Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman alumni share memoirs at Visiting Writers Series

This evening Whitman College alumni Bonnie Rough and Janna Cawrse Esarey return to their alma mater to participate in the Visiting Writers Reading Series, an event designed to expose students and the community to various types of literature and to inspire them through intimate gatherings with published writers.

When organizing such events Schwabacher Professor of English and Creative Writing Katrina Roberts and the rest of the English department try to find up-and-coming authors of various genres and styles who are also willing to share their wisdom with students.

“We think about bringing a diversity of voices to the college,” said Scott Elliott, associate professor of English. “We also think about people who will interact well with students and who will do well in smaller more intimate question and answer sessions.”

These events have proved to be valuable experiences for Whitman students, especially to English majors looking to pursue careers in writing.

“It is inspirational to hear actual people speak about their stories and listen to them reading their own work,” said senior English major Paloma Sutton-Barnes. “[The authors] never hesitate to answer questions we may have about form, technique, inspiration or what have you.  It is an invaluable opportunity.”

As authors of nonfiction memoirs, Esarey and Rough are sure to bring unique perspectives to the series.   Rough’s book “Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA ” is an account of her life after the discovery that she is a carrier for the gene that causes hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, or HED.   Given this knowledge, Rough and her husband must make the difficult decision of whether or not to have children. Rough must also confront the intimate details regarding her family’s genealogy, including devastating effects of HED upon the men in her family who have suffered from the disease.

The novel is also interesting in terms of genre conventions.

“‘Carrier’ is a provoking novel that plays with the definition of what it means to write nonfiction. Rough takes certain creative liberties, particularly in the parts of the character Earl, that might be considered fiction, but she sews all of these narratives and research in so seamlessly the pages fly by and your heart breaks,” said Sutton-Barnes.

Esarey’s book “The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife” addresses another side of marriage and family. After wedding her husband, Graeme, the two decide to sail around the Pacific Ocean for two years–making for a hilarious account of the ups and downs of marriage. While probing questions of commitment, selfhood and love, the book explores the delicate negotiations which take place when two people join together as one.

“Esarey’s book is written more like a screenplay with lots of word play and humor,” added Sutton-Barnes.

Furthermore, Rough and Esarey will also provide students with a distinctive perspective on what it means to be a published writer who graduated from Whitman College.

“I think it’s useful to see how people who’ve graduated from Whitman have gone on to find their way into print and how a Whitman education might lend itself to good writing and publishing,” said Elliott.

The Visiting Writers Reading Series takes place at 7 p.m. in Kimball Theatre.

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