English Department Reading & Lecture Series

About Reading and Lecture Series Events

Write, Southerners!

The English Department Write, Southerners! series brings creative writers to JSU to read their work.

English Department Lecture Series

The English Department Lecture Series brings academics and professionals to JSU to share their research, work, and expertise.

Fall 2023 Events

Thursday, September 21 at 3pm in Merrill Hall Auditorium

Free and open to the public

Spring 2023 Events

Thursday, February 28 from 4:00 - 5:30 PM in Stone Center Room 330

Reading list created by JSU faculty, staff, and students.

"The National African American Read-In (AARI) is a groundbreaking effort to encourage communities to read together, centering African American books and authors. It was established in 1990 by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month. This initiative has reached more than 6 million participants around the world" (Cited from NCTE's website).

Dr. Marija Reiff's teaching and scholarship centers on British literature of the Romantic, Victorian, and Edwardian eras, with particularly expertise on the late-Victorian theatre.  Dr. Reiff has published on a number of adaptations of nineteenth-century works, as well as on leading authors of the era, including Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals, encyclopedias, and edited collections, including articles in Women's Studies, Victorian Review, and the Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies. 

Dr. Julia Tigner is Assistant Professor of African American Literature at Jacksonville State University. She received her Ph.D. in English from Auburn University, a M.A. in English from the University of Georgia, and a B.A. in English from Tuskegee University. Her research examines how Black women writers across the African Diaspora use liminality as a trope to explore how Black women negotiate space and live at the intersection of race and gender.

Dr. Thayer Dortch Truss is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Jacksonville State UniversityShe holds a Ph.D. in Humanities with a concentration in English from Clark Atlanta University, a M.A. in Literature and Language from Marymount University, and a B.A. in English with a minor concentration in Mass Media from Talladega College. Her research explores the origins of the stilted representations of African Americans in American media from the literary predecessors of Reconstructionist literature to the modern evolutions in American film and television. 

Friday, March 31 from 7:00 - 8:00 PM, Mason Hall Room 351

Connor O'Neil's writing has appeared in New York magazine, Vulture, and Slate. He works as a producer on the NPR podcast White Lies, a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Audio Reporting. Down Along with That Devil's Bones is his first book.

How to Care for a Human Girl, Reading by Ashley Wurzbacher

Friday, April 7 from 3:00 - 4:00 PM, Merill Hall Room 300

Publishing Process Panel with Natalie Hallak and Ashley Wurzbacher

Friday, April 7 from 6:00 - 8:00 PM, Merill Hall Room 300

Ashley Wurzbacher is the author of the forthcoming novel How to Care for a Human Girl and the short story collection Happy Like This, which won the 2019 John Simmons (Iowa) Short Fiction Award and was named a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree and a New York Times Editors' Choice. Her short stories have appeared in The Sewanee Review, The Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, and other journals. She holds an MFA from Eastern Washington University and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She lives in Birmingham and teaches at the University of Montevallo.

Natalie Hallak is a Senior Editor at Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, where she recently published The Cloisters by Katy Hays, a Today Show Book Club Pick and instant New York Times bestseller. She began her career at HarperCollins, where she went on to publish New York Times bestsellers The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, and The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, which was also a Reese’s Book Club selection. She has a passion for finding boundary-pushing novels that appeal across literary and commercial fiction readerships. She is the editor for Ashley Wurzbacher’s debut novel How to Care for a Human Girl, coming from Atria on August 8, 2023. 

Thursday, April 13 from 1:30 - 2:30 PM, Virtual Zoom Meeting

Lea Atchison is a K-12 ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher who provides language services and support to all English learners in the Clay County School system. Lea started her career with Clay County Schools as a first year teacher in 2015, where she taught Spanish, English language arts, and drama classes at Central High School prior to stepping into the role of ESL teacher for all four schools in the Clay County School District in 2018. In this role, she not only teaches English learners—she also works closely with other teachers and administrators to ensure that English learners are receiving appropriate quality instruction in the classroom. Lea holds a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education—English Language Arts from Jacksonville State University and a Master’s degree in English for Speakers of Other Languages from the University of South Alabama. She is married to her best friend (who is also a teacher), and she is a twin mom to the sweetest one year little old boy and the sassiest one year old little girl! 

Kara Chatham is a multi-passionate storyteller. Her favorite storytelling mediums are writing, photography, and vlogging. She has used those passions to serve organizations like North Point Ministries and Chick-fil-A. Kara presently serves with Chick-fil-A Canton in an administrative capacity, but will assist with marketing and media needs from time to time. She also runs her own media company, iN Sight Creative, where she assists different clients with their media, marketing, and branding assets. She believes in the power of story, which fuels everything she does. Especially her life-long goal to be a published author, which she has been documenting her writing process on her YouTube channel - imaginationnerd. 

Valarie Williams is currently the Dean of Academic Support at Point University in West Point, Georgia. Mrs. Williams has been a Point University employee for over eight years. She oversees all student services related to student academic success and retention, which include but not limited to: Library Resources, Tutoring Services, Registrar’s Office, Advising Center, and Disability Support Services. 

Valarie works directly under the CAO and collaborates with multiple departments, faculty, and staff on (but not limited to): student appeals, academic dishonesty, institutional partnerships, retention strategies, policies, process improvement, academic technologies, large events such as commencement, diversity/equity/inclusion initiatives and departmental customer service implementation. She is also a current board member of the THINC Academy in LaGrange, Georgia and holds a leadership office within the State of Georgia’s registrar organization, GACRAO. 

Mrs. Williams hails from Saks, Alabama and has a BS degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in English Language Arts from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama. She’s a certified Alabama teacher with both Latin honors and special honors in her field. She has many memberships to a variety of professional organizations and honors societies via JSU. 

Valarie also holds an MS degree in Post-Secondary Education with a concentration in Instructional Technology from Troy University in Troy, Alabama. She has also gone on to complete PhD coursework via a graduate fellowship position in Instructional Development and Design from the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. 

In her spare time, Mrs. Williams loves participating in the arts as well as enjoying food and travel with her family. She volunteers and donates to a variety of charitable organizations throughout the community. She participates heavily in her local church each week by helping with children’s church, worship, ladies small groups, and community events. She also pours into the Point University population by teaching adjunct courses and her favorite classes specifically focus on assisting freshman. She also volunteers with the Fine Arts programs and leading small, spiritual formation, student groups at the University. Valarie enjoys spending time with her husband, Shannon Williams (also a JSU alum). They’ve been married for nineteen years and have one daughter, Madelynn, who is currently a music major at Point University. 

Previous Events

Maurice Carlos Ruffin 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022 at 4:30 pm in Merrill Hall Auditorium.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, which was published by One World Random House in August 2021. His first book, We Cast a Shadow, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. It was longlisted for the 2021 DUBLIN Literary Award, the Center for Fiction Prize and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. The novel was also a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in fiction and the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award for Novel-in-Progress. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the LA Times, the Oxford American, Garden & Gun, Kenyon Review, and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America. A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of Creative Writing at Louisiana State University, and the 2020-2021 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.

Ashley M. Jones 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at 4:30 pm in Merrill Hall Auditorium

Ashley M. Jones is Poet Laureate of the state of Alabama (2022-2026). She received an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University (FIU), where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She served as Official Poet for the City of Sunrise, Florida’s Little Free Libraries Initiative from 2013-2015, and her work was recognized in the 2014 Poets and Writers Maureen Egen Writer’s Exchange Contest and the 2015 Academy of American Poets Contest at FIU. She was also a finalist in the 2015 Hub City Press New Southern Voices Contest, the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award Contest, and the National Poetry Series. Her poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including CNN, the Academy of American Poets, POETRY, Tupelo Quarterly, Prelude, Steel Toe Review, Fjords Review, Quiet Lunch, Poets Respond to Race Anthology, Night Owl, The Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, pluck!, Valley Voices: New York School Edition, Fjords Review: Black American Edition, PMSPoemMemoirStory (where her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016), Kinfolks Quarterly, Tough Times in America Anthology, and Lucid Moose Press’ Like a Girl: Perspectives on Femininity Anthology. She received a 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and a 2015 B-Metro Magazine Fusion Award. She was an editor of PANK Magazine.

Her debut poetry collection, Magic City Gospel, was published by Hub City Press in January 2017, and it won the silver medal in poetry in the 2017 Independent Publishers Book Awards. Her second book, dark // thing, won the 2018 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry from Pleiades Press. Her third collection, REPARATIONS NOW! is forthcoming in Fall 2021 from Hub City Press. She won the 2018 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize from Backbone Press, and she is the 2019 winner of the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Jones is a recipient of a Poetry Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and a 2020 Alabama Author award from the Alabama Library Association. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020, and her collection, REPARATIONS NOW! was on the longlist for the 2022 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry.

She currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival, board member of the Alabama Writers Cooperative and the Alabama Writers Forum, co-director of PEN Birmingham, and a faculty member in the Creative Writing Department of the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Jones is also a member of the Core Faculty at the Converse University Low Residency MFA Program. She recently served as a guest editor for Poetry Magazine.

Elijah Rushing Hayes

Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at 4:30 pm in Merrill Hall Auditorium

Elijah is a transgender man from Alabama. His writing has appeared in jubilat, The Boiler, BOOTH, Hayden’s Ferry Review and other various journals. He is the author of the chapbooks Mad Dances for Mad Kings (Factory Hollow Press, 2015) and There Is One Crow That Will Not Stop Cawing (Another New Calligraphy, 2016). He earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is an editor for Biscuit Hill, an online poetry journal.

He can be contacted at elijahrushinghayes@gmail.com.