Williston Northampton School to host series of public readings

  • Debra Jo Immergut, author of “The Captives,” a psychological thriller. She is shown at her home in Northampton, Monday, May 21, 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/11/2019 4:19:37 PM

EASTHAMPTON — A finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. A winner of the Pushcart Prize. A winner of the John Gardner Fiction Book Award. A winner of the Walt Whitman Award.

These are just some of the accomplishments of the four authors who the Williston Northampton School is bringing to Easthampton this fall and winter as part of its 22nd Writers’ Workshop Series.

“They’re great, accomplished people,” said Kate Lawless, a spokeswoman for the school.

This year’s authors are Debra Immergut, who wrote “The Captives,” a novel about a prison psychologist who starts treating a high school crush; Jim Shepard, whose “Book of Aron” is a novel about a young Jewish boy living during the Nazi occupation of Poland; Manuel Gonzales, whose works include “The Regional Office is Under Attack!,” a novel about a group of super-powered female assassins; and April Bernard, whose books of poetry include the Walt Whitman Award-winning “Blackbird Bye Bye.”

As part of their visits to the campus, the authors will be giving public readings that will be both free and open to the public. These readings will take place in the Dodge Room in the Reed Campus Center from 7 to 8 p.m. Immergut’s reading will take place on Oct. 14, Shepard’s on Oct. 28, Gonzales’ on Nov. 5, and Bernard’s on Feb. 17.

The series traces back to the efforts of two former Williston parents, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Madeline Blais and novelist Elinor Lipman, and is now in its 22nd year. It brings four authors to the campus every year from a variety of disciplines to teach master classes to the students in the writers’ workshop. The public lectures, which almost always include readings, have been part of these authors’ visits since the beginning.

Some of the authors who have visited include Pulitzer Prize winners Tracy Kidder and Richard Russo, New York Times-bestselling author Nic Stone and National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowship recipient Jennifer duBios, a Williston alumni who took the workshop in her senior year.

Lawless said that offering the public lectures provides “a way to connect the community with this literary world.”

About 10 students participate each year in the workshop, an honors class that students must apply to in order to be admitted. They also read the work of the authors who come as part of the series.

“They have a good background in that author’s work,” said Lawless.

Immergut’s debut novel, “The Captives,” was a finalist for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and her next book, “You Again,” is forthcoming in 2020. This one is about a middle-aged mother who encounters a doppelgänger of her younger self in the present.

Based in Northampton, Immergut said that Williston reached out to her. “I was happy to do it,” she said. “I really like to work with young writers.”

And she plans on passing on some of her “secret tricks” to the students in the class that can help supercharge anyone’s writing. 

“Writing can be a very lonely job,” she said, adding that she welcomes getting a chance to share her work. She also said that she plans on reading from “You Again” for the first time in public.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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