Indiana's Poet Laureate Among Featured Guests at Literary Conference

Published: Feb 23, 2017

The Poet Laureate for the State of Indiana and numerous authors and presentations will highlight the 2017 William A. Fry Undergraduate Conference on Literature and Writing at Taylor University, on March 2 – 4.

Shari Wagner, Indiana's Poet Laureate for the 2016-2017 year, will be among the presenters at the event during which numerous undergraduate students from Taylor University and beyond will present their own work for peer consideration and review.

Making Literature's 2017 Keynote Speakers include:

Tom Noyes (fiction)

BA, Houghton College; MFA, Wichita State University; PhD, Ohio University

Noyes’ most recent book, Come by Here: A Novella and Stories, won the 2013 Autumn House Prize in Fiction and a gold medal from the Independent Publishers Awards. He is the author of two other story collections, Spooky Action at a Distance and Other Stories (Dufour, 2008) and Behold Faith and Other Stories (Dufour, 2003), the latter of which was shortlisted for Stanford Libraries’ William Saroyan Award. His stories have appeared in such journals as American Literary Review, Ascent, Colorado Review, Image, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Pleiades, and Sycamore Review, and he’s been awarded grants from Pennsylvania’s Council on the Arts and The Sustainability Arts Foundation.

He chairs the BFA program in creative writing at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, where he also serves as Assistant Director of the Humanities and as consulting editor for the literary magazine Lake Effect.

Jessica Mesman Griffith (creative nonfiction)

BA, Louisiana State University; MFA, University of Pittsburgh

Griffith is the coauthor of Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters, which won the 2014 Christopher Award. She is also author of Grace Filled Days (Loyola Press, 2016) and co-author of Daily Inspiration for Women (Loyola Press, 2014). She’s currently at work on a memoir called Eden Isles. Her book with her Sick Pilgrim co-founder, Jonathan Ryan, is forthcoming in 2017. Her work has appeared in ImageAmericaChristianity Today, and Notre Dame Magazine, among many others. She has recently spoken at the Festival of Faith and Writing, AWP, the Neiman Conference for Narrative Journalism at Harvard University, and on NPR’s Interfaith Voices.

As an MFA student at the University of Pittsburgh, she was managing editor of Creative Nonfiction, then completed a post-graduate Fellowship in the Erasmus Institute for Spiritual Autobiography at the University of Notre Dame. A native of Slidell, Louisiana, she lives in northern Michigan with her husband, the writer David Griffith, and their two children.

David Griffith  (creative nonfiction)

BA, University of Notre Dame; MFA, University of Pittsburgh

Griffith is Director of Creative Writing at Interlochen Center for the Arts. He is the author of A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America (Soft Skull Press, 2006), and is at work on a new manuscript called Pyramid Scheme: Making Art and Being Broke in America.

His essays and reviews have appeared in the Utne Reader, The Normal School, Image, Creative NonfictionParis ReviewLos Angeles Review of BooksThe Mammoth, and many others, as well as in US and international anthologies. He lives in northern Michigan with his wife, the writer Jessica Mesman Griffith, and their two children.

Grace Tiffany (literary scholarship/fiction)

BA, Duke University; MA, PhD, University of Notre Dame

Tiffany has taught Shakespeare and Renaissance literature at Fordham University, the University of New Orleans, and now at Western Michigan University. Her work has appeared in Shakespeare Studies, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, The Renaissance Quarterly, Comparative Drama, Christianity and Literature, and Renascence, among many others. In 2007, she received a College of Arts and Sciences award for her research and creative activity. She received a distinguished teaching award from WMU in 2010.

In addition to books of Shakespeare scholarship, she is the author of multiple novels set in the Renaissance or Middle Ages, including Will (Berkley 2004), My Father Had a Daughter (Berkley, 2003), Ariel (HarperCollins, 2005), The Turquoise Ring (Berkley, 2005), Paint (Bagwyn Books, 2013), and Gunpowder Percy (Bagwyn Books, 2016). My Father Had a Daughter appeared on the Booksense independent bookstores’ best books list. Ariel was listed as a best book by the National Library Association in 2006. The Turquoise Ring is a retelling of The Merchant of Venice from the perspective of the five women in the play.


Shari Wagner (poetry) 

BA, Goshen College
MFA, Indiana University

Wagner is the Poet Laureate of Indiana for 2016-17. She is the author of The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana (Bottom Dog Press, 2013) and Evening Chore (Cascadia, 2005); co-author with her father of Making the Rounds: Memoirs of a Small-Town Doctor and A Hundred Camels: A Mission Doctor’s Murder Trial and Sojourn in Somalia; and editor of Returning: Stories from the Indianapolis Senior Center. Her poems and essays have appeared on The Writer’s Almanac and American Life in Poetry, and in North American Review, Shenandoah, The Christian Century, Black Warrior ReviewBest American Nonrequired Reading, and many others.

She teaches writing at universities, grade schools, retirement homes, the Indiana Writers Center, and at Butler University’s Religion, Spirituality and the Arts seminar. Her Poet Laureate website is Through the Sycamores.

Other featured events include:

Amy Peterson (Reading, Signing, and Book Launch)

Peterson teaches a variety of courses and works with the Honors program at Taylor University. She taught ESL in Southeast Asia before returning stateside to teach in California, Arkansas, and Washington. She has written for Books & Culture, Christianity Today, The Other Journal, Comment Magazine, The Cresset, The Living Church, and Art House America, among others. She holds a BA in English Literature from Texas A&M and an MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College, and is currently completing her MFA at Seattle Pacific University. During the conference, she will launch her memoir Dangerous Territory (Discovery House).

Making Literature will also pay tribute to poet and late English professor from Wheaton College Dr. Brett Foster, who died last year after a lengthy illness, during a special event led by Professor David Wright of Monmouth College.

Another highlight of the weekend is the 2017 Book Fair, featuring literary journals, publishers, and graduate programs, anchored by Eighth Day Books. Eighth Day will carry titles by the conference’s keynote speakers, as well as their wide selection of other authors.

The conference’s namesake is Dr. William A. Fry, who served as English department chair at Taylor University for 20 years, from 1978 until his retirement in 1998. After his death in 2009, Taylor’s English department dedicated the Making Literature conference in his memory.