Cumberland University to Host First Creative Writing Conference

Cumberland University’s new Creative and Imaginative Writing program is hosting its first Creative Writing Conference, titled “Find Your Place,” on Oct. 8-10, 2019 on CU’s campus. The conference will be centered around written works where the setting and place are essential to the theme.

The conference will feature two guest lecturers, writer Jonathan Escoffery and poet Jesse Graves, who will both teach a writing workshop and perform readings of their work during the three-day conference. 

“The Creative and Imaginative Writing program is honored to offer our students and community an opportunity to explore this important topic with two talented and esteemed writers,” said CIW program director and English professor Kerry Ann Moore. “Place is one of the most powerful and resonant themes for a poet or writer because we carry our places with us. As Escoffery puts it, whose latest short story in The Paris Review is set in his hometown, ‘I left Miami seven years ago and I find my imagination is definitely still there.’”

Escoffery is a fiction-writer based out of Southern California where he attends the University of Southern California as he works to obtain his Ph.D. in the Creative Writing and Literature Program as a Provost Fellow. Escoffery’s work is often set in his hometown of Miami and features Jamaican immigrants like his own family. He is the recipient of a 2019 Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellowship and has received many other awards and fellowships. His work was recently featured in the Summer 2019 issue of The Paris Review, a literary magazine that has published works by many influential writers, including Jack Kerouac, Philip Roth, and Terry Southern.

“Our writers’ visit ties in perfectly with our place-based assignments in class,” said CIW faculty member Sandee Gertz. “Jesse writes so evocatively about a place that is so very close to our student body. Many of our students hail from small, rural areas of Tennessee, and to see a poet devote a career to a place not far from here is a powerful example and illustration of the power of place and its effect on a person.”

Graves is a Tennessee native whose poems highlight the Volunteer state’s natural landscapes and scenery. His work has won many awards, including the 2014 Philip H. Freund Prize for Creative Writing from Cornell University, and the 2015 James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Graves has been featured in the Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review and Connecticut Review. He is currently serving as an associate professor at East Tennessee State University.

On Oct. 9, CU invites the community to attend the workshop and reading hosted by the visiting lecturers. The workshop will begin at 12:30 p.m. in Labry Hall, room 130, and the reading will commence at 5 p.m. in the June and Bill Heydel Fine Arts Center with a meet and greet to follow in the Black Box Theater to conclude the evening. 

To learn more about the conference’s visiting writers, visit and

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