This school year's Wordfest, a series of readings by authors and poets as well as panel discussions and student writing competitions sponsored by Valparaiso's Department of English and Cultural Arts Committee, begins with Michael Martone discussing his recent autobiography and his writings about Indiana, his home state.
Martone, who grew up in Fort Wayne and attended Indiana, Butler and John Hopkins universities, is the author of eight books of fiction and three books of nonfiction, most of it set in Indiana and the Midwest. His five books of short fiction include "Pensées: The Thoughts of Dan Quayle," "Fort Wayne Is Seventh on Hitler's List and "Alive and Dead in Indiana."
Describing his visit to Valparaiso on Sept. 28 as "part of my fourth annual Double-wide World Tour of Indiana," Martone, a professor of English and director of the creative writing program at the University of Alabama, says this is his first time at Wordfest though he has read and presented his work at Valparaiso University before.
"This year I will be doing readings at Valpo, Marian College, Indiana University, Hanover College, Tippecanoe County Library and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne," says Martone who has also taught at Iowa State University, Harvard University and Syracuse University.
"My folks still live in Fort Wayne. I will be driving around the state in my mom's red VW new beetle."
Martone's tour is promoting his newest book, "Not Normal, Illinois: Peculiar Fictions from the Flyover" (Indiana University Press/Quarry Books), an anthology of fiction that he edited and also contributed to. Martone describes the 33 stories in the anthology, including those written by Louise Erdrich, Max Apple, George Saunders, Stuart Dybeck and Susan Neville as strange, bemusing and surprising.
"You tell most Hoosiers you write about Indiana and they will say 'Whatever for?,'" says Martone explaining why his focus is often on Indiana.
"Not true here in the south where everyone writes and tells a story about the place. They take their lives and places seriously," he says. "Hoosiers are more unsure. That's why I titled the one book "Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler's List." I heard that growing up there - that if Hitler had gotten over here, Fort Wayne was right up there to be destroyed.
"Pride of place is strange for Hoosiers don't believe really that we are important but down deep we think, yeah we are important enough to be destroyed. So this is all very interesting to me and as I say it doesn't seem so interesting to most people - even Hoosiers - so I have the field pretty much to myself."
Future Wordfest events include a Cabaret - described as an evening of various acts by Valparaiso professors and students which includes a dinner - a reading by author Susan Neville in January and another in February by Cornelius Eady, poet and director of the creative writing program at the University of Notre Dame.
Michael Martone reading, 7 p.m. Sept. 28
WHERE: Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso University
COST: Free and open to the public
FYI: (219) 464-5278; http://www.valpo.edu/english