The Butler MFA department congratulates Writing In The Schools (WITS), the Jefferson Award-winning partnership between the Butler University Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and Shortridge Magnet School. Two WITS high school students were honored at the Night of Vonnegut Gala with scholarships. Paula Cloyd won the Jane Cox Vonnegut Writing Award for her poem, and Isis Flores received the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Writing Award for her essay. Shortridge alum Dan Wakefield, a friend of Kurt Vonnegut and the best-selling author of Going All the Way, presented the scholarships to Paula and Isis during the Night of Vonnegut gala at the Indianapolis Central Library.

IMG_0002Christopher Speckman, the WITS director, was especially proud of the Seniors. He’s watched them grow as people and writers. Chris said, “To see [Paula and Isis] up on stage receiving applause and receiving a great award is really touching. These students have persevered and now they have this scholarship money to take the next step to go on to college. This award is very meaningful to them and really makes me happy as an educator.”

Butler MFA student Emma Faesi Hudelson is currently enrolled as a WITS mentor. She had the chance to work with Paula. Emma said, “Paula is bright and independent, and has a strong sense of rhythm and flow that allows her politically-charged poetry to really hit home.”

Every semester Butler MFA students have the opportunity to take WITS as class to learn teaching and mentoring skills and put them into action at Shortridge High School.  Shortridge is a beautiful building rich in history. Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Wakefield are just two of its esteemed alumni. However, Chris believes what makes WITS so special is working with students like Paula and Isis. “The students are super motivated, creative, entertaining, and engaging. It is so rewarding, and it’s part of what makes the Butler MFA so special,” he says.

Recent Butler MFA graduate and former WITS mentor, Gerry Justice agrees. He said, “These young people–these beginner poem and prose writers–are the program. They demand our energy then replenish it at performance.”

After gaining the experience of teaching, many WITS teacher mentors go on to a career in teaching, both in Indianapolis and abroad. Chris says WITS is how he began his career in teaching, but maintains the biggest reward of the program is working with students. “You are making a difference in the community and in the lives of students. Many of these students have rough lives. The opportunity to interact with people who come from different backgrounds, to give them the opportunity to succeed in situations where for some students writing is a way to something bigger, something better – to be able to contribute to that journey is the ultimate reward.”

Gerry says, “Really, the education was primarily one way – from them to me…Yes, we are teaching each other, but mostly they are showing and telling us what it’s like to grow up in today’s bomb-exploding world. They are teaching us how to take cover, or to act brave, then document it. They hug and they laugh and they cry.”

Emma, still in the midst of her experience as mentor says mentoring the kids can be challenging and trying, but “there are also moments that transcend, like seeing a student smile with pride after reading her work out loud.”

For more information about Butler’s Writing in the School program, visit their website or email Chris Speckman at cspeckma@butler.edu




Poetry Lunch Hour Grows and Grows

As more people hear of the fun, casual poetry discussions held over a catered lunch at the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing, attendance continues to grow. The last poetry lunch hour saw twenty members of Butler’s MFA community and friends come together to discuss the poetry of Louise Glück, yet everyone still contributed thoughts and reflections.

The discussion remains open and all levels of interpretation are welcome. The next lunch hour will be Thursday, April 2nd at 12:30 and will discuss the works of upcoming visiting poets Ellen Bryant Voigt and Catherine Barnett. Email Mindy at mdunn1@butler.edu for more information.

Upcoming Poetry Dates:

March 25th – Student Q & A with Glück, 2:25 PM at the ECCW Cancelled due to illness.
March 25th – Glück Reading, 7:30 PM at the Reilly RoomCancelled due to illness.
April 2nd – Poetry Lunch Hour, 12:30 at the ECCW
April 6th – Voigt & Bryant Reading , 7:30 at the Krannert Room
April 7th – Voigt & Bryant @conversations, 7:30 at the ECCW

Lois Lowry Shares Writing and Publishing Wisdom

After delighting and entertaining a packed house at Clowes Hall, Lois Lowry met with a much smaller group of Butler students for a personal Q & A.


Many MFA students are interested in the world of publishing, and the beloved children’s writer began with a warning: “a writer worrying about publishing is like a centipede worrying about his legs until he can’t walk,” she said. She did humor the students with stories of censorship and her biggest surprises in the publishing world. Her biggest personal change has been technology. Her first novel was written in 1976 on a typewriter. She kept all of her manuscripts in an old refrigerator to protect against fire. “Now, they are in the cloud,” she joked. The Giver was the first book she wrote on a computer (though later she learned it was not actually a computer, but a word processor).
Of course modern technology has it’s advantages with editing, but Lowry admits it also makes it so easy to make changes, it’s hard for a writer to stop. “You have to know when to quit. You’ll always think you can do something better,” she said.
She spoke extensively about her audience, usually young children. She told the MFA students the same lesson she tells young writers when she visits elementary school classrooms, “The important characters are the ones who make choices. Stories are about choices.”
Although Lowry said her favorite novel is usually the one she has just written, there is one particular passage she dearly loves from Rabble Starky, published in 1986. The main character is listening to a story and forming images in her mind but is aware that everyone else is making a different, unique picture of their own. Lowry says, “I think that’s so true. Each reader reads a book which is different than the book I saw when I wrote it. It’s a wonderful creative partnership. Reader and Writer together create these books.”


Inspired by Indianapolis Nature

Many of Butler’s visiting writers, like Margaret Atwood and Kaui Hart Hemmings, have told the MFA students the best way to be inspired is going outdoors. Whether it’s for a run, a walk in the park, or just sitting with a notebook, nature can conquer writers block.

Indianapolis has many great places to take your writing outdoors. This Spring, try writing at one of these five free nature sites within a few miles of Butler University.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 3.05.05 PM1. Holcomb Gardens

Located right on Butler’s campus, Holcomb Gardens is the most convenient spot for MFA students to find outdoor inspiration. The 20-acre Gardens feature a statue of Persephone, a pond, a local canal, and now a high ropes course.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 3.35.45 PM2. 100 Acres

John Green was inspired by the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s 100 Acres. It is an important setting in his novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Located on one hundred acres at the IMA, 100 Acres includes woodlands, wetlands, meadows, a 35-acre lake, and a dozen interactive art displays. There are plenty of benches and open green spaces ideal for writers.

deck-2253. Holiday Park

Though it’s just a few miles north of campus, Holiday Park will feel worlds away from the busy city. The 94 acre park includes over three and half miles of wooded trails, some of which pass by the White River. The park is also home to the unique Ruins.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 6.23.03 AM4. Indianapolis Cultural Trail

The eight mile urban bike and pedestrian trail connects Indianapolis’ six diverse cultural districts and features seven public art projects. There are plenty of restaurants, local breweries, cafes, and benches to visit when inspiration strikes.

20100614-175059-AboutPark_Sum115. White River State Park

White River is Indianapolis’ urban park located in the heart of downtown on 250 acres, including a mile and half of canal. The park encompasses museums and the Indianapolis Zoo, and also hosts many free outdoor concerts, expos, and bazaars. There is always something new to discover.

NoViolet Bulawayo

The Pen/Hemingway Award winning novelist, NoViolet Bulawayo, met with students at the Efroymson Center of Creative Writing on her recent visit to Butler University. Many students took advantage of the opportunity to ask the Stanford professor questions about her novel, We Need New Names, her writing process, and her motivation for writing.


At times humorous and entertaining, NoViolet was always insightful and encouraging. She shared her experience and wisdom as a new writer, explaining the long process of rethinking and revising her novel. We Need New Names originated in her MFA workshop as short story with a different point view. She encouraged Butler writing students to build a supportive community and to write from a personal space of honesty.

“Take care of yourself so you can be open to hear the criticism your work needs,” she said after describing the many drafts and changes she made to create a successful novel.

To her, writing is joining a conversation about something personally important. She said, “Writing from the bone, the intersection between what you are creating and your own life… means I was able to retain some truth that was important and honest.”

After answering questions, NoViolet took the time to sign books and pose with fans.



March is a big month for visiting writers and other literary events in Indianapolis. You won’t want to miss these great events!


4th – Lois Lowry Reading, Clowes Hall, 7:30PM

The beloved children’s author of over thirty novels, including two Newberry Winners (Number the Stars and The Giver) is coming to Butler as part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Series. As an author, Lowry is known for writing about difficult subject matters within her works for children. She has explored such complex issues as racism, terminal illness, murder, and the Holocaust among other challenging topics. The reading is free and open to the public.

5th – Lois Lowry Q & A, Reilly Room, 9:30-10:50 AM

Join the celebrated, awardwinning author for an informal question and answer session.

6th – Poetry Lunch Hour: Philip Levine, ECCW, 12:30 PM

Mindy is hosting the next Poetry Lunch Hour at the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing. Selections from two of Philip Levine’s books, The Simple Truth and  What Work Is, will be discussed. All levels of poetry readers are invited to attend. As always, lunch is provided for those who RSVP and no purchase of the book is necessary. RSVP to mdunn1@butler.edu.

6th – Khaled Hosseini, Clowes Hall, 7PM

This moderated discussion with Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully will feature the Afghan-American author discussing his popular works which include The Kite Runner (published in 2003), A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), and And the Mountains Echoed (2013).

All tickets for the McFadden Lecture with Khaled Hosseini have been distributed. Approximately 15 minutes prior to the event, open seats will be released to patrons in line without tickets.

18th – Majora Carter, Clowes Hall, 7:30

Carter will present “Home (town) Security” as part of the Celebration of Diversity Lecture Series. Carter hosts the Peabody Award-winning public radio series “The Promised Land” and serves on the boards of the U.S. Green Building Council and The Wilderness Society. She has along list of awards and honorary degrees, including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

20th – Margo Jefferson, ECCW, 7:30

Margo Jefferson on the Lineaments of Criticism: Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson describes the complex, fluid relations between criticism and autobiography, contemplating how the most interesting critics are in dialogue with their own convictions and emotions. Part of the conversations@efroymson series.

21st – Saturdays @ 3, ECCW, 3:30

Hilene and Millie invite all members of the Butler MFA community to join them around the fire of Efroymson Center of Creative Writing to discuss current reading selections. Bring a short selection from the book you are currently reading to share or simply recommend a book you’ve recently enjoyed.

25th – Louise Glück, Reilly Room, 7:30 PM

Louise Glück is the author of nine books of poetry. Her most recent book, Faithful and Virtuous Night, received the 2014 National Book Award. She also has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize (for her 1992 book The Wild Iris), the National Book Critics Circle Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, the Bobbitt National Poetry Prize, and the Ambassador’s Award, as well as the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. Her book Vita Nova (2001) won the first New Yorker Readers Award. In 2003-2004, Glück served as the 12th U.S. Poet Laureate. She is the Rosenkranz Writer in Residence in the Department of English at Yale University.

26th – Louise Glück, Q & A, 11:00-12:15

The prizewinning poet will conduct an informal questions and answer session.



3rd – Bonnie Jo Campbell, Purdue University, 7:30

Michigan writer Bonnie Jo Campbell, whose widely lauded novel, American Salvage, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, will read at Krannert Auditorium, Room 140.

13th – Sarah Layden Book Release, Indy Reads Books, 6:30

Celebrate Layden’s new novel, Trip Through Your Wires, at this book release party. The publisher is Engine Books, an Indianapolis-based press.

16th – Teresa Mei Chuc, University of Indianpolis, 7:30

Poet Teresa Mei Chuc, a Saigon native who sought political asylum in the United States while her father was imprisoned in a Vietcong re-education camp, reads in room 010 of the Schwitzer Student Center at the University of Indianapolis. Her poetry appears in numerous journals and anthologies. Red Thread is her first full-length collection of poetry. Her second collection of poetry is Keeper of the Winds (FootHills Publishing, 2014).

18th – Mary Gaitskill, Depauw Universtiy, 7:30

Mary Gaitskill is the author of the novels Two Girls, Fat and Thin and Veronica, as well as the story collections Bad BehaviorBecause They Wanted To, and Don’t Cry.  Her story “Secretary” was the basis for the critically acclaimed feature film of the same name.  Her stories and essays have appeared in The New YorkerHarper’sGrantaBest American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories.  In 2002 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction. Her novel Veronica was nominated for the National Book Award, the National Critic’s Circle Award, and the L.A. Times Book Award.  She teaches creative writing at New York University.

21st – Gathering of Writers, Indiana Writers Center

The Gathering of Writers is the Indiana Writers Center’s annual conference, featuring a full day of classes, workshops and featured speakers. Award-winning authors from around the state will share their expertise and discuss their experiences as working writers.