UHC has limited funds to support bookings of Authors on Main Street speakers during the coming year. If you are interested in hosting a speaker for a discussion with your organization, please book soon. We will honor as many requests as we are able!
The registry of Utah authors with recent publications based upon a strong humanities theme is listed below. AMS authors have expressed a willingness to travel statewide to share their work and to provide communities with the opportunity to discuss humanities-based themes. AMS programs are not "readings," though an author may occasionally illustrate a point with a brief excerpt from his or her work.
Authors Available to Speak to Your Group
Book information: Bittersweet: A Daughter’s Memoir (2010), Unidentified Lying Objects (2009), Perfecting Amiable (2007), and Minding Mama (2004), by Marilyn Arnold
Marilyn Arnold’s novels are the stuff of life, set in southern Utah. Her characters might be found raising crops, shopping in a small-town mercantile, attending a family reunion, or participating in a local production or celebration. Her characters come to life in her presentation, called “Fictional Folks of Utah’s Desert Country.” Inspiration for Arnold’s story lines is often some small human interest story in a local newspaper that, along with her books, and an obituary column or two, provide the catalyst for group discussion. Utahns will recognize themselves through Arnold’s novels and potentially see each other with new understanding and sympathy.
Marilyn Arnold (Washington)
Book information: The Evening and the Morning (2009)
Archaeologists agree that by ten to twelve thousand years ago people inhabited North America, but they vigorously disagree about when they first arrived, how they got here, and where they came from. As a rule, the older an archaeological site claims to be, the more controversial it becomes. In Tom’s presentation he will display artifacts being found in California’s Mojave Desert that indicate a very early arrival.
In his novel, The Evening and The Morning, Tom puts human faces to the controversy by following the lives of two young women. The first is Ganny, a Native American archaeologist who struggles to find acceptance for who and what she is as well as the artifacts she is finding. The second is Evening Star, who tens of thousands of years ago leads a group of cave people on a dangerous trek across the icy tundra of Central Asia towards a new home shown to her in a vision. Though separated by eons, their lives are mystically joined by a powerful talisman – a piece of meteorite – that both wear.
Tom Baldwin (Cedar City)
Book information: She Doesn’t Want the Worms! Ella no quiere los gusanos – A Mystery with Online Secrets (2011); BAD Bananas – A Story Cookbook for Kids (2011), Anna’s Prayer (2008); Crumbs on the Stairs / Migas en las escaleras - A Mystery in English and Spanish (2007); Sounds in the House! – A Fun Mystery (2004)
Where is your family from? What can you do with a brown banana? Where do stories come from? Have you ever been frightened by sounds in your house? How does a story become a book? And…can bugs be eaten? Fluent in both Spanish and English, Beckstrand writes from personal experience, and he’s an advocate of finding and sharing family stories for both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences, especially children. An avid learner himself, he lives to share empowering ideas. Four of his five published books are activity and/or bilingual picture books (English & Spanish with pronunciation guide). One non-fiction picture book (and two in pre-publication) deals with immigrant children overcoming obstacles. “I try to make my stories appealing to all ages—with humor/nuances just for the adult who reads to kids,” he says. Some are on overcoming fear, some have finding and counting activities, and one is a cookbook that families can use to combat “I’m bored” disease. He’s even whipped up smoothies from his Bad Bananas - A Story Cookbook for Kids.
¿De dónde es su familia? ¿Qué se puede hacer con una banana madura? ¿De dónde vienen los cuentos y libros? ¿Has estado asustado por sonidos en su casa? ¿Se puede comer bichos? Hábil en español tanto como el ingles, Karl Beckstrand escribe desde las experiencias personales, y le encanta buscar y compartir historias reales con los niños. A la vez, se esfuerza para incluir ideas entretenidas para los padres también. Él tiene libros con actividades (como de búsqueda y contar) y tiene libros bilingües que incluyen una guía de pronunciación para ambos idiomas. Uno de sus libros tiene recetas para las bananas maduras, y otro es la historia real de una inmigrante que no hablaba ingles. “Siempre intento incluir un mensaje – de coraje, o de superar obstáculos, o el valor de compartir”, dice.
Stephen Carter’s religious life is full of contradictions. He stumbles upon religion's earthier corners while on a Cub Scout fishing trip. Receiving the priesthood sends him on a spiritual roller-coaster ride. A death-metal concert hammers a whole new definition of spirituality into him. In his book of award-winning personal essays, What of the Night?, Carter has arguably set the highest standard to date of how Latter-day Saints can talk outside their culture. Through his incisive, hilarious, ultimately generous stories about living in the heart of Mormonism, he makes LDS life vivid to outsiders and freshly compelling for Mormons of any adjective: Orthodox, Cultural--even “Jack.”
“[G]ifted in translating the still, small moments of the Mormon experience into prose that makes the soul wonder and sing.” --Lisa Torcasso Downing
"On a night like tonight it's good to be irrelevant to the universe and still a piece of it."
In Kristen Chandler’s debut novel set against the controversial reintroduction of the Yellowstone wolves, the world is both indifferent and intimately connected to the people of the West. Through humor and heartache the character of KJ Carson, the only daughter of a fishing guide, tries to bring her own brand of “civil discourse” to a turbulent issue.
Novels about the environment, and wolves in particular, tend to idolize or demonize their subject beyond any useful relationship to reality. So how do we talk and write about the emotional hot buttons of our world? How do we transcend reductive symbolism to speak or write a truth that can make us whole?
Beyond it’s politicized geography, WOLVES is a story of falling in love for the first time, and like the natural world, it’s both dangerous and exhilarating. Kirkus Reviews says, “Virgil and KJ's up-and-down romance is one of emotional and intellectual equals, lending real strength to this environmentally themed rural twist on the typical suburban love story.”
In Fault, Katharine Coles continues to explore her interest in the intersections of science, culture, and history, but the book is perhaps best described as an extended meditation on love. Ranging across time and continents, Coles addresses such figures as Newton, Kepler, and Vesalius, not only with intellectual rigor but also with a humor, intimacy, and buoyant optimism that render her subjects—the figures and the science—accessible within the capacious intellectual, emotional, and physical landscapes of the poems.
Katharine's poems engage not only domestic life and love but also science, art, and history, and have been described by critic David Baker as "big" and "packed with ambition."
To request a presentation from Katherine Coles please contact Guy Lebeda, Literary Arts Manager (Utah Arts Council) at 801.236.7553, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katharine Coles (Salt Lake City)
That Went Well: Adventures in Caring for My Sister, describes the roller coaster ride Terrell Dougan and her family had trying to make her sister Irene’s life work. A birth injury in 1946 left Irene developmentally disabled. With no programs existing for special needs children at the time, Dougan’s father began the advocacy movement for these children in Utah. Dougan’s book describes how her family learned behavior modification for special needs children, and then applied it to legislators. It worked. The kindness of strangers from all walks of life plays a role in her story as well, which led her to name her talk: Flying Chickens and the Kindness of Strangers. Discussions illustrate how much special people help the rest of us in ways we don’t fathom and demonstrate the power of ordinary citizens who effect sweeping social change in a short period of time.
For more information on Dougan’s book, visit her web site: www.thatwentwellthebook.com
What image do you conjure up for a classical music concert? Elegantly attired musicians performing in synchronous harmony? Looks can be deceiving! Elias takes you behind the chandeliered stage to a much darker, hidden world with his award-winning Daniel Jacobus mystery series, described as “a musical feast for mystery and music lovers” by Library Journal.
A concert violinist with over thirty-five years in the Boston Symphony and as associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony, Elias brings you a lifetime of experiences with blood-thirsty concert agents, cutthroat competitions, ruthless violin dealers, unethical critics, and a host of quirky characters. His unlikely protagonist and reluctant hero, curmudgeonly, blind violin teacher Daniel Jacobus, somehow solves the mysteries, though only after extricating himself from very deep hot water.
Elias discusses his critically acclaimed books, their inspiration, and presents a riveting performance of the title music on the violin. A surefire crowd-pleaser for lovers of both music and mysteries.
An avid angler, author George Handley not only fly fishes the world-famous Provo River, he also writes about it. The result? Home Waters, an exquisitely crafted combination of memoir, nature writing and history that speaks to readers of any location and identity. This expansive book tells the story of early conflict between Mormon settlers and Ute Indians, of the transformation of this extraordinary watershed into modern water management, and of the author’s personal struggle for hope in light of a brother’s suicide. Handley doesn’t shy away from the reality of human suffering and environmental degradation, but he ultimately highlights the potentially restorative relationship between nature and the human imagination. He uses a brief reading from the book as a springboard to explore environmental and religious philosophy in general and how it relates to the Provo in particular. What does it mean to have a sense of place in Utah? For Handley, memory and belief can motivate all of us to see ourselves not only as those who recreate and rely on the abundant rivers and streams of our state, but as stewards of our own home waters.
Hebner began writing about the Southern Paiute in 1990, when the Kaibab people in Arizona turned down hundreds of millions of dollars by refusing to allow a hazardous waste incinerator on their reservation. Observing from the periphery, he was impressed with their humor and wisdom as they collectively made this difficult decision. As he began to research these people, he was appalled both by how little had been written about them and how they were generally dismissed as "diggers."
With the award-winning photographer Michael Plyler taking their portraits, Hebner interviewed thirty elders from throughout their desert homelands in the Colorado Plateau, Mojave Desert and Great Basin. Though primarily biographies, the interviews produced stories never told outside the tribe, ranging from creation stories to the Salt Song Trail to their perspective on unresolved histories such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Together, these individual portraits quilt into a present day snapshot of a people struggling to keep their identity, while revealing stories, both ancient and contemporary, from America's deserts.
With Plyler's stunning black-and-white portraits as backdrop, Hebner's presentation raises intriguing, even provocative questions about the history and current lives of the Southern Paiute. In addition to exploring Southern Paiute culture, more controversial histories such as the LDS Placement Program, federal termination of the tribe in 1954 and the Mountain Meadows Massacre are all presented from the Southern Paiute perspective, offering the opportunity for relevant discussion.
Kimberly Johnson’s poetry has been praised by many, including Mark Strand, who wrote of Leviathan with a Hook: "It is a beautiful book, and an unusual one...Its remarkable lucidity, its seductive energy, its lushness, and its music form a vision in which the real and the transcendental are indistinguishable." Johnson brings that energy to her program as she reads from her works and leads a discussion on the importance of words as building-blocks of literature. The enthusiasm which Utahns hold for the literary arts will be enriched through a more attentive, deliberate experience of the language we hear every day. We explore language by recounting our favorite words and their importance to us, by taking place in a dialogue on how words communicate, and by learning why it is important to develop love affairs with dictionaries.
For more information on Johnson’s books, visit her web site: www.kimberly-johnson.com
Using her new collection of shorts stories as a starting point, author Lynn Kilpatrick presents a discussion entitled “Architecture & Narrative.” This fascinating presentation is both visual, with images of various buildings, and descriptive as Lynn discusses the relationship between buildings and the stories they house. Her interest in domestic fiction, and the relationship between domestic space and narrative structures, leads to an exploration about how familiar domestic spaces inspire specific kinds of stories. Lynn invites the audience to think about the relationship between our domestic spaces and our stories. Participants will consider familiar spaces as well as unique architectural constructs as starting points for discussions of how buildings tell stories, how public buildings might tell collective stories, and how our individual stories arise out of our relationships with space.
Patrick Madden's recent book, Quotidiana, is a collection of personal essays that deal with personal and familial experiences against a backdrop of meditations on faith and science. The personal essay as literary genre is explored with participants: how authors move deftly from mundane experiences into transcendent meditations on the meaning of life; at the same time, these essays don't require extraordinary adventures or gripping drama to fuel their creation. Utahns have a history of keeping journals and family histories. Personal essays are a way to combine narrative (what happened) with meditation (what it might mean), which is a way of universalizing experience. In a presentation that includes images including artwork and relevant quotes from other authors, Patrick will discuss his own work and the work of others to engage the audience in a discussion that asks questions such as: What can make a writer's ideas and experiences interesting to a stranger? How can personal essays salve our harried lives? What is the greatest insight you've gained from an unremarkable experience?
Lisa Mangum has always wanted to be a writer. Working professionally with a publishing company as a book editor since 1997, her dual background—as both an editor and an author—gives her a unique perspective on writing and reading. Lisa believes that everyone has a story to tell—a story that only they can tell—but that many people are unsure of where to start. Her presentation, “Finding Your Voice: Opening the Door to Your Imagination,” is 45-minute presentation on sparking creativity, finding good ideas, and understanding the basic building blocks of writing a novel (characters, conflict, plot, and developing your voice as an author). As an example, she discusses the writing process she used to write The Hourglass Door and The Golden Spiral, the first two books in a trilogy featuring the love story between Abby, a senior in high school, and Dante, an Italian foreign-exchange student who has been sent forward in time through a time machine crafted by the legendary Leonardo da Vinci.
Jeffrey McCarthy’s book discusses the intersection of mountaineering and the environment and the powerful relation between climbing and environmentalism. In Contact, he has collected and commented upon twenty-three first person accounts about climbing, from classic nineteenth-century accounts to more modern tales. These accounts are divided into three ways of viewing: conquest, caretaking, and connection.
Jeffrey’s presentation incorporates slides about climbing that generate question and comment as he engages the audience in a variety of topics. Thoreau says “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” which leads us to wonder what he meant by “wildness” and how that term can be applied today. Does climbing increase environmental sensitivity, or reduce it? The experiences of moving in the exterior world come home to us as we ponder how we experience our own worlds, through our minds or through our bodies?
“What do you like most about your library?” is the question Carla Morris frequently asks. Her illustrated children’s book, The Boy who was Raised by Librarians, is based upon a true story that took place at Provo City Library. Discussions arise based upon childhood memories influenced by books, reading, and libraries. Reminiscence of childhood visits to the library as a child lead to the positive role of the public library in our lives today.
For more information on Morris’ award-winning book (including “Best Children's Books of the Year 2007” Children's Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education), visit her web site: www.carladeemorris.com
Carla Morris (Mapleton)
A world-ranked poetry slam artist, Jesse Parent lives his poetry on-stage as if it were an athletic event. He seems to half-walk, half-levitate through his life as he sees it through words—from coping with suburbia, to being a father in need of direction and to celebrating comedy in grief. He’s famous for propelling his reader-audiences onto a roller coaster of emotions--from peaks of giddy comedy to valleys of tragic recognition. And witnesses to his art are always willing partakers. Using his own poetry and—equally important—the performance of his poetry—Parent provides your group with more of a discussion than a workshop. Even so, his presentation is great for teens, young adults and the young at heart. He will bring them to their feet as he illustrates how their own words have to stand on their own, but how performance punctuates it.
Jesse Parent (Cottonwood Heights)
No matter where we are born or what language we speak, we all come from one wondrous country called Childhood. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a trip back? Who knows, maybe looking at the world and its problems through the eyes of fairy tale characters is just what we need to make it a better place. Fairy Tales of the Russians and Other Slavs by Olga and Ace Pilkington is a book for all ages. It is a collection of sixty-eight fascinating stories which the Slavic peoples all over the world have enjoyed for generations. The Pilkingtons make many of these tales available to English speakers in one handy collection complete with a comprehensive introduction, a glossary, and a bibliography. Children and adults alike will delight in the authors’ presentation as together they explore or reminisce about growing up and coming to terms with the world. In many instances, the fairy tales deal with just this issue. Join the Pilkingtons as they talk about the creative process of editing and translating the fairy tales, explain the cultural peculiarities and similarities of the stories, and read a tale or two.
“I have only praise for their choice of stories, and for their organization.” -- D.L. Ashliman, author of Folk and Fairy Tales: A Handbook
Set entirely in Utah (Salt Lake City and Utah’s west desert), Richman’s novel spans time from the 1960s to the present day. The 1960s story is that of ranchers in Utah’s west desert and their conflicts and interactions with the federal government at three area Army bases. It is also a story of love for place and people, a story of living with the decisions and choices we make. The Last Cowgirl has as its background one of Utah’s most disturbing historical events, the 1968 nerve gas accident, which resulted in the death of 6,000 sheep in Utah’s west desert in Tooele County. This book explores citizens’ relationships with federal entities and how we reconcile those relationships. It also examines our relationships with Utah’s geography -- how we view and use the land and our most scarce resource: water. *The Last Cowgirl is available our lending library for groups. Reserve these books through our Book Buzz program.
What do Handel's The Messiah and the enduring fairy tale of Santa Claus have in common? Not necessarily Christmas. Author and playwright Tim Slover recognizes that the two have become touchstones of the season and discusses how the sacred and the silly, the sublime and the mythological have converged in our day to become institutions. From his book "The
Messiah: The Little-Known Story of Handel's Beloved Oratorio," Slover takes on a fascinating backstory: Why the veiled title? What was eating the librettist at the work's premiere? Why did the tenor look so ill and the contralto "stricken." And...the question they all had in 1742...will the King of England attend the performance after snubbing
Handel's music for the previous four years?
In contrast to Handel, Slover's second book opens with an appearance of the jolly man in red tearing up the turf in the Wasatch Mountains. Designed to charm and disarm you, "The Christmas Chronicles" mixes medieval atmosphere with contemporary mores and, paired with the true tale of "The Messiah," will prove popular with your group no matter what the season.
"Slover writes in such an intimate style that one feels as if one is actually in the concert hall, anticipating the first London performance of the famous composer's mysteriously titled work, A New Sacred Oratorio."--Joyce DiPastena, author of "Loyalty's Web"
Trailer of "Christmas Chronicles"
What is your favorite Highway 89 story? Does it include a pit stop at the “Big Rock Candy Mountain?,” the annual caravan of the faithful to the Manti Pageant? How about the Peach Days Parade and Beauty Pageant in Brigham City? Come share your story with author/photographer Ann Torrence as she talks to your group about her award-winning book U.S. Highway 89: the Scenic Route to Seven Western National Parks. Traveling 15,000 miles with a camera and notebook in hand, Torrence met rodeo queens and working cowboys, rangers and ranchers. She also came to appreciate the efforts rural leaders and especially volunteers make to build vibrant communities today and to sustain the enduring spirit of the west. Unlike its more famous sibling, Route 66, Highway 89 still functions as an important corridor through western states, including across Utah from--Garden City to Kanab. Through her penetrating narrative and projected samplings of the book’s 175 photographs, Torrence describes how the 1920s federal highway building brought rural Utah out of the mud, opened up new markets for farming communities, and led its youth away for opportunities in urban centers. Part history lesson and part retrospective down memory lane of cultural artifacts such as neon road signs, Torrence’s presentation will show you why 89 is known as “Everyone’s Hometown Highway.”
This suspense-filled novel explores the struggles of indigenous people in southern Mexico during the Zapatista rebellion, where people are caught between their traditional lives and the modern world. The Mexican Zapatista Uprising that occurred in 1994 was witnessed first-hand by author Torti, giving her a unique perspective as she realized her need to understand the uprising and the many different cultures involved. Her novel interweaves points of view that are both touchingly personal and global in reach, opening up discussion around the cultural, historical, and environmental contexts of this event as well as the broader issues of dual cultures and languages within Utah.
The Scorpion’s Tail won the Miguel Marmol Award for first work in English by an author of latino/a decent. Torti is available to give presentations in both English and in Spanish.
Susan Vogel’s book, Becoming Pablo O’Higgins, tells the intriguing story of how a blond-haired, blue-eyed Presbyterian from Salt Lake City became a celebrated Mexican muralist and a “Chicano” artist. Beginning as an assistant to Mexico’s most famous muralist, Diego Rivera, in 1924, O’Higgins kept his U.S. citizenship for most of his life but sought to be accepted as a Mexican.
Vogel uses the backdrop of O’Higgins’s transformation to introduce the topic of identity. Using images of Mexico and works of its famed muralists, including Rivera, Vogel describes how O’Higgins’s search for identity paralleled Mexico’s search for a new identity following its 1910-1920 revolution, and continued to change as the country’s political situation changed. Vogel, who lived in Mexico, and whose daughter is half-Mexican, asks how much of identity is set and how much is fluid? What roles do society and politics play in what identities are accepted? What happens when we move beyond? Is adopting a new identity accepted for (or demanded of) some immigrants but not others? When, in attempting to fit in, does “recreating” oneself cross the line? Participants are invited to share stories of ancestry, immigration, and their own identities.
Vogel adapts her presentation to different age groups and audiences and can present it in English, in Spanish, or as a bilingual presentation.
For more on Becoming Pablo O’Higgins, please visit www.pince-nez.com.
Rapidly expanding, the environmental writing of the New West is taking on many shapes--from memoir to poetry and from science-rich observations to narrative non-fiction. Add to that Maximilian Werner’s latest book Crooked Creek, a semi-historical novel in the school of Cormac McCarthy which addresses the relationship of man to nature. A writer and University of Utah Lecturer, Werner follows in his book the lives and deaths of the Wood family. Having fled Arizona to escape involvement in the plunder and sale of stolen Native American antiquities, the family seeks support in Heber Valley, Utah. But from the moment Preston and Sara Wood ride into that seemingly idyllic land, they learn that life there is not as it appears, and no matter how far they run they cannot escape the past. Crooked Creek is a warning to us all that we will live or die by virtue of the stories we tell about ourselves, the Earth, and our true place within the web of life. Join Werner as he discusses environmental writing in general and the craft of the novel in particular. And be introduced to not only the fictional Wood Family, but a new way of seeing the land we are a part of.
Also by Maximilian Werner: Black River Dreams (2009)
Fly fishing is often described as more than a sport or a pastime, but a way of life. If this is true, then fly fishing is not just recreational. It also has a moral dimension. How does writing about nature change our view of life and help us to understand our place in the world? This is just one of the questions author and University of Utah Writing Instructor Maximilian Werner addresses in his interactive presentation. Using his book of essays Black River Dreams as a starting point, Werner will discuss how contemporary nature writing in general and fly fishing literature in particular reveal a unique ethic or way of being. Of interest to anglers, writers, nature writing enthusiasts, and those who just love the outdoors, Werner’s presentation invites you to discuss your experiences with nature and its greater implications and meaning. How might fly fishing—the activity and the literature—and other outdoor activities help us to live our lives and at the same time protect the environment for future generations? Werner is ready to lead you and your group into a remarkable journey of discovery far beyond simply which fly to use and which bend of the river is best.