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A week of words

The first Institute for New Writing starts Monday
 Posted: 2:00 AM August 10, 2013

Noir Night readings at a local bar, a walking tour of literary spots in town and talks by nationally noted writers highlight the first Institute for New Writing, which starts Monday at Southern Oregon University.

The weeklong summer conference provides writing workshops in short story, poetry and noir for undergraduate and graduate credit. But it also offers activities for the public, such as Noir Night — "flash readings from the dark side," or three-minute readings of poetry, fiction or dialogue in the mood of hard-boiled detective stories — starting at 10 p.m. Monday at Omar's restaurant, 1380 Siskiyou Blvd. There'll be jazz and a cash bar, too.

"I suspect we'll get a lot of interesting stories from the dark side of human experience," says Robert Arellano, director of SOU's Center for Emerging Media and one of the institute's organizers and speakers. The readings are free.

Thirty students from as far away as the East Coast and the United Arab Emirates are enrolled for the workshops, which include Arellano's exploration of noir, SOU creative writing professor Craig Wright's "Advancing Constructions of the 21st-Century Short Story," and SOU creative writing associate professor K. Silem Mohammad's "21st-Century Poetry and the Inheritance of Experimentalism."

"We saw an opportunity, with the beauty of Ashland and the strength of the writing faculty, to create this year-round institute with a summer conference, as they are very popular with people working on manuscripts and for aspiring writers as well," Arellano says.

Arellano has written six novels, including "Havana Lunar," a 2010 Edgar finalist. Mohammad has written three books and experiments with revolutionary poetry forms such as flarf, which is composed of words plucked from random Internet search results. Wright is the author of the short story collection "Redemption Center," a songwriter and current Pushcart nominee for "The Things Other People Do."

Afternoon panels, which are open to the public, will focus on defining the new institute, the state of the language, the future of fiction and "Digital Textuality and Noir." The panels are from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the Hannon Library on campus.

Readings take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at SOU's Schneider Museum of Art, followed by a reception and social time. Wright and his band will perform at a 9 p.m. Friday dance party and open mic at Club 66, 1951 Ashland St.

Arellano will lead a walking tour of literary spots in Ashland on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd. The tour will stop by the house where Vladimir Nabokov wrote "Lolita" and include the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Lithia Park.

The institute closes Saturday afternoon with INWApalooza, a literary festival featuring noted writers Kevin Killian, Vanessa Place and Sharon Mesmer. Killian is part of the New Narrative literary circle in the Bay Area. Mesmer is a noted poet and teacher in New York. Place is a criminal defense attorney and a director of Les Fiques Press. The festival will be from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Schneider museum.

"If you're a writer, all roads lead to Ashland next week, whether you enjoy reading literature or want to discover a new interest in writing," Arellano says. "The evening events are going to be darn fun. It's one of those perfect examples of SOU's commitment to creativity with community and we hope to make it an annual event."

The schedule of events is at For more information, call 541-552-6260.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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