Live From Prairie Lights

"Live from Prairie Lights” is an internationally known readings series, which features some of the best up-and-coming and well-established authors & poets from all over the globe. Presented before a live audience and streamed over the world wide web, this long running series brings the spoken word from the bookstore to the masses. Most readings begin @ 7:00 p.m. Arrive early to assure yourself a seat.

The Writing University live streams many of our readings here

The Live from Prairie Lights audio archive is available here.
Iowa City PATV has a video archive of readings located here.
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  • Midwest Writers Virtual Holiday Potluck

    December 6, 2020 - 7:30pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Perfect to kick-off your holiday season, a digital potluck with Midwestern authors with books out in the past year. Featuring short readings, hilarious banter, and recipes that the authors would share at a non-disaster-era holiday party.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Rachel Mans McKenny is an Iowa writer, recently published in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and is the debut author of The Butterfly EffectA Man Called Ove meets The Rosie Project in this tale of a grumpy introvert, her astonishing lack of social skills and empirical data-driven approach to people and relationships. New York Times bestselling author J. Ryan Stradal calls it “A warm, winning debut from a talented new Midwestern voice.”

    Lyz Lenz is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book God Land was published in 2019, through Indiana University Press. Her second book Belabored, was published on August 11, 2020. Chloe Angyal (Marie Claire), notes that “In Belabored, Lyz Lenz will ‘make you cry in one paragraph and snort-laugh in the next.’”

    Amber Sparks is a writer originally from the Midwest (the very cold part). Her latest short story collection And I Do Not Forgive You came out in early 2020. The Library Journal writes, “The pieces here are beyond the classification of any one genre, borrowing from fairy tales, fantasy, coming-of-age, modern life, and social commentary.... Each story is vivid, unexpected, and satisfyingly weird.”

    Denise Williams is an Iowa-based romance author and a 2019 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist. Her much anticipated debut from Berkley, How to Fail at Flirtingreceived a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which called it “Jam-packed with laugh-out-loud banter and heart-fluttering romance… a knockout.”

    Mia Mercado is a humorist and author, featured recently in The New YorkerThe New York TimesBustleReductress, and other outlets. Her debut collection of funny non-fiction essays Weird but Normal was released by HarperOne in 2020. With sharp humor and wit, Mia shares the awkward, uncomfortable, surprisingly ordinary parts of life, and shows us why it’s strange to feel fine and fine to feel strange.

    Riane Konc is a Midwest-based humorist and writer, most often found in The New YorkerMcSweeney’sReductress, and other publications. Her hilarious “choose-your-own adventure” style humor collection Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance is “the perfect gift for your Hallmark holiday film loving BFF (or just yourself, no shame).” (Bustle)


  • Erin Brokovich in conversation with David Cwiertny

    December 7, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a special reading with Erin Brokovich to discuss her new book, Superman's Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It, in conversation with University of Iowa's Director of Graduate Studies in Civil and Environmental Engineering, David Cwiertny.  They will also be joined by Brockovich's co-author, Suzanne Boothby.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Erin Brockovich is the president of Brockovich Research & Consulting and the founder of the Erin Brockovich Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to educate and empower communities in their fight for clean water. She is the coauthor of Take It from Me: Life’s a Struggle but You Can Win and has her own show on PodcastOne. As a Southern California law clerk, she spearheaded a successful lawsuit against a major company on behalf of hundreds of people who had unknowingly been exposed to toxic waste. Her efforts inspired the Oscar-winning feature film that bears her name, and led her to a successful career as an environmental activist and public speaker. She is the recipient of many awards, including "Consumer Advocate of the Year" by the Consumer Attornerys of California, the "Julius B. Richmond Award" from the Harvard School of Public Health, and a nomination for the "Peoples Reporting Registry" at the International Katerva Awards. She lives in Southern California.

    David Cwiertny is a Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His research program broadly focuses on pollutant fate in natural and engineered systems, with particular expertise related to emerging pollutant transformation pathways and the development of nanomaterial-based treatment technologies that promote water sustainability. Cwiertny is a core faculty member in the campus-wide Water Sustainability Initiative, and has developed graduate and undergraduate courses related to society’s pursuit of sustainable water resources. Cwiertny currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, a Royal Society of Chemistry journal devoted to water research and technology in the built environment. 

    Suzanne Boothby is the author of The After Cancer Diet. She is a journalist who writes about health, politics, food, and eco-conscious stories and is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

  • Danielle Evans and Laura van den Berg: Writers @ Grinnell

    December 8, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Acclaimed short story masters Danielle V. Evans and Laura van den Berg share work from their new collections, followed by a conversation on the craft of short fiction with Dean Bakopoulos. 

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    At just 26 years old, Danielle Evans burst onto the literary scene in 2010 with her breakout story collection Before You  Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. Winner of the PEN American Award for first fiction and the Hurston Wright Award, Evans  was named a “5 Under 35” honoree by the National Book Foundation and astonished readers everywhere with a wisdom and talent far beyond her young age. Now, ten years later, Evans proves this is truer than ever with a stunning  new collection: The Office of Historical Corrections, coming from Riverhead on November 10, 2020, in which  the author amazingly surpasses herself, affirmed by Roxane Gay's declaration that she is indeed “the finest short story  writer working today.” A “startlingly good sociocultural mimic” (Boston Globe), Evans showcases her “blisteringly smart” (Time) voice and unique gift to zoom into particular moments and relationships that also speak to larger issues around race, gender and identity. Through richly drawn characters and  razor-sharp prose, Evans tells intensely intimate stories that are as timely as they are timeless, as funny as they are devastating and as pleasurable as they are painful. These are stories that transport, as much as they slyly force their reader to sit with uncomfortable but necessary questions around race, privilege, white fragility, the legacy of trauma, and the illusions of our past. Evans especially stuns with the eponymous novella, the “crowning jewel” (Publishers  Weekly) that closes the collection. Ambitious, prescient and “completely transformative” (Vulture), the historical thriller illuminates recent American controversies about how we perceive and protect our national history, and how the pursuit of truth shapes us and our relationships. In this way, The Office of Historical Corrections arrives at the perfect moment: when so many are eager to engage with conversations around race and history in America, and yet also weary from the relentlessness of world events, psychically burnt out, emotionally detached. Danielle Evans brings a desperately needed nuance and empathy to our bigger cultural conversations and imbues them with a humanity that is real, honest, and recognizable. WithThe Office of Historical Corrections, the already impressive Danielle Evans soars to even greater heights, delivering stories so satisfying and digestible you can’t put them down, and yet each one rich with insights that linger, expanding our understanding of each other and the world.

    Laura van den Berg is the author of the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth, and the novels Find Me and The Third Hotel, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and named a Best Book of 2018 by over a dozen publications. She is the recipient of a Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, a PEN/O. Henry Prize, a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and is a two-time finalist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. Her most recent book, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, a collection of stories, was published by FSG in July. I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, Laura van den Berg’s first story collection since her prizewinning book The Isle of Youth, draws readers into a world of wholly original, sideways ghost stories that linger in the mouth and the mind. Both timeless and urgent, these eleven stories confront misogyny, violence, and the impossible economics of America with van den Berg’s trademark spiky humor and surreal eye. Moving from the peculiarities of Florida to liminal spaces of travel in Mexico City, Sicily, and Iceland, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is uncannily attuned to our current moment, and to the fears we reveal to no one but ourselves. I Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too closely. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of “Slumberland,” “that border between magic and annihilation,” and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time. Born and raised in Florida, Laura splits her time between the Boston area and Central Florida, with her husband and dog.

  • Jeff Porter in conversation with Ann Hood

    December 10, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a special book launch event for Planet Clare: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers with its author Jeff Porter, featuring a reading and conversation with novelist Ann Hood.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Planet Claire is the story of the untimely death of the author’s wife and his candid account of the following year of madness and grief. As his life unravels, Porter analyzes his sadness with growing interest. He talks to Claire as if to evoke a presence, to mark a space for memory. He reports on his daily walks and shares observations of life’s sadness, while reminiscing about various moments in their life together. Like Orpheus, the author searches for a lost love, and what he finds is not the dog of doom but flashes of an intimate symmetry that brighten the darkest places of sorrow. Honor Moore, author of The Bishop's Daughter, says of the book,  “Jeff Porter indelibly conjures his lost, beloved Claire in a ‘spiral galaxy’ of memory, while offering the story of a delicious marriage in prose that is elegiac but also gorgeous, funny, and endearingly modest.” Planet Clare is forthcoming from Gracie Belle/Akashic Books on January 5, 2021.

    Jeff Porter is the author of Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling, the memoir Oppenheimer Is Watching Me, and coeditor of Understanding the Essay. His essays and articles have appeared in several magazines and literary reviews, including the Antioch Review, Northwest Review, Shenandoah, Missouri Review, Hotel Amerika, Wilson Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, and the Seneca Review. He loves cameras, dogs, and guitars—though not in that order. He lives in Iowa City and teaches English at the University of Iowa.

    He will be joined in conversation by Ann Hood, the author of the best-selling novels The Book That Matters MostThe Obituary WriterSomewhere Off the Coast of MaineThe Red Thread, and The Knitting Circle, as well as the memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and chosen as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2008 by Entertainment Weekly. She has won two Pushcart Prizes as well as a Best American Spiritual Writing Award, two Best American Food Writing Awards, and a Best American Travel Writing award. A regular contributor to the New York Times, Hood’s short stories and essays have appeared in many publications, including PloughsharesTin HouseTravelerBon AppetitOMoreThe Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostThe Paris Review, and others. Hood is also the author of books for children, including the middle-grade novels She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) and How I Saved My Father (And Ruined Everything Else), and the ten-book Treasure Chest series. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and New York City, and is married to the writer Michael Ruhlman.

  • Charles Baxter in conversation with Dean Bakopoulos

    December 15, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading and discussion with Charles Baxter to celebrate the release of his new book, The Sun Collective. He'll be joined in conversation by Writers @ Grinnell director, Dean Bakopoulos

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Charles Baxter is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), First Light, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, The Soul Thief, and The Sun Collective, and the story collections Believers, Gryphon, Harmony of the World, A Relative Stranger, There’s Something I Want You to Do, and Through the Safety Net. His stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories. Baxter lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the University of Minnesota and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and has taught as Visiting Faculty at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

    Dean Bakopoulos’ first novel, Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, was a New York Times Notable Book; he co-wrote and co-produced the film adaptation, which debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was a New York Times Critics’ Pick. His second novel, My American Unhappiness, was named one of the year’s best novels by The Chicago Tribune, and his third novel, Summerlong, was an independent bookstore bestseller and is now in development as a television series. He is the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as NEA fellowships in both fiction and creative nonfiction.