Friday, March 21, 2014

Meacham Writers' Workshop FAQ with Bill Stifler

The 2014 Meacham Writers' Workshop will be held this March 27-29. Readings by several authors take place across Chattanooga, including Thursday nights' event at the Chattanooga State Health Science Center, HSC 1085 at 7:00 PM. All events are free and open to the public. Bill Stifler, Chattanooga State English professor, gives us a quick interview on the who, what, where, and why. For more information, visit the Meacham Writers' Workshop at

1. Tell us a little about Meacham Workshops, what they are and why Chattanooga State is hosting the event.
Begun at UTC in 1985 by UTC professor Richard Jackson, the Meacham Writers' Workshop is a bi-annual three or four day series of readings, discussion sessions, and group conferences designed to provide support and criticism for developing writers in the regional community. In the late 1990's Chattanooga State professor Richard Seehuus worked with UTC professors to include Chattanooga State as part of the program. When Richard left Chattanooga State, I took over his responsibilities as the Chattanooga State coordinator. UTC professors led by Dr. Jackson and assisted by UTC student volunteers organize the event, soliciting visiting writers; making arrangements for their travel, lodgings, and schedule for the workshops; and scheduling local students and community members to meet with the writers in group and individual settings. Chattanooga State provides a venue for one evening of the series and technical support. Both schools collaborate in promoting the event. 

2. How have you contributed to the Meacham Workshops? 
In addition to serving as the Chattanooga State coordinator, I also serve as webmaster for the Meacham Writers' Workshop. This includes maintaining the web site, recording and posting podcasts of the readings, arranging for video interviews of visiting writers which are taped in the Chattanooga State recording studio, and managing the online submission management system. The Chattanooga State Humanities department also contributes $1200 each year in support of the series.

3. How do these workshops benefit Chattanooga State students? 

The Meacham benefits students in several ways. First, students are able to hear a broad sampling of the writers active in American (and world) literature today. Since its inception, the Meacham Writers’ Workshop has brought well over 200 writers to Chattanooga, including such writers as Amiri Baraka, Marvin Bell, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Stuart Dischell, Edward Hirsch, Tony Hoagland, Mark Jarman, Brett Lott, Tim O’Brien, Stanley Plumly, Richard Russo, Gerald Stern, and James Tate as well as international writers, including Andràs Csêjdy, Aleš Debeljak, Milan Dekleva, Reda Mansour, Khaled Mattawa, Amir Or, Iztok Osojnik, Tomaz Salamun, Saviana Stanescu, Mario Susko, Xu Xi, and Dane Zajc. Second, students not only get to hear these writers read from their own works, there are also opportunities to sit down with the writers in informal gatherings and talk one on one, Third, students can submit their own work to the Meacham for review and comments from the visiting writers. And for those students who are interested in pursuing an MFA, the Meacham offers the opportunity to network with leading writers, teachers, publishers, and graduate advisors in the U.S.

4. Who has been your favorite speaker? And what speaker are you most looking forward to this year? 
It is difficult for me to pick a favorite from among the many writers I have had the pleasure of hearing and meeting over the years. One of the first international poets I met was Boris Novak, a Slovene poet who came to the Meacham when I was a UTC student. He was not only a brilliant poet but also he carried himself with both humility and an air of old world nobility that was charming. I first heard Richard Russo when he read from his second novel The Risk Pool, still in manuscript back in the 1980’s. After his novel Nobody’s Fool was made into a movie starring Paul Newman, he went on to write several novels that were made into movies starring Newman. I’ve also made many friends among the writers who have come, including Phil Deaver, Luanne Smith, and Mike Magnuson to name just a few. This year I am looking forward to meeting and hearing several of the new writers for the Meacham, including Ed Madden, Tina Chang, and E. Ethelbert Miller.

5. What type of students would you encourage to come out to this event?

I would encourage anyone who loves to write or who loves to read to come to the Meacham. This is an event that offers a rare opportunity for students and the community alike, and it is the only series of its kind that is completely free to participants

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