Author Visit Inspires Meredith English Students 


A recent campus visit by author Venita Blackburn was an inspiring opportunity for Meredith College students. The Department of English hosted a public reading on September 21 and Blackburn also interacted with students in a writing workshop.

In each of these opportunities, Meredith students were able to experience Blackburn’s innovative voice. Her short fiction has appeared in, Harper’s, Ploughshares, McSweeney’s, the Paris Review, and others. 

The author’s visit got rave reviews from many students, including Savannah Jones, ’24, a student in Young Adult Literature.

“This has been one of my favorite academic-related events Meredith has hosted, and I admired Blackburn’s work so much that I purchased a copy of one of her books, which she graciously signed after the reading,” said Jones. “The vulnerability and brutal honesty in the pieces she read were a pleasant surprise that made for a hilarious yet heartfelt presentation.” 

During the Q&A after the reading, Blackburn was asked about her creative process. She noted writing can look like “lying on the couch staring at the ceiling.”

“I’m thinking, planning, and listening to my thoughts until I get a line that is so interesting, or weird, or compelling that it gets me off the couch and to my desk,” Blackburn said. “It has to start with a line, with a voice, and the language.” 

Blackburn’s answer resonated with Sarah Eike, ’23, a student in Creative Nonfiction. 

“As someone who wants to be a creative writer, it was comforting to know that there isn’t any secret formula for coming up with ideas and stories,” said Eike. “The event went by way too fast because I was engaged completely with everything she was saying and reading.”

Blackburn is an award-winning writer who received the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction for her story collection Black Jesus and Other Superheroes in 2017. Her second collection of stories, How to Wrestle a Girl (2021), was a finalist for the 2022 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction. 

Many students said they enjoyed the experience of hearing Blackburn read from her work, which brought new understanding.

Margaret Devitt, ’25, a student in Creative Writing, said “I think that it was cool being able to hear the author’s actual voice reading the stories out loud because it helped me to imagine what kind of purpose she had or the message she was trying to get across when she originally wrote it.”

Blackburn is the founder of the literary nonprofit Live, Write, which provides free creative writing workshops for communities of color. She served on the Sewanee Writers’ Conference faculty in 2022 and is an associate professor of creative writing at California State University, Fresno.

Melyssa Allen

News Director
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