Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
WRAC Faculty Member Launches REO Town Reading Series
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WRAC Faculty Member Launches REO Town Reading Series

Earlier this semester, WRAC professor Matthew Rossi launched the REO Town Reading Series, a new monthly event where area writers can share their work and poetry- and prose-enthusiasts can come and enjoy what the local literary talent has to offer. The setting for the series is the intimate and arts-friendly Blue Owl Coffee Co. on Washington Avenue in Lansing’s REO Town neighborhood.

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Though his vision came to fruition just recently, Matthew has dreamed of starting a reading series for some time now. It all began when he moved here from Brooklyn, New York, and saw how Lansing was lacking in outlets for the creative community.

“I’ve always wanted to start a reading series,” he said, “and when I came here, I started seeking them out and saw that there weren’t any except for one every once in a while. The idea for it came because I wanted to see writers have more places to read here.”

When he began looking for potential readers, Matthew started close to home with the English and WRAC Departments at MSU. “I emailed the head of creative writing for student participation, but then I also email-bombed the WRAC faculty because I know a lot of us are creative writers,” he said. “Even though we teach academic writing, we are also fiction writers and poets and memoirists.”

This proved to be a fruitful strategy, and one of the readers for the opening night was Prof. Kathryn Houghton, an academic specialist in WRAC who teaches first-year writing, a variety of professional writing courses, and an IAH course on dystopian literature. At the premiere, she got the chance to show off her storytelling skills with a compelling short fiction piece that explored the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel through a darker, more modern lens.

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With an undergraduate degree in PW and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Eastern Washington University, Kathryn has a very solid background in writing, but being a professor can change the ways in which writers approach their craft. It also presents the challenge of trying to juggle being a writer while also teaching writing at the collegiate level.

“I’ve gone in and out of fiction writing since I was in grad school,” she said. “Being in a job where you read writing, teach writing, assign writing, and grade writing, it’s hard to switch out of that and do lots more writing on your own. This has been a nice boost to get me looking at work I haven’t looked at in months.”

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In addition to Houghton, the other readers on the first night included creative writing student Juliette Givhan, local poet Santino DallaVecchia, and award-winning author Sean Madigan Hoen, who shared a piece from his Rolling Stone-reviewed novel Songs Only You Know. Throughout the night, attendees were treated to a diverse selection of pieces, with each writer bringing a unique style and subject matter to the table. Topics ranged from navigating the streets of Rome as a black woman, to a deep analysis of childhood artifacts, to life as a traveling musician.

The REO Town Reading Series runs the last Thursday of every month, so make sure to catch the next one! If you are a writer interested in sharing your work, do not hesitate to contact Matthew by email at mrossi@msu.edu or check out the REO Town Reading Series Facebook page.

Written by Camille Allen
29 March 2018