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Noted authors, alumni to read at NIU

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 10:08 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – The Northern Illinois University Department of English invites the public to meet and hear readings by two celebrated alumni.

A reception and reading featuring poet Todd Davis and author Kenneth Womack will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, in the Anthropology Museum of Cole Hall.

Davis earned both his master’s degree (1991) and Ph.D. (1999) in English from NIU. Now a professor of English at Penn State Altoona, he teaches creative writing, environmental studies and American literature.

A winner of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, Davis has written five books of poetry. His poems weave together the natural, spiritual and intellectual realms of human existence. They have been included in more than 30 anthologies and have appeared in the American Poetry Review, the North American Review, Shenandoah, Orion, River Styx and Sou’wester.

Garrison Keillor has featured Davis’ poems on The Writers Almanac, and Poet Laureate Ted Kooser has selected his work to appear in his syndicated column “American Life in Poetry.”

Davis will read from his most recent collection, “In the Kingdom of the Ditch,” which maps the mysterious arc between birth and death while taking readers into the forests and waterways of the northeastern U.S. Davis will receive a 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award from the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on Oct. 13.

Womack earned his Ph.D. in English from NIU in 1997. Now a professor of English and integrative arts at Penn State Altoona, he is one of the finest literary scholars of his generation, with more than 25 books to his credit.

His novel “John Doe No. 2 and the Dreamland Motel” is a fictional account of the “unidentified accomplice” whom initial FBI reports linked to Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. The book received the Bronze Award in the 2011 ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Competition for Literary Fiction.

Womack will read from his latest novel, “Playing the Angel,” which tells the story of Tiff Proulx, an “Angel of Mercy” protecting post-Katrina refugees in New Orleans. Womack received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2009. He was named named Penn State laureate for the 2013-14 academic year.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to not only hear two highly acclaimed, contemporary writers reading from their works, but also to learn about what inspires them, how they approach the creative process, and other details about the writing life,” said Amy Levin, chair of the department of English.

Books by both authors will be available for purchase at the event, and audience members are also welcome to bring their own copies for signing by the authors.

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