I am delighted to report that Lawrence Block, America’s foremost living crime writer, will be joining Newberry’s English program for the Fall 2019 semester. He will be the Gerding Writer-In-Residence (a new position) for the term, and will work with our students throughout the semester.
The entire business got rolling a few months ago, when LB mentioned in his newsletter that he had an idea:
[…] I was thinking of floating a notion to all of y’all. Lately I’ve found myself ruminating wistfully on the vision of myself ensconced for a while on a college campus, serving as the institution’s writer in residence. I don’t know how realistic a fantasy this might be, nor am I sure to what extent the attraction is attributable to autumn leaves and football season, but it does feel like something I might want to pursue.
[…] Well, a dozen years ago I was setting up a tour in aid of The Burglar on the Prowl, and it struck me that I might be able to speak at libraries for a fraction of my usual fee if I could fit them into my book tour. So I wrote something to that effect in my newsletter, and some librarians read the item and told other librarians about it, and, well, one thing led to another. And I wound up driving all over the country and presenting a program at over sixty libraries.
[…] So, if an idle remark in a newsletter could net me sixty speaking gigs, who’s to say it won’t lead me to a spell of camping out in one of the Groves of Academe?
One never knows…
Well, I might have a Ph.D. in English, but I’m not stupid. On the other hand, this sort of thing has traditionally been an impossible dream for a school like Mondoville — even our alma mater begins by poormouthing. Our resources have historically been quite limited. But things have improved in recent years (thanks to generous donations from folks like Gatlinburg restaurateur Jim Gerding), and I floated the idea to my department chair. He snickered at first, but as we talked, our thoughts shifted from “Here’s why it can’t happen” to “You know, if we did these things…” So I checked with Mr. Block, and my chair (along with the director of our Honors Program and Your Genial Host) made a pitch to our Dean, who shepherded our longshot idea through the layers of campus bureaucracy. We found arrangements to satisfy everyone, and here we are, or more to the point, here we’ll be in August.
I’m thrilled to be able to give our students this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to share our good fortune with Mondoville, Real City, and the rest of the world. And of course, I’m also delighted to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Block to town and to campus.
As I told Ell Bee in an e-mail this morning, “Welcome to Wolf Country, and Hail the Scarlet and Gray.” Some days, I think I have the coolest job in the world. This is one of those days.