Sides at the U of M; a U of M Open House



Two words from best-selling author and native Memphian Hampton Sides: Tell stories.

That’s the message Sides will be delivering inside the University Center Theater at the University of Memphis on Thursday, April 3rd, at 6 p.m. As guest speaker in the school’s Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities lecture series, Sides is certainly one to tell great stories — and reach readers. His Ghost Soldiers has been translated into a dozen languages. He followed that with a life and times of Kit Carson, Blood and Thunder. He followed that with a riveting account of the life of (and manhunt for) James Earl Ray, Hellhound on His Trail. This summer, look for Sides' latest nonfiction narrative: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette.

Sides (pictured) will read from his work on Thursday night, but he’ll also be addressing a topic that he believes needs some serious thought: today’s need for — and challenges to — writing traditional narrative history. The secret to gaining a wide audience? Again those two words: Tell stories.

The date of Sides’ U of M lecture — “Telling Stories: The Art and Craft of Narrative History” — couldn’t be better timed for remembering an event out of Memphis and national history: the eve of the 46th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

For more information on Sides’ lecture and on the final guest lecturer of the Orr Center — Andrew Zimmerman discussing his book, Radical Life on the Mississippi: A Global History of the American Civil War, on April 17th) — go here or contact the center’s Robert Marczynski at

Sides’ appearance, free and open to the public, is co-presented by the U of M's River City Writers’ Series, and John Bensko, of the school's English Department, has two words: You’re invited.

Bensko, fellow faculty members of the U of the M’s creative-writing program, current students, and alumni will be on-hand Saturday, April 5th, for an informal open house in Meeting Room C of the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (3030 Poplar), from 2 to 4 p.m. Here’s your opportunity to meet other writers of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. It’s also an opportunity to get to know the school’s undergraduate and graduate-level creative-writing courses.

As writer and faculty member Cary Holladay said of those courses: “People can just take a class in creative writing; they don’t have to enroll full-time. We’re eager to develop the talent that is right here in Memphis.”

Benkso said of Saturday's open house: “We want to engage others in a conversation about writing and to learn about Memphians’ writing interests, experience, and projects. This will be a chance for people to meet writers in the area, both at the U of M and in the community.”

No surprise, then, that the event on Saturday afternoon is free and open to the public, whether you’re a writer or would-be writer. For more information, contact John Bensko at

In further news: The spring 2014 issue of The Pinch, the literary journal published two times a year by the U of M's creative-writing program, is now available. Drawing from the work of writers across the country, The Pinch features fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry and the work of visual artists as well, including in this issue Memphis artist Mary Jo Karimnia. The latest issue also includes the 2013 Pinch Literary Award winners: John Haggerty (fiction), Molly Beer (literary nonfiction), and Ann Vermel (poetry). Check local bookstores for availability or order directly from The Pinch website. Or be at the Saturday open house, where you can buy the new Pinch, $15 per copy. •

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