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CraftTalks at Saint Louis University

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

In each episode, hosts Edward Ibur and Kate Essig interview 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 include 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. CraftTalks 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. CraftTalks is also available on YouTube and as a podcast on all streaming services where you get podcasts.

Recent CraftTalks at Saint Louis University

A Conversation with Ron A. Austin

Ron A. Austin's short stories have been placed in Boulevard, Pleiades, Story Quarterly, Ninth Letter, Black Warrior Review, and other journals. 

"Avery Colt Is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar," his first collection of linked stories, has received several honors including: The 2017 Nilsen Prize, a 2019 Foreword INDIES GOLD Award, a 2020 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award, a 2020 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize nomination, and a 2020 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nomination. 

Austin's work has been supported by grants from the Regional Arts Commission, including a 2016 Artist Fellowship. He, his wife Jennie, and son Elijah live in St. Louis. 

Avery Colt Is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar

"Among my favorite creative nonfiction memoirs is Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, a book that captures the Depression and World War II eras from a poor Irish child’s perspective in a way that keeps flipping the emotional switches between pathos, horror, and laugh-out-loud humor. I had the same reaction to the stories in "Avery Colt is a Snake, A Thief, A Liar". Just as McCourt so successfully captured the unique voice and the internal feelings of the narrator and the way he observed the children and adult characters that cycled in and out of his life, Avery Colt’s narrative voice does the same thing, but this time from a poor Black kid’s experiences in North St. Louis. Ron Austin takes us in a deep dive into the stories and its incredibly vivid characters along with his fascinating perspectives on writing and teaching."

– Ted Ibur, Executive Director, St. Louis Literary Award Programs 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.

In this episode of CraftTalks 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.