During her parents’ self-described “larger-than-life” divorce when she was 14, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kans.’ current poet laureate, began writing as a way to cope. These writings would, 40 years later, evolve into her most recently published work, “The Divorce Girl.”
“I say that if you really want to write, write,” Mirriam-Goldberg said in an interview with The Bulletin. “Don’t let anything stop you. Most of all, you learn about writing by writing.”
Mirriam-Goldberg will be the first author to visit Emporia State as part of the Visiting Writers Series on campus this semester. At 7 p.m. on Friday, she will read from “The Divorce Girl” in Plumb Hall room 303.
“In the Visiting Writers Series, we seek to provide ESU students with as many models of literary citizenship as we can,” said Amy Sage Webb, professor of English and co-director of the creative writing program, in an email. “There are so many ways to be a writer in the world, and the Visiting Writers Series is a way to gain exposure to those possibilities, especially when a student might be planning her or his own career.”
Webb also said she thinks Merriam-Goldberg is a “good role model” for writers in Kansas. Having only experienced the poet laureate’s poetry, Webb said she was excited to hear her fiction.
“I love traveling around Kan., and I really have a connection to ESU through some of the great programs that have happened there in the past for writers,” Mirriam-Goldberg said.
In addition to writing fiction, non-fiction and poetry, she is also a mentor and a facilitator of community writing workshops and a distance education professor for Goddard College in Vermont.
“The Divorce Girl,” Mirriam-Goldberg’s first novel, is described as a touching and often comical book inspired by her parents’ dramatic divorce during which both “barricaded” themselves in separate parts of the house, each refusing to move out, Mirriam-Goldberg said.
She has also written 14 other books, including four anthologies, a memoir, four collections of poetry, and an award-winning writing guide.
“It is a distinct honor to have her come and read from her new work at ESU,” said Kevin Rabas, professor of English and co-director of the creative writing program.
Rabas is also a poet who “runs in the same circle” as Mirriam-Goldberg and has known her since he was a teenager.
“She is part of a robust Visiting Writer Series we’re putting on this semester and next,” Rabas said. “She is a writer who has many hats…I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for ESU students and the community to connect with the Kan. poet laureate and to be inspired by her.”
Creative writing students are required to attend three readings, Rabas said. Other writers visiting this semester are Bill Sheldon, Don Levering, Penny Weiner, Kellie Wells, Esther Luttrell, and Hardy Jones.