Beloved professor, alums to read for Creative Writing program’s 10th anniversary


Photo courtesy of WDET 101.9 FM

Creative Writing Professor Peter Markus doing his work as Senior Writer of InsideOut Detroit Literary Arts Project.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of OU’s Creative Writing program, the program is hosting a Creative Writing faculty/alumni reading featuring Professor Peter Markus alongside alums Suzanne Honda and James Braun.

The event will take place Wednesday, March 16 at 5:00 p.m. in rooms 128-130 in the Oakland Center. Those interested in attending the event virtually via Zoom can RSVP here. Those attending the event in person are asked to complete OU’s Daily Health Screening forms.

“[This reading] highlights what is so fantastic about our creative writing program,” Professor and Program Director for Creative Writing Jeff Chapman said. “It’s crazy how lucky Oakland students are to have a teacher and writer of Peter’s caliber teaching here … He’s the most generous mentor ever … It’s very exciting to get to hear him read and celebrate him as a writer, not just a teacher.”

Markus is an award-winning author and educator with decades of experience teaching young writers as part of InsideOut Detroit Literary Arts project and OU’s Creative Writing program. He released his first collection of poetry titled “When Our Fathers Return to Us as Birds” last September. The new book, published by Wayne State University Press as part of their “Made in Michigan Writer Series,” chronicles Markus’ experience caring for his dying father.

“I’m honored to be able to read my words in front of students and faculty and staff at Oakland this year,” Markus said. “It means a great deal that I’m able to teach here and work with such good students. James Braun and Suzanne Honda are just two among the many students I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Their work speaks for itself, but I can tell you both of these young writers are the realest of deals.”

Braun has work that has been published or is forthcoming in Fiction International, DIAGRAM, failbetter, Sequestrum, Minnesota Review, Bayou Magazine, The Laurel Review and SmokeLong Quarterly. He’s currently working on his novel by the name of “Only When I’m Singing”, and is set to start studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the fall.

“To be coming back to Oakland again, and better yet, to read alongside my mentor and friend Peter Markus, means more than I can say,” Braun said. “Peter’s one of those special breeds of people one can only ever hope to meet; or in the least, be in the same space as. Call him a shaman, call him a sage. A fisherman, a writer, a teacher––all of which he is and is more, more-than, as we like to say, and being so, Peter’s teachings have forever changed the way I look at writing … OU’s English Department is one of the best out there. They take you seriously. And being taken so, in this lonely-lonely world that is the world of the writer, makes you feel just a little bit less alone.”

Honda has work that has been published or is forthcoming in The Hyacinth Review, SWWIM, Every Day, Pink Panther Magazine, and Soundings East. Her chapbook “When We Were Birds” is forthcoming in 2022 with Porkbelly Press, and she’s currently working on a full-length book of poems entitled “When We Were Birds”.

“When I started at OU back in 2016, the Creative Writing program was still in its infancy,” Honda said. “It’s pretty wild and definitely incredible to be back for its 10th anniversary. I loved being part of the program: the professors – Annie Gilson, Peter Markus, Alison Powell, Vanessa Stauffer … In more ways than one, I have the connections I made while at OU to thank for where I am today: working as a Writer-in-Residence with InsideOut Literary Arts, publishing a chapbook of poems, returning to OU – and so much of that is because of one professor in particular: Peter Markus. Peter’s confidence in me at a time when I wasn’t sure of myself, and his dedication to my growth as a writer over the past 6 years, makes this opportunity to read alongside him a really beautiful, full-circle moment.”

This reading is the third in a series of readings this year in celebration of Creative Writing’s 10th anniversary. The program hosted alumna Mary Ann Samyn in the fall and alumnus Matt Bell in the winter, both received their undergrad degrees from the OU Department of English before OU started offering creative writing as a major.

Longtime Professor and former Program Director for Creative Writing Annie Gilson elaborated on the early days of creative writing at OU.

“Before we offered the major, Ed Haworth Hoeppner and Gladys Cardiff (both beloved poets and colleagues who have since retired) taught poetry workshops, I taught fiction workshops, and the late wonderful Linda McCloskey taught creative nonfiction workshops. Due to the popularity of the fiction workshops, we were able to hire the short story and comics writer [current Program Director] Jeff Chapman. At the same time, Ed, Gladys and I created the CW major under Ed’s leadership.”

This reading is also the second faculty/alum reading OU’s creative writing program has hosted. The first occurred last winter and featured Gilson reading alongside alum C.R. Grimer.

It was a great joy to see C.R. again, after having mentored them for the years they were here as an undergrad. They offered terrific advice to current OU writers, as I’m sure Suzanne and James will,” Gilson said.  “… One reason we created the major was the great talent and enthusiasm of our students … We are excited to continue this tradition of faculty and alumni reading together next week. For former students and their professors, it’s a great joy to spend time together reading and sharing our work with the new generation of undergrads, who we know will also go on to do great things.”

Chapman seconded this sentiment, expressing his gratitude for OU’s creative writing community. 

“What’s ultimately so exciting about all of this: it reminds you that a university isn’t a single moment in time, but a continuity,” Chapman said. “You have all the students who are here, all the students who came before and are migrating out into the world, and all the students who are to come. It’s a community that grows and lives. Writing is a really hard path that requires consistent, thankless effort much of the time. A vibrant community can help make it all worthwhile.”

The Creative Writing program takes pride in the work their students are doing, with Braun and Honda being examples of the excellent young writers coming out of OU.

“Both Suzanne and James worked extraordinarily hard when they were here, and have continued to do so,” Chapman said. “[Our] students are so wonderful and so talented … I feel like we’re only beginning to tap into this amazing potential in our student population. I can’t wait to see the movies, essays, poems, and stories written in the next ten years.

Markus also expressed his pride in and gratitude for his students.

“[Braun and Honda] are both writing stuff that is years ahead of where I was when I was their age,” Markus said. “I’d be happy to be writing the writing they’re writing. And they’re not alone. I can make you a list as long as a river of other students whose work I’ve been proud to play a small part in the making/mentoring/inspiration of. I only wish there was time and space to showcase the bounty of writers I’ve had the great joy of teaching since I was first given the opportunity to teach here at OU some years ago (I guess this is maybe my 9th or 10th year of being so lucky). I’m thankful to my colleagues in the Creative Writing department who first reached out to me about teaching and those who do what’s in their power to keep me around. I’m lucky to be able to do what I love to do, both on the page and in the classroom. I wouldn’t be the writer I am and the writer I’ve become had I not been given the opportunity to teach others and to teach myself in the process. For me writing and teaching writing are tributaries of the same river.”