SUNY Oswego’s Living Writers Series returns in fall 2021 in a mostly virtual format featuring writers working in comic books, TV, film, novels, non-fiction, poetry and more.

The series, with six installments happening between Sept. 15 and Nov. 17, includes an appearance from Claudia D. Hernández (pictued), the author of “Knitting the Fog,” this year’s Oswego Reading Initiative selection for campuswide summer reading. With the exception of Hernandez’s 7 p.m. talk on Monday, Sept. 27, in Sheldon Hall ballroom, the rest of the sessions will take place virtually from 3 to 4:20 p.m.

The virtual format “allowed us to welcome even more students into the class, and the broader Oswego community (alums, retired faculty, and others) can now ‘tune in’ to author visits from near and far,” said Laura Donnelly, director of the college’s creative writing program. “One important feature of the series remains the same: the opportunity for students to interact with and ask questions of the authors in real time.”

Michael Raicht, a visiting assistant professor of creative writing organized this year's schedule and teaches the class for the second time.

"Living Writers gives our students a chance to expand their idea of what a writing career can look like beyond what they might expect," Raicht explained. "Every one of our visitors presents a diverse and unique story. How did they discover their voice? What inspired them down this path? How did they break through and find a way to share their words with the world? Why did they become a poet, fiction writer or graphic novelist?" 

One of the best things about the series is how unique each guest and session is. "Each one is tailored to that author's work," Raicht said. "Each is inspiring and an event in and of itself. It shows students the possibilities out there waiting for them as potential creators while our discussions with the visitors offer insight into how you can possibly achieve that same thing."

The series opens Sept. 15 with Zach Howard, a freelance professional illustrator whose 20 years of experience include Marvel, Disney, DC, Warner Bros., Image, IDW, Boom, Simon & Schuster, and Steve Jackson Games. Howard’s most popular projects are “Hellboy,” “Wild Blue Yonder,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Judge Dredd,” “SpiderMan,” “X-Men,” “GI Joe,” “The Cape” and “Detective Comics.”

Howard has been nominated for an Eisner Award, multiple Indie awards and received an Amazon Book of the Month selection for “Wild Blue Yonder.” In addition to his professional work, he is passionate about supporting young artists and has dedicated much of his time to helping nurture the next generation of creators. 

ORI author appearing

The Sept. 27 Oswego Reading Initiative author Hernández is a photographer, poet, editor, translator, and a bilingual educator living in Los Angeles. “Knitting the Fog,” a finalist for the 2020 Firecracker Award in Creative Nonfiction, blends narrative essay with bilingual poetry in telling her personal coming-of-age story migrating from Guatemala to LA and the harrowing steps in the journey as well as struggling to find a place to belong.

Hernández is also an award-winning editor for her anthology photography book titled “Women, Mujeres, Ixoq: Revolutionary Visions,” which received the International Latino Book Award in 2019. She is the founder of the ongoing project, Today’s Revolutionary Women of Color, and contributes to online literary journals and anthologies throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala and Spain. Hernández also is the recipient of the 2018 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize.

Appearing Oct. 11, Angie Cruz is a novelist and editor whose novel “Dominicana” was the inaugural book pick for “Good Morning, America” book club and chosen as the 2019/2020 Wordup Uptown Reads. “Dominicana” was shortlisted for The Women’s Prize, and longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction, The Aspen Words Literary Prize, a RUSA Notable book and the winner of the ALA/YALSA Alex Award in fiction. The New York Times Book Review called it “lovely and compelling,” and it made 2019 most anticipated/best book lists in Time, Newsweek, People, Oprah Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and Esquire.

Cruz is the author of the novels, “Soledad” and “Let It Rain Coffee,” and the recipient of numerous fellowships and residencies including the Lighthouse Fellowship, Siena Art Institute and the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Fellowship. She has published shorter works in The Paris Review, VQR, Callaloo, Gulf Coast and other journals. An associate professor at University of Pittsburgh, Cruz also is the founder and editor-in-chief of the award-winning literary journal, Aster(ix).

The appearances of Hernández and Cruz also connect with Latino/a/x Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15).

Award-winning Oswego English and creative writing faculty member Laura Donnelly will speak Oct. 20. Her second collection of poetry, “Midwest Gothic,” received the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press and was published in 2020. Her first collection, “Watershed,” won the 2013 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize. 

Her poems have been published widely in literary magazines, and her work has been awarded a Provost’s Award at SUNY Oswego and fellowships from Yaddo, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and elsewhere. Before graduate school, the Michigan native worked as a waitress, a piano teacher, an accompanist and (briefly) a baseball scorekeeper. 

Speaking Nov. 3, Chuck Austen is an American comic book writer and artist, TV writer and animator. In the comics industry, he is known for his work on “War Machine,” “Elektra,” “JLA,” “Action Comics” and the “X-Men” franchise. For television, Austen is known for co-creating the animated TV series “Tripping the Rift”; directing on “King of the Hill” for Fox, “Penn Zero” and “Randy Cunningham” for Disney; and various shows at Nickelodeon; and as a producer on Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe.”

Austen also has most recently served as an executive producer on multiple Dreamworks properties including “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” (2018), “Dawn of the Croods” and “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” as well as a support producer on “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.” Austen is currently working with artist Pat Olliffe on his brand new sci-fi series “Edgeworld” released through Comixology. 

Wrapping the fall 2021 Living Writers Series on Nov. 17, Ben Philippe is a New York-based writer and screenwriter. Born in Haiti and raised in Montreal, he has written two young adult novels: “Field Guide to the North American Teenager,” winner of the 2020 William C. Morris Award,” and “Charming as a Verb.” “Sure, I’ll Be Your Black Friend,” his first book of adult nonfiction, takes readers on a journey from his immigrant childhood through awkward teenage years through adulthood in a constantly changing political environment, and is filled with his observations on stereotypes, protest and social movements, popular culture and much more.

Phillippe previously covered media and culture for Vanity Fair, The A.V. Club, The Guardian and Thrillist and other outlets, and wrote for the TV series “Only Murder in the Building. His short stories have appeared in Five Quarterly, Louisiana Literature, Bookanista, among other publications.

"One thing we discuss in class all of the time is how stories can unite us," Raicht noted. "They should bring us together in times of great change and help us understand those experiences which are unlike our own. I believe this year's diverse group of visitors will allow any attendee to explore how others see the world in a new way, through a new perspective, while also digging deeper into specific writing disciplines like fiction, memoir, poetry, graphic storytelling and TV writing and animation. These are all creators at the top of their craft willing to share their passion with us. It should inspire any attendee, regardless of career path, to go out and achieve their dreams as well."   

Visit the Living Writers Series website and search via that term on the college’s Events Calendar for more information on the sessions and how to virtually attend.