Behind the Scenes: Allan Hamilton Dickson Fund Spring Writers Hosts Dave Eggers, Feb. 28

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Dave Eggers, best-selling author and founder of McSweeney’s, will be the featured writer opening the Wilkes English Department’s Allan Hamilton Dickson Fund Spring Writers Series on Feb. 28. But what does it take to bring in such an accomplished writer, educator and philanthropist to campus? News@Wilkes chats with Mischelle Anthony, associate professor and chair of the English Department, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming event.

Why Dave Eggers?  Anthony says, “The copyright page of his first publication, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” was the impetus. After completing graduate school, Anthony was living in Oklahoma where she picked up a used copy of Eggers’ memoir. Upon reading the copyright page, she found it toys with industry-specific requirements by using snarky remarks to deliver the message. The story itself is both serious and humorous as it follows Eggers raising his younger brother after the death of their parents.  “It’s a wonderful crossover of memoir and fiction,” Anthony adds. “It’s serious but playful.”

Who is he? Eggers is the author of 10 books and a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books and a quarterly journal of new writing. Eggers also is the co-founder of 826 National, a network of seven tutoring centers around the country and ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organization designed to connect students with resources, schools and donors to make college possible. He was a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist in general nonfiction for his book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. You can read more about him here.

More than a reading.  Eggers will not just deliver a lecture on Feb. 28 but will also visit with student teachers and , lead a workshop session as well as have dinner with students, faculty and staff.

From 1- 2:15 p.m., Eggers will conduct a workshop with English-education majors. “Dave Eggers is just as well known or better known for his efforts in literacy projects…I wanted our education students to see his energy and views about that… it can help generate ideas,” Anthony says.

From 3:30- 5 p.m., Eggers will also hold a creative writing workshop with members of the campus community.

Both sessions are open to all Wilkes students, faculty, and staff and take place in the Kirby Salon.

How is this event possible? The spring lecture series is made possible by an endowment willed to the Wilkes English Department by Dorothy Dickson Darte’s father, Allan Hamilton Dickson. “It was originally a general endowment for the English Department,” Anthony explains. “The department has historically used it  bring in speakers to enhance both our students and the community in literature and English. But the Spring Writers Series makes it more specific.”

What makes this series so unique? “This is part of our curriculum,” Anthony explains. “I see this as a way to get Wilkes English, the wonderful things we do, out of Kirby Hall and into the world because we provide these opportunities for our students, and it can be  life-changing.” Prior to the start of the spring semester, the department joins forces to create a line-up for the Spring Writers Series. With those authors in mind, professors plan their courses to introduce students to those writers. “It’s a very student-centered effort each year. We tend to know, by the time we have courses lined up,  at least one of the writers we’ll bring in. Some of us will teach a short story, a novel or an essay by that author.”

Want to hear Eggers speak? The event will take place Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m. in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts, 239 S River St, Wilkes-Barre. The event is free and open to the public. Register here

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