The Colgate Scene
September 2001

Plugging in Living Writers

The wiring of Living Writers will take place during this autumn semester of 2001, thanks to the strong encouragement of Interim President Jane Pinchin.

This 21st century leap is the result of a Colgate instructional librarian's efforts to move her husband, an English professor, out of the technology he prefers -- windmills and sail-powered ships -- and into something resembling the present day. The librarian is Judy Busch; the professor is Fred Busch, whose course English 360, Living Writers, is about to move online.

The course will still occur in the imagination of its students and in its physical home, the Robert Ho Lecture Room of Lawrence Hall. But it will also be available online to alumni, friends of the university and prospective students.

Joanna Scott Justin Cronin Reginald McKnight

The most important moments of the course, according to Busch, who introduced the course to another roomful of students for the 18th time on August 28, are those on the Thursday afternoon of each week: the hour or more when students who have studied a book of stories or essays, or a novel, interview its author -- in the Ho Room, in the flesh. Students have researched the life and career of the writer, and they seek to learn how literary art is made. They are responsible for writing questions -- they're graded, remember? -- to ask the writer, and they must also maintain an analytic notebook with entries on the prose strategies of each author.

The interviews will now be available online within ten days of each author's appearance. And so will the reading of new work given by the author later that afternoon.

What technology makes Living Writers Wired available to you? According to Busch, "Skywriting, I think. Wait. No, that's my fiction-writing workshop. For Living Writers, we're using astral projection as well as a lot of large metallic things that Darryl Simcoe has hooked up with Media and Instructional Technology Services. And electric wires, of course."

In fact, you can get to Living Writers through its home page at or through the link on the English department home page. And then you can hear the interviews and readings if you're using a modem or, with more direct access, you can watch and listen to every minute of each event. "We'll be announcing the schedule of authors and the names of the books about which they'll be interviewed," says Busch, who adds that he does use a computer and very rarely resorts to astral projection.

Elizabeth Strout Melanie Rae Thon Fred Busch

"Each month, alumni and friends are invited to join me for a chat, on Tuesday nights at 8. We'll discuss the scheduled book and, if you like, related reading that you're doing. Alumni can order the book from our bookstore -- hit the link on the home page -- and have the book sent at a healthy discount."

During reunion weekend, Busch and returnees will have a discussion of the books they chatted about during this fall.

"This is our natural response to the moments we're proudest and saddest about," Busch says, "the moving on of the people with whom we've had a four-year conversation. Now, we can continue it."

The schedule
September 6
Joanna Scott, Make Believe

September 13
Reginald McKnight, White Boys

September 20
Patricia Hampl, I Could Tell You Stories

September 27
Melanie Rae Thon, Sweet Hearts

October 4
Stewart O'Nan, The Speed Queen

October 18
Karen Novak, Five Mile House

October 25
Robert Olen Butler, A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain

November 1
Justin Cronin, Mary and O'Neil

November 8
Elizabeth Strout, Amy and Isabelle

November 15
Howard Norman, The Bird Artist

November 29
John McGahern, The Collected Stories

December 6
Publishing discussion: Elaine Markson, literary agent; and Jill Bialosky, senior editor and vice president, W. W. Norton and Co.

Interview sessions begin at 1:20 p.m. Readings begin at 4:30 p.m. All events will be held in the Ho Lecture Room. Books may be purchased there and can be signed by the authors after the reading. All are welcome to attend and admission is free. For more information, contact the English department.
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