This is a peak week for creative writers at Saint Leo University as two faculty members celebrate the release of new books and publicly discuss the resources the university offers to assist developing writers in meeting their academic and publication goals.
Major publisher Little, Brown and Co. has just released Panorama, a new novel by Dr. Steve Kistulentz, director of Saint Leo’s Master of Arts creative writing program. The work is “a lyrical and moving debut novel,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. The Chicago Review of Books named Panorama one of the year’s most anticipated books, calling it “an outstanding literary work featuring a kaleidoscope of views which is also a poignant meditation on our interconnectedness.”
Panorama takes place in America’s recent past, over the New Year’s holiday from 1999 to 2000. A jet airliner crashes on approach to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing everyone aboard; the surviving characters absorb the news and experience the stunning after-effects in their own lives. The main character, Richard MacMurray, a 40-something political commentator who lives in Washington, DC, loses his sister in the crash. As a consequence of the crash, MacMurray learns that he will have to raise his sister’s 6-year-old son.
Dr. Kistulentz has published two books of poetry previously, but Panorama is his first novel. He wanted to write a novel since his high school years, as he recently told the book editor of the Tampa Bay Times. But he pursued a different career first, as a political consultant.
As director of Saint Leo’s graduate program in writing, Dr. Kistulentz is in a position now to work with students who also delayed their writing aspirations, or possibly have many other job and family commitments that require their attention. The low-residency model offered by Saint Leo allows these students a chance to work with published authors and professors. Students attend a one-week residency during the summer and work with their professors on their reading and writing assignments over the balance of the year through online connections and conversations. Dr. Kistulentz was quoted in the interview saying, “I like the low-residency model because it’s more kind to the notion that writing is something we can all do. It’s a way for students to find encouragement. And accountability.”
The program also has a special track for military veterans and armed forces servicemembers and the opportunity for writers to study and produce war literature. Dr. Kistulentz will be appearing on panel that focuses on teaching this population during the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference, taking place in Tampa from March 7 through March 10. Dr. Kistulentz will be moderating a Friday session called “Above, Beyond, and After Duty: Teaching Creative Writing to Veterans,” a discussion that features novelist Jesse Goolsby and veterans advocate Lovella Calica, head of Warrior Writers. On Thursday, March 8, at 10 a.m., he will be signing copies of his novel at the Saint Leo University booth, number 1113.
Other members of the Saint Leo faculty are also active during AWP.
Poet and faculty member Dr. Anne Barngrover will also be holding several author signing events during AWP for her award-winning new collection of poetry, Brazen Creature, from the University of Akron Press. Dr. Barngrover will be signing her book at the Saint Leo booth on Friday, March 9, at 2 p.m., and again on Saturday, March 10, at 11 a.m.
Faculty member Gianna Russo is organizing a reading event in Tampa featuring a number of writers. Ms. Russo is also promoting the one-day writing retreat she directs at the Saint Leo University Campus every May. This year’s Sandhill Writers Retreat is set for May 19 and features Dr. Kistulentz and Dr. Barngrover as faculty members.