Skip Navigation

Skip to Main Content

The Writing Seminars

The Writing Seminars
The Johns Hopkins University
Gilman Hall 081
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

Jean McGarry
Mary Jo Salter
Department Co-Chairs

Phone (410) 516-6286
Fax (410) 516-6828


Reading Series: 2013-14


The President's Reading Series: Literature of Social Import: Colm Tóibín

Thursday, April 3, 2014, 6:30pm - 8:00pm, Hodson 110

Irish novelist and journalist Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in Ireland in 1955. The author of a number of novels and books of essays, his honors include the Dublin IMPAC Prize, the Prix du Meilleur Livre, the LA Times Novel of the Year, and the Costa Novel of the Year. In 2012 his new collection of essays New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers & Their Families appeared, as did his edition for Penguin Classics of De Profundis and Other Writings by Oscar Wilde. Also in 2012, his novel The Testament of Mary was published and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 before opening on Broadway in an adaptation directed by Deborah Warner. Nominated for a Tony Award for Best New Play, the Broadway production will transfer to the Barbican in London in May 2014. He is currently Mellon Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His new novel Nora Webster will be published in the UK in October 2014.

Writing Seminars Fiction Alumni Reading

Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 6:30 - 8:00pm, Olin 305

James Browning writes and speaks on environmental issues for Common Cause. He has a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. His essays have been published in The Believer and The Village Voice. His first novel, The Fracking King, is forthcoming from New Harvest in June 2014.

Michael Piafsky is the author of the novel All The Happiness You Deserve (Prospect Park Books, February 2014). He is Director of Creative Writing and Associate Professor of English at Spring Hill College, in Mobile, Alabama.

Matthew Thomas, a graduate of the University of Chicago, has an MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MFA from the University of California, Irvine, where he received the Graduate Essay Award. His first novel, We Are Not Ourselves, is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster in August 2014.

The President's Reading Series: Literature of Social Import: Ishmael Beah

Monday, April 28, 2014, 6:30pm - 8:00pm, Hodson 110

Ishmael Beah, born in 1980 in Sierra Leone, West Africa, is the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Time magazine named the book as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2007. He is a UNICEF Ambassador and Advocate for Children Affected by War; a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Advisory Committee; an advisory board member at the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; visiting scholar at the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University; visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights at Rutgers University; cofounder of the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW); and president of the Ishmael Beah Foundation. His new novel is Radiance of Tomorrow.

Graduate Readings

In addition to our deparmental reading series, our MFA graduates host the weekly Tudor & Stuart Reading Series, featuring one poet and one fiction writer currently working toward their MFA degree.

Past Readings


The Writing Seminars Presents: Chaffee Visiting Writer Andrew Motion

Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 6:30pm - 8:00pm, Hodson 110

Andrew Motion was born in 1952. He read English at University College, Oxford and subsequently spent two years writing about the poetry of Edward Thomas for an M. Litt. From 1976 to 1980 he taught English at the University of Hull; from 1980 to 1982 he edited the Poetry Review and from 1982 to 1989 he was Editorial Director and Poetry Editor at Chatto & Windus. He is now Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in London. He was knighted for his services to literature in 2009. Sir Andrew is a council member of the Advertising Standards Authority and, since last July, Chairman of the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council. Andrew Motion was Poet Laureate from 1999 until 2009.

His new collection of poems is The Cinder Path (Faber) and Ways of Life: Places, Painters and Poets (Faber) is his latest collection of essays.


The President's Reading Series: Literature of Social Import: Colum McCann

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 6:30pm - 8:00pm, Hodson 110

Colum McCann was born in Ireland in 1965. He is the author of six novels and two collections of stories. His novel, Let the Great World Spin, won worldwide acclaim, including The 2009 National Book Award in the U.S, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, the International Impac Award 2011, a literary award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and several other major literary prizes. Let the Great World Spin became a best-seller on four continents. His work has been published in over 35 languages. He lives in New York with his wife, Allison, and their three children. He teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College. His newest novel is TransAtlantic.


The President's Reading Series: Literature of Social Import: Isabel Wilkerson


Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 6:00pm - 8:00pm, Mudd Hall

Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson is author of The Warmth of Other Suns, the New York Times' bestseller that brings to life one of the epic stories of the 20th Century through three unforgettable protagonists who made the decision of their lives during what came to be known as the Great Migration. She has won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the 2011 Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the 2011 Lynton History Prize from Harvard and Columbia universities, the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, the 2011 Hillman Book Prize, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize, the Independent Literary Award for Nonfiction, the Horace Mann Bond Book Award from Harvard University, the New England Book Award for Nonfiction, the Hurston Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction, the NAACP Image Award for best literary debut and was shortlisted for the 2011 Pen-Galbraith Literary Award for Nonfiction and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.


The Writing Seminars Presents: A Turnbull Lecture by Paul Mariani

Thursday, October 10, 2013, 6:30pm - 8:00pm in Gilman 132

Paul Mariani has published over 200 essays and reviews and is the author of sixteen books, including five biographies and six volumes of poetry: Timing Devices, Crossing Cocytus, Prime Mover, Salvage Operations: New and Selected, The Great Wheel, and Death & Transfigurations: Poems. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts, and two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships. In 2009 he received the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. He has lectured and read from his own work across the United States, Canada, and Europe. He also served as poetry editor of America: The Jesuit Weekly from 2000-2006. His poems, which have been widely anthologized, have appeared in, among other journals and quarterlies, Image, Poetry, America, Doubletake, The Kenyon Review, The Agni Review, New England Review, The Hudson Review, Sundog, Tri-Quarterly, The New Criterion, Tampa Review, Quarterly Review, The Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, Crazy Horse, Boston College Magazine, and The North Dakota Quarterly.


The Writing Seminars Presents: A Reading by Brad Leithauser and Alice McDermott

Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 6:30pm - 8:00pm in Hodson 110

Brad Leithauser, the Director of Graduate Studies in the Writing Seminars, is the author of The Oldest Word for Dawn: New and Selected Poems, five previous collections of poetry, six novels, a novel in verse, two collections of light verse, and a book of essays. Among the many awards and honors he has received are a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill grant, and a MacArthur Fellowship. He served for a year as Time magazine's theater critic. In 2005, Leithauser was inducted into the Order of the Falcon by the president of Iceland for his writings about Nordic literature.

Alice McDermott, the Richard A. Macksey Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities, is the author of Someone and six previous novels, including After This, Child of My Heart, Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award, and At Weddings and Wakes, all published by FSG. That Night, At Weddings and Wakes, and After This were all finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. McDermott lives with her family outside of Washington, D.C.


All Writing Seminars readings are free and open to the public.

Click here for directions and a link to a campus map with parking information.