English reading series features new writing program director, others

9:27:36 AM CDT - Friday, October 21, 2005

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

A Wichita native whose first novel has been adapted for a soon-to-be-released movie, the new writing program director at WSU and a visiting distinguished writer in residence will be among the authors featured in the English department's fall reading series. The readings, which start Oct. 21 and continue once a week through Nov. 10, are free and open to the public.

The series kicks off with a reading at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, in 107 Devlin Hall by Wichita native Scott Phillips, who wrote three of the most highly acclaimed crime novels of recent years. His debut novel, "The Ice Harvest," which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, has been adapted for the big screen starring Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusack. The movie is scheduled for release Nov. 23. His other novels are "The Walkaway" and "Cottonwood." Phillips has lived in Paris and in Southern California and now lives in St. Louis.

Darren DeFrain, the new director of the writing program at Wichita State, will read from his recently released novel, "The Salt Palace," at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at Watermark Books & Cafe, 4701 E. Douglas.

"The Salt Palace," published by New Issues Press and released this month, is DeFrain's first novel. His short stories, essays and poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals nationwide. "The Salt Palace" is set against the Utah Jazz's 1996 run at the NBA championship. It follows Brian Peterson as he makes his way home to Kaysville, Utah, from Kalamazoo, Mich., to help his parents move out of his boyhood home. He impulsively agrees to take along a one-armed, foul-mouthed missionary with a much darker past than Brian could ever have imagined. The novel juxtaposes Brian's journey with a series of histories of the Utah Jazz, the Mormon church, the state of Utah and the Bible that seem to have had a hand in Brian's constitution and travails. The first two chapters of "The Salt Palace" can be read online at www.darrendefrain.com. The book will be available in WSU's bookstore, as well as amazon.com, borders.com and barnesandnoble.com.

George Looney, the author of "Animals Housed in the Pleasure of Flesh," which won the 1995 Bluestem Award, will read from his works at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, in 107 Devlin Hall. His new collection, "The Precarious Rhetoric of Angels," is the winner of the 10th annual White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His poetry has earned him a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship and two grants from the Ohio Arts Council. At Penn State, he is program chair of a new degree program in creative writing that he designed.

The last reading in the series will feature Leslie Pietrzyk, who is this fall's distinguished writer in residence at WSU, working with creative writing and other students. Pietrzyk's reading is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, at Watermark Books. She is the author of "Pears on a Willow tree," a novel about four generations of Polish women, and "A Year and a Day," released last year. An award-winning writer living in Virginia, she also has stories in two new anthologies, "The Dictionary of Failed Relationships" and "The Bottom of the Ninth."

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