Stokes Center for Creative Writing

The Stokes Center enhances the English department’s offerings in creative writing by sponsoring readings, lectures, forums, community projects, and other events that are free and open to the public. It also supports students through its undergraduate and graduate awards in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The Stokes Center is committed to fostering a vibrant writers’ community in Southern Alabama, one that not only showcases both local and national talent, but also provides a meeting place for writers from around the world.

For more information, please contact the Director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing, Dr. Charlotte Pence, at

Upcoming Readings & Events

The University of South Alabama has been host to many distinguished authors and scholars over the years, including Margaret Atwood, Charles Bernstein, Jack Gilbert, Marjorie Perloff, Marge Piercy, W. D. Snodgrass, Diane Wakoski, Edward O. Wilson, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko.  Continuing this tradition, the Stokes Center for Creative Writing brings emerging and established authors to campus for readings and craft talks throughout the year.  All events are free and open to the public.

McCorkle HeadshotJill McCorkle - Wednesday, November 13, 2019, 5pm

Jill McCorkle has published six novels and four collections of short stories, five of which have been named New York Times notable books. Her work is anthologized in Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South, and The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction.  McCorkle has received the New England Booksellers Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, the North Carolina Award for Literature, and the Thomas Wolfe Prize. She is core faculty in the Bennington Writing Seminars and frequently teaches in the Sewanee Writers Program. Her new novel Hieroglyphics will be published in spring 2020.  In addition to the public reading, McCorkle will lead a workshop for currently enrolled fiction students.

Please note:  this event will be held in the Marx Library Auditorium, with a book signing to follow.

McCorkle HeadshotKeynote Speaker: Edwidge Danticat - Thursday, January 30, 2020, 5pm

Edwidge Danticat is the author of numerous books, including Brother, I’m Dying, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and a National Book Award finalist; Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; and The Dew Breaker, a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and winner of the inaugural Story Prize. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Danticat focuses on national identity, mother-daughter relationships, and diasporic politics. While at the university, she will lead a creative writing class for currently enrolled students and discuss her latest novel published in August of 2019. Co-sponsors include the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Dwell Mobile, and Phi Kappa Phi. 

Please note:  this event will be held in the USA Student Center Ballroom, with a book signing and reception with refreshments to follow. PHOTO CREDIT: Lynn Savarese Photography.

May and Rathburn HeadshotChelsea Rathburn and James Davis May - Thursday, April 9, 2020, 5pm

Chelsea Rathburn is the poet laureate of Georgia and author of three books of poetry, including the New York Times New & Noteworthy collection Still Life with Mother and Knife, published in 2019 by Louisiana State University Press. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, The Atlantic, Creative Nonfiction, and many other journals. A native of Miami, Florida, she currently lives in Macon, Georgia, with her husband, the poet James Davis May, and their daughter. She is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Mercer University. 

James Davis May, recipient of  Poetry Society of America’s Cecil Hemley Award, lives in Macon, Georgia, where he serves as Writer-in-Residence at Mercer University. His first poetry collection, Unquiet Things, was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2016 and a finalist for the Poets’ Prize. In addition to the public reading, their visit includes guest lectures in two courses and private consultations with currently enrolled poetry students. 

Please note:  this event will be held in the USA Student Center Terrace Room, with a book signing and reception with refreshments to follow.

Our Creative Writing Faculty 

Gaillard Headshot

Frye Gaillard | USA Writer in Residence

Specializes in Southern culture and history.

HUMB 272  |  460-7952

Parker Headshot

Linda Busby Parker | Part-time Faculty in Creative Writing

Specializes in creative writing and the processes of contemporary publishing.

Charlotte Pence Headshot

Charlotte Pence | Assistant Professor of Creative Writing

Director of Creative Writing and Director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing.  Specializes in poetry and creative nonfiction.

HUMB 277  |  460-6149  |

Nathan Poole Headshot

Nathan Poole | Assistant Professor of Creative Writing

Specializes in fiction.

HUMB 256  |  460-7417  |

Adam Prince Headshot

Adam Prince | Stokes Visiting Writer

Specializes in fiction and screenwriting.

HUMB 277  |  460-6149

Past Readings & Events

Smith HeadshotWriter in the Schools: Danez Smith - Thursday, September 19, 2019, 5pm

Danez Smith is a queer / poz writer and performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award; they also wrote [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Danez's work has been featured widely, appearing on platforms such as Buzzfeed, The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, Best American Poetry, Poetry Magazine, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness. Danez’s third collection, Homie, will be published by Graywolf in Spring 2020.  In addition to leading a poetry writing class at U.S.A., Smith will also visit English classes at Murphy High School. Co-sponsors include the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Spectrum, and African-American Studies.

Please note:  this event will be held in the John Counts Room in the Mitchell Center, with a book signing and reception with refreshments to follow.  PHOTO CREDIT: Hieu Minh Nguyen

Nguyen HeadshotDiana Khoi Nguyen - Thursday, April 18, 2019, 5pm

Diana Khoi Nguyen’s debut collection, Ghost Of, won Omnidawn’s Open Contest in 2018 and is a finalist for the National Book Award, a rare honor for a first book. She is a poet and multimedia artist whose work has been awarded the 92Y "Discovery" / Boston Review Poetry Contest plus recognition from the Academy of American Poets. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD in creative writing and teaches in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. During her three-day residency in Mobile, Diana Khoi Nguyen will hold a workshop and conference with poetry students.

Please note:  this event will be held in the USA Student Center Terrace Room, with a book signing and reception to follow.

Ritter HeadshotJosh Ritter - Thursday, March 7, 2019, 7:30pm

We're thrilled to announce our Annual Songwriter Keynote --- ASK 2019 will feature Josh Ritter, live at Laidlaw on Thursday, March 7th. The two-act event will feature a musical performance, a reading, and an interactive Q&A. 

Paste Magazine named Ritter one of the "100 Best Living Songwriters" in 2006, and his reputation has only grown over the past decade. NPR deems him "one of the world's best songwriters," effusively praising his ability to connect with a live audience. "Watching Josh Ritter stand on stage and perform," they write, "you get this overwhelming sense of joy." 

Not only is Ritter one of the most important voices in music today, but he’s also the author of The New York Times best-seller Bright’s Passage (Dial Press/Random House, 2011).   Reviewing Ritter's novel for The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Stephen King writes: "Bright’s Passage shines with a compressed lyricism that recalls Ray Bradbury in his prime . . . This is the work of a gifted novelist."

Please note: this free event will be held in the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center (Mainstage Theatre).  Seating is limited, and will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis at the door on the day of the show.  Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30 p.m.  ASK 2019 is co-sponsored by the Independent Music Collective, USA Department of Theatre and Dance, the USA Department of English, and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.  PHOTO CREDIT: Laura Wilson.

Quatro HeadshotJamie Quatro - Tuesday, February 12, 2019, 5pm

Jamie Quatro is the author of two books of fiction, Fire Sermon and I Want to Show You More. Often described as a franker, modernized Flannery O'Connor, Jamie Quatro holds an MA in English from the College of William and Mary, and an MFA in fiction from the Bennington College Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Ploughshares, McSweeney's, The Kenyon Review, VQR, Agni, and elsewhere.  A Contributing Editor at Oxford American, Quatro teaches in the summers-only MFA program at Sewanee, The University of the South, and lives with her husband and four children in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

Please note:  this event will be held in the USA Student Center Terrace Room, with a book signing and reception to follow.  PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Alvarez.

Jones HeadshotStephen Graham Jones - Monday, October 29, 2018, 7pm

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen novels, six story collections, and one comic book. A genre-bending writer who spans the worlds of experimental fiction, horror, crime and more, he has won an NEA Award, the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, and the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, among others. This project is supported by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Please note:  this event will be held in the USA Student Center Outdoor Amphitheater, with a book signing and reception to follow.  (In case of rain, the event will be held in the Marx Library Auditorium.)  Co-sponsors include the Native American Student Association and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

Gay HeadshotRoxane Gay - Thursday, September 13, 2018, 6pm

Roxane Gay is one of America’s most beloved writers and cultural critics. She is widely considered the leading feminist voice of our time and her work garners international acclaim for its honesty and ferocity. Her New York Times best-selling books include the essay collections Bad Feminist and Hunger, the novel An Untamed State, short story collections Difficult Women, Ayiti, and many others. Explore with Roxane topics ranging from politics, patriarchy, Beyoncé and reality television in the same sitting. No two Roxane Gay events are the same.

Please note:  this event will be held in the USA Student Center Ballroom, with a reception and book signing to follow in the Terrace Room.  Co-sponsors include Jaguar Productions, the English Department, AAUW at South Alabama, Phi Kappa Phi , Gender Studies, and the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice.

Kolbert HeadshotElizabeth Kolbert - Wednesday, April 4, 2018, 7pm

Elizabeth Kolbert’s most recent book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, won the 2015 nonfiction Pulitzer and is first on the Guardian’s list of the 100 best nonfiction books ever. Her book weaves natural history with reporting in the field about mass extinctions and climate change. While at U.S.A., Kolbert will conduct a one-hour master’s class for current science majors interested in writing on environmentalism and activism for the general public.  At the evening lecture, Kolbert will focus on her book regarding climate change and extinctions by explaining the science, unpacking the politics, and presenting personal tales of those who are being affected most.

Please note: this event will be held in the USA Student Center Ballroom, and is being co-sponsored by the Biology Department, Phi Kappa Phi, and the Sustainability Committee.

May HeadshotJamaal May - Thursday, March 22, 2018, 5pm

Jamaal May’s book Hum won the Beatrice Hawley Award, the ALA Notable Book Award, and was a finalist for the NAACP Image award. His second collection is The Big Book of Exit Strategies, and he has also published two chapbooks, The God Engine and The Whetting of Teeth. His poetry has appeared in Poetry, The Believer, Ploughshares, New England Review and The Kenyon Review. He has also been a recipient of the Kenyon Review Fellowship at Kenyon College, Bread Loaf, Callaloo and the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship. He is the series editor, graphic designer and filmmaker for the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook and Video Series. May will meet with advanced poetry students currently enrolled in creative writing at the University of South Alabama and critique their work. He will also give a reading at a local high school on the 22nd.

Please note: this event will be held in the Terrace Room in the Student Center.

Darnielle HeadshotJohn Darnielle of the Mountain Goats - Monday, February 26, 2018, 7:30pm

The Stokes Center for Creative Writing and the Independent Music Collective are teaming up for a very special event on Monday, February 26, 2018 at the University of South Alabama. John Darnielle will be the inaugural performer in an exciting new series exploring the intersection of music and literature.  Not only is Darnielle the central figure behind the indie-folk juggernaut the Mountain Goats, but he's also the author of two critically-acclaimed novels: Wolf in White Van, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in 2014, and Universal Harvester, which Kazuo Ishiguro calls "a moving, beautifully etched picture of America’s lost and profoundly lonely."  The event, which will be held in the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center, will feature both a musical performance and a reading.  More...

Please note:  this event will be held in the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center, Dramatic Arts Mainstage Theatre.

Knight HeadshotMichael Knight - Thursday, February 8, 2018, 5pm

Raised in Mobile, Michael Knight’s latest collection, Eveningland, is set amid the streets of Mobile and its surrounding waters. Eveningland has been selected as a New York Times Editor’s Choice and as one of Southern Living’s Southern Books of the Year. Throughout his career, Michael Knight has authored two novels (Divining Rod and The Typist), three collections of short stories (Dogfight and Other StoriesGoodnight, Nobody and Eveningland) and a book of novellas (The Holiday Season). His most recent novel, The Typist, was listed as a Best Book of the Year by Huffington Post and The Kansas City Star and appeared on Oprah’s Summer Reading List. His fiction has appeared in places like The New YorkerOxford AmericanPloughshares, Saturday Evening Post and The Southern Review. He lives Knoxville with his wife and two daughters and teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee. During his time at U.S.A., Knight will work closely with graduate students currently enrolled in fiction at the University of South Alabama and give a public reading.

Please note:  this event will be held in the Terrace Room in the Student Center.

Catharsis HeadshotCatharsis with Dr. Pence's Poetry Class - Thursday, November 30, 2017, 11am

Dr. Charlotte Pence’s fall poetry class will be reading with Catharsis to celebrate the end of the semester. Catharsis has been performing spoken word since 2005 when she was first introduced to open mic events. She released her debut CD, My Thoughts, My Stage My Mic in May of 2012, which sold copies throughout Florida, Alabama, and even gained air play in New York. She competed in the 21st annual regional poetry slam, Southern Fried, in 2013 with Mobile Alabama’s first ever slam team. In 2014, she received the Mousai Award for Best Spoken Word Collaboration (alongside spoken word artist KMarie). She has featured in several poetry shows and venues in Mobile, Alabama. She is also the founder of the poetry troupe, the Powerlines Poets, a poetry troupe that is recognized throughout this region. They have successfully completed three poetry tours (to include Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Palm Bay, and Fort Walton Beach, Florida) since 2012 and recently completed tracks for their debut CD, Shock Treatment V.1.

Please note:  this event will be held in Room 205 in the Student Center.

Gyasi HeadshotYaa Gyasi - Thursday, November 16, 2017, 7pm

Yaa Gyasi will talk with Charlotte Pence, Director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing, about her book Homegoing (Knopf, 2016) on stage at the Student Center Ballroom. Yaa Gyasi is a Ghanaian-American novelist who moved to Huntsville, Alabama at age ten. Her debut novel Homegoing earned the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award for best first book, the PEN/Hemingway Award for a first book, and the National Book Foundation’s "5 under 35" honors for 2016 and the American Book Award.  Homegoing follows two half-sisters who are born into different villages and unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the Cape Coast Castle, the other will be captured, imprisoned in the same castle, and sold into slavery. This story follows the paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations. Yaa Gyasi's novel illuminates slavery's troubled legacy and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.   This event is co-sponsored by the USA Common Read/Common World Program, Jaguar Productions, and USA Academic Affairs.

Please note:  this event will be held in the USA Student Center Ballroom.

Walker HeadshotSue Brannan Walker - Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 7pm

Professor Emerita Sue Brannan Walker will celebrate the launch of her new poetry book titled Let Us Imagine Her Name (Clemson University Press, 2017). Walker is a former Poet Laureate of Alabama and is professor emerita of English at University of South Alabama where she served as department chair and director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing. She has published over ten books in her career and is also the founder of Negative Capability Press in Mobile. This event is co-sponsored by the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.  A reception will follow the reading.

Please note:  this event will be held at the USA Faculty Club.