From the Page to the Screen


Congratulations to Ben H. Winters, one of Butler MFA’s favorite adjunct professors. He moved to Los Angeles after teaching his final fiction workshop with the Butler MFA last spring to pursue screenwriting. He has already brokered a deal with NBC to bring his Edgar Award-winning The Last Policeman series to television. Deadline reports, “In a competitive situation, NBC has landed The Last Policeman, an adaptation of Ben H. Winters’ sci-fi mystery novel, with a put pilot commitment.” Even better news: Winters will write the script. He will return October 22nd to Indianapolis for a reading of his new, best-selling novel, Underground Airlines. The reading is at Indy Reads at 6:00 PM.


lili-wrightAnother Butler MFA adjunct professor is celebrating a screenplay deal. Lili Wright has sold the feature rights to her novel Dancing with the Tiger to The Mark Gordon Company. We expect the movie to be as thrilling as the novel. Lili will return to Butler’s campus on November 30th for a conversations@efroymson book party. The event begins at 7:00 PM in the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing.


John Green Reads at the Akbar

The Akbar Reading Series has two goals: Showcase entertaining readers in the Indianapolis area and make literary readings fun. The readings are set in a bar, the line-up is energetic and talented, and there are chances to win free beer. The untraditional reading series is organized by a small group of writers with ties to the Butler MFA, and is marketed through word of mouth and facebook.

The fourth reading was held at Bent Rail Brewery and received a great turnout. The line-up included MFA alum and current Butler professor, Chris Speckman who read poetry about love and cats. Butler adjunct professor Lili Wright read from her new novel, Dances with Tigers. The book is receiving great reviews, and we’ve just learned the movie rights have been purchased. The final reader of the night was best-selling young adult writer John Green who read from his new work-in-progress. He was just as charming, energetic, and kind hearted as we all dreamed he’d be.


Part of The Akbar’s charm is the mystery around it. What is an Akbar? Who will show up to read next time? Why are the trivia questions impossible? Is it affiliated with Butler MFA or officially disavowed? Who is the secret committee who plans the Akbar?

Dan Barden, the champion of The Akbar, refused to answer any of those questions, but he did answer a few.


How the heck did you get John Green, the second most earning author of 2015, to read at your bar reading series?

“He’d been emailing us and begging to read for months. After he submitted a sample, I met with my secret committee and decided we’d have to let him read or he’d just keep nagging us.”

But seriously?

“I just emailed him and asked,” Dan said. “People like supporting the Butler MFA.”

Who is going to read next?

“Ask Mindy,” Dan said.

Mindy Dunn, the brains of The Akbar, said, “You’ll have to come and see because you never know who will show up at the Akbar.”


Hanya Yanagihara Talks Writing with Butler MFA


Hanya Yanagihara, the best-selling author of The People in the Trees and A Little Life, visited Butler University this past September as a Vivian S. Delbrook visiting writer. She spent two days discussing her work and craft with students.

Yanagihara was introduced by a Butler student who said, “Yanagihara tackles ideas extremely dark and troubling and makes it personal and meaningful by blanketing the horror in gorgeous prose…. She gets in your head, and more dangerously, in your heart.” In her presentation, Yanagihara discussed both the dark themes of her work and the importance of seeking a reader’s heart.

Typically, visiting writers present a reading followed by a brief question and answer, but Yanagihara opted for a conversation format led by English Professor Ania Spyra. She encouraged the Indianapolis community and Butler student body across disciplines to continue reading, even uncomfortable subjects. “Be brave,” she said. “Enter a new world.” The event was covered in detail by WTHR.

The day following her public presentation, Yanagihara met with a small group of Butler students for an intimate discussion focused on writing. All who had the pleasure to meet her agreed she was warm and helpful. Second year MFA student Stephanie Anderson said, “She is a master writer and a master sweetheart!”

14520411_1157844990962650_7032162518232146680_nYanagihara shared writing tips like the best time to write, handling rejection, and even her own checklist for how to successfully write complex characters. She encouraged writing “cross-difference”; that is, to write characters different from the author’s background. “If a character is a symbol of difference, he is not a character…. Know 1000 things about him besides the difference,” she said. “Be prepared for people not liking it. Don’t be defensive.”

She told writers not to focus on perfection. “The ultimate compliment is that it is strange,” she said of her work. “It’s messy and involves your involvement and rewards you with a question.”

The next Vivian S. Delbrook visiting writer is the award-winning poet, Robert Wrigley. His reading is on Tuesday, October 25 at 7:30 PM in the Atherton Union Reilly Room.







October Events

Events at Butler

 10/7 – Poetry Lunch Hour
ECCW, 12:30 PM

Join Mindy Dunn for a fun, insightful poetry discussion. Open to all Butler students, faculty, and staff, these lunches are a great opportunity to meet new people and have passionate and intelligent conversation about poetry. This discussion will feature the work from Ocean Vuong’s book Night Sky with Exit Wounds. If you’d like to learn more about Ocean Vuong check out his Divedapper conversation with MFA alum Kaveh Akbar. A selection of poetry is emailed to all who RSVP with at least 24 hours’ notice, so no book purchase is necessary to participate. You do not need to have any experience studying poetry. Lunch is also provided! Please RSVP to Mindy.

10/7 – Dialogue 2: Judgement Day
ECCW, 6:00-10:00 PM

Join fellow MFA students for food, festivities, discussion, laughs, and, okay, some casual workshopping. Bring a few pages you’d like to read aloud for feedback, or just bring your beverage of choice and enjoy. Email Tristan for questions and RSVP on the Facebook page.

10/12, 10/19, 10/26 – Write Group
ECCW, 11:00 AM

The #1 rule all successful writers follow? They write. Join your writing community for one hour of writing. No Facebook, no talking, lots of coffee, and sometimes bacon. Email Natalie if you have questions.

10/15 & 10/29 – Butler Poetry Group
ECCW, 3:00 – 5:00 PM

Poetry MFA students, alums & brave prose writers all welcome. We discuss a poem that we admire, spend some time on a writing prompt, and then informally workshop poems by anyone who brings copies. Contact Tracy for more information.

Open contest – Sunset Story Hour

conversations@effroymson is hosting our second Sunset Story hour and we want YOU to participate! The story hour is a live storytelling contest, featuring three finalists performing their work in front of an audience for a prize. Think “The Moth” or “Snap Judgement” or any of the other awesome storytelling podcasts that are so popular right now.

 The contest is open to submissions now, with a deadline to submit of Nov 2nd, and the slam performance will happen on Friday, Nov 11th at 7pm. Our inaugural slam last year was a huge success, and we’re hoping to get even more involvement this year. The slam is also a party, so we encourage you to join in on the fun as an audience member if nothing else.

“Miracles” is our chosen theme. Please submit audio/video files to Mindy Dunn. More details can be found on our blog page.

10/25 -Robert Wrigley
Atherton Union, Reilly Room, 7:30 PM

Wrigley author picRobert Wrigley will visit Butler as a Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writer. His collections of poetry include Anatomy of Melancholy & Other Poems, winner of the Pacific Northwest Book Award; Beautiful Country; Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems; Lives of the Animals, winner of the Poets Prize; Reign of Snakes, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award; and In the Bank of Beautiful Sins, winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award and finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award from the Academy of American Poets.

Wrigley’s poems are concerned with rural Western landscapes and humankind’s place within the natural world, and he aims to “tell all the truth, but make it sing.” He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Idaho Commission on the Arts. His poems have been widely anthologized, twice included in Best American Poetry, and featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac.

10/28 – Poetry Lunch Hour
ECCW, 12:30 PM

Join Mindy Dunn for an insightful and passionate discussion of poetry over a free lunch. All levels of poetry readers are welcome and appreciated. A selection of poetry is emailed to all who RSVP with at least 24 hours’ notice, so no book purchase is necessary to participate. The featured poet of this discussion will be determined from input and recommendations taken from participants. Please email Mindy to RSVP.

Events in Indy

Descriptions and details are taken from event websites. 

10/14 – Not Like the Rest of Us Celebration
Indy Reads, 3:00 PM

Not Like the Rest of Us: An Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers features seventy-eight notable Indiana poets, fiction writers and essayists, including Marianne Boruch, Jared Carter, Mari Evans, Karen Joy Fowler, Helen Frost, John Green, Philip Gulley, Patricia Henley, Susan Neville, Scott Russell Sanders, and Dan Wakefield. The most experienced writers here are in their nineties, the youngest in their twenties. Some are best-selling authors, some widely known in literary circles, some just beginning. Many were born and raised in Indiana, others found their way here and stayed. Join us to celebrate! Special guest authors will read and present their work.

10/22 – Ben H. Winters 
Indy Reads, 6:00 PM

Fiction_Main_Winters_credit_Nicola_Goode_2_jpg_250x300_q85Ben H. Winters joins us again for his latest release, Underground Airlines. Imagine an America where the Civil War never happened and slavery still exists. Acclaimed author Ben H. Winters has done just that, and the result is his stunning and audacious thriller, Underground Airlines (Mulholland Books, July 5, 2016)—the lead summer title from Mulholland Books for 2016.

Ben is a huge supporter of the mission of Indy Reads; he is also featured in Indy Writes Books! Learn more on his website: Follow him on Twitter @benhwinters

10/26 – Lili Wright
DePauw University, 7:30 PM

lili-wrightLili Wright spent ten years as a journalist in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Utah, and Mexico. Her work has appeared in newspapers nationwide, including the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun. A graduate of Columbia University’s M.F.A. program in nonfiction, she currently teaches creative writing and journalism at DePauw University and lives in Greencastle, Indiana. She is the author of a well-received travel memoir, Learning to Float. Her novel Dancing with the Tiger will be published by Random House in 2016. The writer and ecologist Rick Bass says of the novel: “Dancing with the Tiger is built on beautiful sentences the way a spider web is built on silk. Pleasing also is Lili Wright’s wisdom regarding the human condition, present on every page. Her elegant and vital sentences also travel in service to what is surely one of the most intricate plots of the year; but first and foremost, the sentences: one will follow them almost anywhere.”

10/29 – Indy Author Fair
Central Library, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Celebrate Indiana’s rich literary tradition with activities for writers and book lovers of all ages! Presented by The Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award and The Indianapolis Public Library. FREE and open to the public, the day includes workshops and lectures for adults and children, awards, book signings, and sit-downs with authors including this year’s Indy Authors Award National author winner Karen Joy Fowler. See a schedule of events and more information here.


Lots of Laughs at Screenplay Reading

Butler MFA’s supplemental reading series, conversation@efroymson, is eclectic, surprising, and always fun.  Recently, conversation@efroymson presented a live screenplay reading of the cult classic, Roadhouse. The sometimes vulgar and often cheesy script was fully embraced by the readers, and the audience provided a robust laugh track.


The brains behind this event, John Eckerd, said, “I had a great time. That’s all that matters to me. It was fun getting people to say all the filthy things in that movie. It looked like other people laughed a lot.” Eckerd acknowledged the reading lasted longer than planned, perhaps due to the side comments from the cast and frequent laughter breaks, saying,  “Next time we’ll be more careful about the runtime.”

That’s right. There will be a next time. What screenplay could possibly follow the masterpiece Roadhouse? “One word,” Eckerd said. “Ghost.”

The next conversations@efroymson event is the Sunset Story Hour on October 21st. The live storytelling contest will feature three finalists performing their work in front of an audience for a prize. The slam is engaging, moving, entertaining, and most importantly, the slam is a party. Please check out the MFA blog for details and email Mindy with any questions.