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Poet of the Week

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By Ronnie K. Stephens
Award winning author and University of Arkansas professor, Molly Giles, will be the featured reader for Ozark Poets and Writers Collective on Tuesday at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville.
Giles divides her time between Fayetteville and Woodacre, Calif. She has three daughters, four grandchildren, a cat, and a horde of students who credit her as the best professor of fiction writing they’ve experienced.
Though Giles applied for a position at the University of Arkansas “as a lark,” a winter storm drew her in with its fairytale snowfall and her colleagues enticed her with Southern hospitality, telling countless stories and cooking for her. Before joining the faculty, she taught at San Francisco State University for 17 years.
Giles has an uncanny ability to ground her students with honesty and still convince them to keep writing. I remember a conversation we shared which began with her telling me that my stories were unbearably boring, but ended with her insistence that my style is wonderful. Her advice: Go out and live a while. She is also fond of telling her students that writers must be willing to make fools of themselves. Few survive her workshops with their pride intact.
A born writer, Giles says that she “tried to be a poet all through [her] 20’s,” but short stories are her real love. She has published two collections of short stories, “Rough Translations” and “Creek Walk and Other Stories,” and recently completed a third collection. She has also published a novel, “Iron Shoes,” and is currently working on a sequel.
Her awards include several fellowships, The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, two Pushcart Prizes, the Commonwealth Club of California Silver Medal, and the Bay Area Book Reviewers’ Award, but you would never get her to speak about the awards. Giles is wildly humble. When presented with first edition copies of her short story collections and asked to sign them, a bonfire sparked beneath her cheeks and the room filled with laughter as she ran her pen over the title pages.
One need only look at Giles to understand her writing style. She has a light, timeless beauty all her own. Her smile is at once warm and mischievous. Like the women in her stories, Giles has sharp wit and a wry sense of humor. She is friend to sarcasm and faith.
Her writing is deliberate, but natural. There is never an extra word. By the end of the first page, you will wonder if you know the characters. By the end of the story, you’ll wonder if you are one of the characters.
Giles’ stories are the kind that leave you sitting cross-legged and naked in a lukewarm puddle, wondering where all the bathwater has gone.
Join OPWC on Tuesday night to hear one of the most talented and brilliant writers OPWC has ever featured, and be prepared to fall in love.
OPWC meets the last Tuesday of every month at Nightbird Books. Events begin with an open mic at 7 p.m., followed by the featured reader and conclude with a second open mic. Events are free, but a hat is passed for the feature artist. The UA Press will give away a book during intermission. More information can be found at http://www.uark.edu/ua/mmasull/opwc.

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