August 16, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    An old man lies dying. Confined to bed in his living room, he sees the walls around him begin to collapse, the windows come loose from their sashes, and the ceiling plaster fall off in great chunks, showering him with a lifetime of debris: newspaper clippings, old photographs, wool jackets, rusty tools, and the mangled brass works of antique clocks. Soon, the clouds from the sky above plummet down on top of him, followed by the stars, till the black night covers him like a shroud. He is hallucinating, in death throes from cancer and kidney failure. A methodical repairer of clocks, he is now finally released from the usual constraints of time and memory to rejoin his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler, whom he had lost seven decades before. In his return to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in the backwoods of Maine, he recovers a natural world that is at once indifferent to man and inseparable from him, menacing and awe inspiring. 

    Tinkers is about the legacy of consciousness and the porousness of identity from one generation to the next. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, it is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.  

    Paul Harding wrote Tinkers while he was an MFA student at the Writer's Workshop. Published by a tiny press, Bellevue Literary Press, Tinkers walked away with a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize. For months Harding and his book were all we could talk about at Prairie Lights. It's a book of amazing subtlety and deep thought.



    August 5, 2017 - 11:00am

    Prairie Lights

    Please join us for this special Soul Festival Black Author Panel  with moderator Michael Hill,  and authors Lena Hill, Glenance Green, and Deborah Whaley. 

    Glenance Green is a Chicago-based scholar, activist, playwright, and filmmaker. She is the founder and director of A g Thing!, a creative agency in Chicago that brings unsung voices and their narratives to the broader community. Ms. Green is the creator of Melanin Voices, a performance collective series of poetry, short stories, vignettes, fiction, and non-fiction by Chicago artists, woven together to create a beautiful narrative.  She is the author of the book Shades of Green, an anthological series of thoughts from the mind of one black woman giving voice to many. Illustratively, she uses seven forms of Greek love to weave together a powerful narrative through poetry, prose, and short stories.

    Lena and Michael Hill are associate professors in the Department of English and the African American Studies Program, both part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. They are both coauthors of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Reference Guide. Dr Lena Hill is the author of Visualizing Blackness and the Creation of African American Literary Tradition. Dr. Michael D. Hill is the author of The Ethics of Swagger: Prizewinning African American Novels, 1977–1993. The Hills are most recently the authors of Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa During the Long Civil Rights Era.

    Deborah Whaley is associate professor of American studies and African American studies at the University of Iowa. Dr. Whaley is the author of Disciplining Women: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Black Counterpublics, and the Cultural Politics of Black Sororities, and most recently Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime.


    August 4, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Christine Woodside will talk about her book, Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books. This myth-busting dual biography finally reveals the full extent of Rose Wilder Lane's work reshaping the books into an anti-New Deal, proto-Libertarian fable--and details the estrangement between the two women that resulted from this editing.

    Christine Woodside is environmental writer and is the author of No Limits But the Sky: The Best Mountaineering Stories from Appalachia Journal, and Living on an Acre: A Practical Guide to the Self-Reliant Life.  She is the editor of Appalachia journal and  Connecticut Woodlands magazine.


    July 27, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Writers’ Workshop graduate Tim Taranto will read from his debut, Ars Botanica.  "Ars Botanicais a gorgeous hybrid: a memoir in letters to a phantom addressee, an introduction to life on this planet, a primer for how to live, a meditation on family. It also winds up being a beautiful and highly personal field guide to the natural world. It’s one of the most wrenching and honest accounts of falling in and out of love, of moving through a season of grief, that I’ve ever read." —Karen Russell

    Tim Taranto is a writer, visual artist, and poet from New York. His work has been featured in Buzzfeed, FSG’s Works in Progress, Harper’s, The Iowa Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Paris Review Daily, The Rumpus, and The Saint Ann’s Review. Tim is a graduate of Cornell University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.


    July 21, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Writers’ Workshop graduate Deborah Kennedy will read from her new novel, Tornado Weather. Charles Baxter says, “Deborah E. Kennedy’s Tornado Weather has a very distinctive energy, and there is real pathos along with subtle humor. The characters are from a social class that is too often overlooked and misrepresented. Kennedy gives them their due, with all their resourcefulness, resilience, and suffering intact.” 

    Deborah E. Kennedy is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Kennedy has worked as both a reporter and editor, and also holds a second Master’s in Fiction Writing and English Literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.


    July 19, 2017 - 7:01pm

    Iowa City Public Library

    Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation is wonderful.

    “You can read Jenny Offill’s new novel in about two hours. It’s short and funny and absorbing, an effortless-seeming downhill ride that picks up astonishing narrative speed as it goes.” —The New York Review of Books


    July 19, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Iowa Summer Writing Festival Instructors Charles Holdefer and Anthony Varallo will read from their new short story collections. 

    Charles Holdefer will read from his darkly humorous collection of short fiction, Dick Cheney in Shorts. These stories comprise an esoteric and entirely fictional account of the imaginary formative years of America’s notorious Vice President.  

    Pushcart Prize-winner Charles Holdefer is the author of novels including Apology for Big Rod, and In The Game. He grew up in Iowa and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Sorbonne. His short fiction has appeared in the New England Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Los Angeles Review, The Antioch Review, l’Oeil du Spectateur,  and the New York Journal of Books. He currently teaches at the University of Poitiers, France.

    Anthony Varallo will read from his new story collection, Everyone Was There, winner of the Elixir Press 2016 Fiction Award. Christine Sneed says, “In so many of these stories, Anthony Varallo does something both rare and wonderful: he manages to be both funny and profound. Here you’ll meet the life of the party who’s secretly miserable and reconnect with the popular kids you knew in high school who now find themselves stalled out in melancholy middle age, their children and the world seemingly uninterested in them . . . there is so much here that I admired and enjoyed.”

    Anthony Varallo is the author of This Day in History, Out Loud, and Think of Me and I'll Know. Currently he is an Associate Professor of English at the College of Charleston, where he is the fiction editor of Crazyhorse.


    July 18, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Stephana Colbert, Jean Berry and Venise Berry will present Ordinary Extraordinary African American Women: The Elders, an illuminating collection of true and candid narratives celebrating African American women over 70 years of age. Often invisible and certainly undervalued, these women are the backbone of the African American community as mothers, teachers, artists, business women, trailblazers, activists, wives, friends and confidants. These stories share their journeys, reflections, and wisdom gained by a lifetime of challenges, successes, disappointments, and triumphs. This reading will highlight several of these great women, including Coralville artist, Jean Berry.


    July 17, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    American Book Award winner and National Book Award finalist Sandra Scofield will read from Swim: Stories from the Sixties. These three stories focus on a young woman—we never know her name— who travels light and asks for little. She knows what men want: sex and authority. She is a critical observer and passionate recorder of experience. Living lean, she claims her selfhood by making her life her Story.     

    Sandra Scofield is on the faculty of the Solstice MFA low residency program at Pine Manor College. She has taught at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival since 1993. She is the author of seven novels, a memoir, a book of essays about family, a book of stories, and two craft books for writers. She is a native Texan who has spent the last forty years in Oregon and Montana.


    July 16, 2017 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Two Dollar Radio presents Fairfield native N. J. Campbell, who will read from his debut novel, Found Audio. Steve Erickson says, “Amid the static of contemporary literature can be heard blips of fiction-future in N.J. Campbell’s defiantly bold Found Audio.” And Christian Kiefer calls it “A wild, wonderful creature: part Borges, part VanderMeer, part forgotten ’70s psychedelic action movie.”

    N. J. Campbell has won the Little Tokyo Short Story Contest, received accolades from the California State Legislature, and has been anthologized in the collection American Fiction from New Rivers Press.