U of M in a Pinch, River City Writers, and more.

Poetry and prose. Fiction and nonfiction. If you're interested in the state of the art of writing and if you're into meeting with and hearing from some authors of note, beginning this week and continuing into November, you've got some good pickings. All of them are thanks to the creative-writing department at the University of Memphis, and all of them are free and open to the public.

For starters, what was once River City is now The Pinch, a semiannual literary journal sponsored by the U of M. In its pages, you'll find fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photography, and the fall 2007 issue is ready. To celebrate, Burke's Book Store is hosting a release party on Saturday, October 13th, from 6 to 8 p.m. The event promises readings by visiting authors (as of this writing, Claudia Grinnell and Margaret McMullen, among others), and this issue of The Pinch includes pieces by Lee Gutkind and Dinty Moore, plus an interview with poet Linda Gregerson.

September will also see the announcement of the winners in the journal's national contest (sponsored by the Hohenberg Foundation) for poetry and fiction. Make that "international" contest. According to assistant managing editor of The Pinch (and MFA student) Matt Pertl, this year's contest received some 300 submissions worldwide, and that includes authors from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Great Britain, Australia, Columbia, Bolivia, and Japan. Judges Pam Houston (in the short-story category) and Linda Gregerson (in the poetry category) had some reading to do. You'll have some reading too when The Pinch hits bookstores here and nationwide. Just look for the artful cover by U of M graphic designer Gary Golightly.

For more information on The Pinch, go to http://cas.memphis.edu/english/pinch/home/home.htm.

Care to hear from memoirist Joyce Maynard, novelist Charles Baxter, and poet C.K. Williams? They're all about to be in town as part of the U of M's River City Writers Series, now in its 30th year.

Maynard will be reading on October 24th at the Holiday Inn University on Central. Baxter (his The Feast of Love just hit movie theaters, starring Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear) will be reading at the Galloway Mansion in Midtown on October 29th. And the Pink Palace will be the setting for a reading by Williams on November 15th. What, no classroom time? Yes, classroom time, when the authors follow up their readings and signings with interviews inside Patterson Hall on the U of M campus.

But according to Rebecca Skloot, who arrived at the U of M this semester to teach creative nonfiction, the idea this year is to get the visiting authors out of class and into the community. "Arts-friendly" venues is what Skloot calls them, and they're designed to make the writers series more inviting, more accessible — to turn them into a public event.

"When you're at a reading," Skloot says, "you want to be in a beautiful place. You want to 'feel' the art. You want to have the opportunity to mingle, talk." She means the readings to be fun.

For more information on this fall's River City Writers Series, go to http://cas.memphis.edu/english/rcw/season.htm.

What's more? More poetry — at the very accessible P&H Café when former U of M students read from their work: Burke's Book Store owner and Flyer contributor Corey Mesler and former Flyer staff member and teacher at the Memphis College of Art Mary Molinary. Onetime professor of English at the U of M and Commercial Appeal columnist Frederic Koeppel will also be reading. So too Matt Cook, a poet from Milwaukee who professes to write poetry for "people who hate poetry." The reading at the P&H (1532 Madison) is on Thursday, October 11th, at 7 p.m.

Can't make it to any or all of the above? Doesn't mean you're not on the lookout for new writers. See then: Best New American Voices 2008, a collection of short stories just published by Harcourt and drawn from university writing departments, workshops, and conferences. Nationally recognized novelist and short-story writer Richard Bausch is this year's editor. That's the same Richard Bausch who teaches creative writing at the — that's right — University of Memphis.

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