Whittier College News Release

For Immediate Release - March 23, 1999
Media Contact
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Usually, only larger institutions can boast of hosting award-winning writers like U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa, and the 1998 National Book Award winner, Gerald Stern. These writers tend to reserve the stops on their touring dates for large venues--but not anymore. Whittier College is quickly becoming a magnet for such celebrated writers.

Tony Barnstone, assistant professor of English, has been instrumental in furthering Whittier College's visiting writers program. "One of my goals is to have 8 or 10 great writers on campus each semester," Barnstone said. "I want to expose students to professional writers in a casual setting where they can hear authors read their own works and then discuss anything from technique to the writers' emotional states. In this way, the students are taught the aspects of creative writing that only a writer can teach."

These nationally acclaimed writers are usually dinner guests during their stay at Whittier, which increases their exposure. "Interested students and faculty members are always invited to the dinners," said Barnstone. "And the dinners are quite extraordinary because they promote casual discourse between writer and audience. It's the sort of situation that rarely happens in more formal venues."

Barnstone also saves a bit of the writers' visits for posterity. He explains, "Students and I have been conducting interviews. It's quickly becoming a small library featuring some of the finest contemporary writers of today." The interviews are transcribed by students, edited by Barnstone and then submitted for publication in a variety of journals and newspapers. Many have already been published.

"It's a great way for students to interact with contemporary writers, as well as involve themselves in the process of publication," said Barnstone.

Additionally, the collection of taped interviews will serve as great resource for students studying literature. "What better way to gain insight into a writer's works than through the words of that writer," he said.

Barnstone is the editor of four literature texts, including Literatures of Asian, Africa, and Latin America (Prentice Hall, 1999), and author of a book of personal poetry titled Impure (University Press of Florida), due in the fall of 1999.

Located 18 miles east of Los Angeles, Whittier College is an independent, four-year college offering traditional liberal arts majors and strong pre-professional programs taught in the context of the liberal arts. Whittier Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus.

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