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Craft Talks at Saint Louis University Series

The Saint Louis University Craft Talks is a series about creativity in all its forms.

In each episode, our host, Edward Ibur, interviews writers, artists, educators and other visionaries to explore their creative processes and world perspectives. We peer inside the minds of creators and teachers who share their thoughts, opinions and beliefs with the world in captivating formats. Interviewees including rising star poet Monika Sok, Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 mixed-media artist Kahlil Irving, internationally renowned painter Victor Wang, award-winning journalist Jeannette Batz Cooperman and others, who share intimate details about their work process and sources of inspiration.

They also offer advice for listeners who are budding or established artists and/or educators themselves. The Craft Talks series is a part of the programming for the St. Louis Literary Award, sponsored by the Saint Louis University Libraries. Join us as we get to know the stories behind these compelling creators. Craft Talks is also available as a podcast on all streaming services where you get podcasts.

Recent Craft Talks at Saint Louis University

A Conversation with Author Phong Nguyen

Phong Nguyen is the author of three novels, The Bronze Drum (Grand Central Publishing, 2022), Roundabout: An Improvisational Fiction (Moon City Press, 2020) and The Adventures of Joe Harper (Outpost19, 2016), winner of the Prairie Heritage Book Award; and two story collections: Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History (C&R Press, 2019) and Memory Sickness and Other Stories (Elixir Press, 2011), winner of the Elixir Press Fiction Prize. Phong Nguyen is Professor and Miller Family Endowed Chair of Writing; Director of Creative Writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In this episode of Craft Talks at Saint Louis University, we discussed many topics that connect to writing process and the arts, including Professor Nguyen's forthcoming novel (August 2022), The Bronze Drum. The novel is based on the true story of the Trung sisters who raised an army of 80,000 women in the year 40 CE against the Han Chinese occupation of Lac Viet lands. Phong Nguyen provides a fascinating window into his approach to writing, research, and instruction. A must listen for students interested in pursuing a career as a writer or artist—and for fellow writers and educators. 

Awards and Honors

  • Prairie Heritage Book Award, 2019, The Adventures of Joe Harper
  • Pushcart Prize Special Mention 2019, Short Story, "We're So Blessed, We're So Lucky"
  • Pushcart Prize Special Mention 2011, Short Story, “My Hand Is My Cup”
  • 9 Pushcart Prize Nominations, 2007-2018
  • Elixir Press Fiction Award 2010, Memory Sickness and Other Stories

A Conversation with Phyllis Weliver: Literary Scholar, Musicologist, Writer

Phyllis Weliver is a professor of English at Saint Louis University. Her research explores literature and music in Victorian Britain as mutually constitutive with a range of nineteenth-century discourses, including constructions of gender, class, childhood, ethnicity, and political and religious identity. This work has contributed to a BBC Two Television series in the UK and to the “Essay” on BBC Radio 3, for which she wrote and presented.

Professor Weliver has lectured internationally, including by invitation at the British Academy and Royal Academy of Music, and has been twice funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is a Fellow of Gladstone’s Library in Wales and has been a Visiting Research Fellow at the Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge and Visiting Scholar at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.

Some of Professor Weliver’s academic books include:

  • Mary Gladstone and the Victorian Salon: Music, Literature, Liberalism (Cambridge, 2017)
  • The Musical Crowd in English Fiction, 1840–1910: Class, Culture and Nation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)
  • Women Musicians in Victorian Fiction, 1860–1900: Representations of Music, Science and Gender in the Leisured Home (Ashgate, 2000; Routledge, 2016).

Along with publishing articles in top journals, she has edited two collections of essays: "The Figure of Music in Nineteenth-Century British Poetry" (Ashgate, 2005; Routledge 2016) and, with Katharine Ellis, "Words and Notes in the Long Nineteenth Century" (Boydell & Brewer, 2013).

Currently, Professor Weliver is co-editing a special issue of Victorian Poetry with Linda K. Hughes on the salon (Summer 2022).

In 2021, Phyllis Weliver published a creative nonfiction book called The Arrow Tree: Healing from Long COVID, began writing poetry, and founded Exeat Imprints – an indie press for academic authors.

In the field of digital humanities, she is leading the Sounding Tennyson project, and collaborating with Ewan Jones on the Tennyson collection hosted by the Cambridge Digital Library. From 2019, Professor Weliver has been Director of the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Center for Digital Humanities at Saint Louis University. Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Missouri with her husband and son.

A Conversation with Scholar and Writer, Rachel Greenwald Smith

Rachel Greenwald Smith is a scholar and storyteller who seamlessly connects topics ranging from poetry to governing systems, punk music, economics, aesthetic innovations in the art and culture, motherhood, social unrest, and more. This interview delves into her new book, On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an America Idea, as well as Ms. Greenwald Smith's literary (and musical) influences, writing habits, and the craft of research and composition.

Rachel Greenwald Smith is the author of On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an American Ideal (Graywolf Press, 2021) and Affect and American Literature in the Age of Neoliberalism (Cambridge University Press, 2015). She is an Associate Professor of English at Saint Louis University, where she teaches courses at the graduate and undergraduate level on contemporary literature and critical theory. Her essays have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Yale Review. Her academic articles have appeared in Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Post45 Peer Reviewed, American Literature, Mediations, Modern Fiction Studies, and elsewhere. She has edited two volumes of scholarship, Neoliberalism and Contemporary Literary Culture, with Mitchum Huehls (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), and American Literature in Transition: 2000-2010 (Cambridge University Press, 2017). She is the recipient of an American Council of Learned Societies Ryskamp Fellowship (2015).

Originally from Portland, Oregon, she lives in Saint Louis.

A Conversation with Writer and World-Renowned Jewish Folklorist, Howard Schwartz

Howard Schwartz is a prolific writer who has published fiction, nonfiction and poetry. He is widely considered among the top Jewish folklorists in the world. In searching for themes and images for his work in various genres, professor Schwartz has often found his inspiration in biblical, midrashic and kabbalistic lore. Many of his works retell ancient folktales, reflecting his belief in the importance of passing cultural lore from one generation to the next. His poetry frequently reflects the dreamlike and mysterious elements of Jewish mythology. Schwartz’s fictional works, as typified in the collection of parables titled "The Captive Soul of the Messiah," "are in part original, in part recreations of ancient legends, a conjunction of personal search and dreaming with mythical or timeless patterns or cycles," reported Francis Landy in the "Jewish Quarterly." As a result, Landy explained, Schwartz’s stories "are at once familiar, filled with the aura of the sages, giving the impression of a blind and insatiable predilection for the alleyways of tradition, and at the same time being wholly pertinent, incisive metaphors for our own predicament." Howard Schwartz is professor emeritus in the English department at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

A Conversation with Fiction Writer, Ethan Rutherford

Ethan Rutherford’s fiction has appeared in BOMB, Tin House, Ploughshares One Story American Short Fiction Post Road, Esopus, Conjunctions and "The Best American Short Stories." His first book, "The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories," was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, a finalist for the John Leonard Award, received honorable mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award, was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and was the winner of a Minnesota Book Award. Born in Seattle, Washington, he received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and now teaches creative writing at Trinity College. He lives in Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife and two children.

His second collection, "Farthest South," will be published by A Strange Object in 2021.

A Conversation with Multi-Media Artist, Kahlil Irving

Originally from San Diego, California, Kahlil Robert Irving is an artist currently living and working in the USA. He attended the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art at Washington University in St. Louis (MFA Fellow, 2017) and the Kansas City Art Institute (BFA, Art History and Ceramics/Sculpture, 2015). His work has been exhibited at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas, the Arizona State University Art Museum, and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, among others.

Kahlil Irving was selected to participate in the 2020 Great Rivers Biennial hosted by the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, where he is exhibiting a solo exhibition entitled “At Dusk” on view from September 11, 2020, to February 21, 2021. Recently, he was awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Painters and Sculptors. In 2018, Kahlil Irving’s first institutional solo exhibition took place at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts in Connecticut, and was accompanied by a full-color catalog with essays and an interview. Currently, he is presenting a large-scale commission on the project wall at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. Irving's work is also featured in two concurrent collection exhibitions: Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 and Nothing is so Humble: Prints from Everyday Objects at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Kahlil Irving's work is in the collections of J.P. Morgan Chase Art Collection, New York; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He is also one of the new 30 featured artists in Forbes Magazine’s annual "30 Under 30: Art & Style" showcasing 30 groundbreaking cultural figures in the arts all under 30 years old.


Past Craft Talk Videos