now in its 4th printing. She writes for such publications as New York, Good Housekeeping, National Geographic Traveler, Scientific American and The Huffington Post, as well as her own website.

Melissa KirschMichael Narducci, whose short fiction has appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Gadfly Magazine, Meridian and The Texas Review. He also works as a television and film writer and has written for the science fiction series “The 4400” as well as the NBC drama “Medium.”

April Wilder, Vice-Presidential Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Utah, whose fiction has appeared in Zoetrope, McSweeney’s, Guernica and other publications. Currently, she is working on a novel, I Think About You All The Time, Starting Tomorrow.

Tracy WinnTracy Winn (bottom right), whose short stories have appeared in journals such as the Alaska Quarterly Review, The New Orleans Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Mrs. Somebody Somebody is her debut collection of stories, published by SMU Press in April 2009.

The 2009 LitFest is organized around events that will provide plenty of opportunity for students and authors to interact, says LitFest coordinator Ben Painter, a senior English major and political science minor in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Three LitFest authors – Kirsch, Narducci and Wilder – will meet one-on-one with students throughout the festival.

“The authors have given us a great deal of their time outside of the festival’s scheduled events,” says Painter. “Students already are signing up for these meetings and e-mailing stories to get the writers’ input.”

Painter is also co-founder of the student organization SMU Writers’ Group. In addition to providing support for the University’s student writing community, “one of our main goals is to re-establish LitFest at SMU as one of the premier literary festivals in the nation,” he says.

The SMU Literary Festival is free and open to University students, faculty and staff. For a complete schedule, visit the SMU LitFest homepage.