Creative Writing Program hosts Faculty Alum Reading


Jeff Thomas

Professor Peter Markus speaking about his work and the love he has for his students at last Wednesday’s faculty/alumni reading.

The 2022 Faculty Alum Reading took place at 5:00 p.m. in the Oakland Center on Wednesday, March 16. With a virtual and in-person hybrid format, two alumni and a faculty member from Oakland University’s Creative Writing Program joined students for a special reading.

The event was the third reading in a series celebrating the Creative Writing Program’s 10th anniversary. At the reading, Professor Peter Markus and alumni Suzanna Honda and James Braun each read pieces from their published works, shared information from their experiences at OU and answered questions from students. 

Books were sold and the attendants were able to get them signed by their authors, and there was a Q&A session as well to conclude the event.

Braun presented first and talked about how his heart is always in the fiction genre.

“I wrote a book in non-fiction and I wrote a book in poetry,” Braun said. “It wasn’t where my heart was at — fiction is where my heart is at the moment. Find the words that mean the most to you. You take that and let the words carry you, following where those words take you. Sometimes it fails, but it’s worth that.” 

Braun read from his book “What the River Gives Back to Us.” The book has two voices, and he read from each. 

The first voice is of a character in a funeral home at their mother’s funeral. Braun read through the character as they watch their father in a boat on the river, and the storytelling gives the audience visuals, almost like they’re in the scene. 

Honda started by talking about her first day in Markus’ writing class and the lessons she has learned from him. She then read from her poetry book “When We Were Birds,” a story in memory of her friend. The book will be released later in 2022 by Porkbelly Press, although there is no official release date yet. 

“When We Were Birds” gives the audience earthy visuals, as well as many other sensory details using nature. Birds  are used as a symbol for girls throughout the story. 

Markus has written several novels, including fiction, poetry and a memoir. Markus read several entries from his poetry collection book “When Our Fathers Return to Us as Birds.” 

The book is a process of grief. It contains 53 stories, and according to Markus, there are even more. 

“These are all about characters that I’ve lived with for about a decade of my life,” Markus said.  “In my basement somewhere, somewhere there is a folder or a drawer, and there’s another 150 stories that will never see the light of day in book form.” 

During his reading, Markus reiterated the importance of writers paying attention to their surrounding world. 

“I would not have written this book if I hadn’t been paying attention,” Markus said. 

Markus talked about how he grew tired of making things up to write fiction, so he decided to take a break from it. He ended up writing a memoir about his time teaching in Detroit.