Speaker Series

During a lunchtime presentation* at Hathaway Brown, these authors will discuss theirs works and the writing process, and answer questions from 12:19 until 1:30 p.m. in the Anne Cutter Coburn Reception Room. Lunch will be served. This Speaker Series event is sponsored by the Osborne Writing Center.

These events are free, but registration is requested. All those interested in attending should email Scott Parsons, director of the Osborne Writing Center, at sparsons@hb.edu or call 216.320.8796 ext. 7211.

 *Some presenters will also speak at an evening session, as noted below.

Past Speakers

Alexandra Fuller


Alexandra Fuller  Fuller has written numerous books, including Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (Random House 2001), which was a New York Times Notable Book for 2002, the 2002 Booksense Best Non-fiction book, a finalist for the Guardian’s First Book Award, and the winner of the 2002 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. Her 2004 Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier (Penguin Press) won the Ulysses Prize for Art of Reportage. She also is the author of The Legend of Colton H Bryant (2008 Penguin Press). Fuller has written extensively for magazines and newspapers, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker and National Geographic. She contributed the essay about Wyoming that appears in the 2008 book State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America.

Fuller’s newest book, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Penguin 2011), is a prequel/sequel to Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. It has received very favorable reviews from The New York Times and others.

Jamaal May


Jamaal May is a poet, editor, and filmmaker from Detroit, MI where he taught poetry in public schools and worked as a freelance audio engineer and touring performer. His first collection of poems, Hum (Alice James Books 2013), won the 2012 Beatrice Hawley Award. Winner of the 2013 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, his work also appears in journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, the Believer, NER, and Kenyon Review. Jamaal has earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College as well as fellowships from Cave Canem and The Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He is founding editor of the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press.

Sarah Kay


photo credit: Erik Maser

Sarah Kay is a Spoken Word Poet who grew up in New York City and began performing her poetry when she was only fourteen years old.  Even though she was often the youngest poet by a decade, Sarah made herself at home at the Bowery Poetry Club, one of New York's most famous Spoken Word venues.  In 2006, she joined the Bowery Poetry Club's Poetry Slam Team, NYC Urbana, and competed in the 2006 National Poetry Slam in Austin, Texas.  That year, she was the youngest poet competing at Nationals.  Sarah was featured on the sixth season of the television series Russell Simmons presents HBO Def Poetry Jam, where she performed her poem "Hands."  She has performed in venues across the country including Lincoln Center, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the United Nations, where she was a featured performer for the launch of the 2004 World Youth Report.  She has also performed internationally in the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, France, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Mexico, and Singapore.  In 2004,Sarah founded Project V.O.I.C.E. and has since taught Spoken Word Poetry in classrooms and workshops all over the world, to students of all ages. Sarah was a featured speaker at the 2011 TED conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design) on "The Rediscovery of Wonder" in Long Beach, California.   Sarah's first book, B (published by the Domino Project) has been ranked #1 bestselling poetry book on Amazon.

David Giffels


David Giffels is an assistant professor of English at University of Akron, where he teaches creative nonfiction in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program. His most recent book is All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House (William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2008).

The book, a memoir about coming of age as a young father trying to reclaim a ramshackle mansion, has received widespread acclaim, from the New York Times, which described it as “sweet and funny” to the Los Angeles Times, which called it “a truly wonderful book” to Oprah’s O at Home magazine, where it topped the “Fantastic Summer Reads” list.

Giffels is coauthor of Are We Not Men? We Are Devo! (SAF Publishing, 2003), and Wheels of Fortune: The Story of Rubber in Akron (University of Akron Press, 1998) and was a longtime columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal. His essays appear in the new anthology Rust Belt Chic (RBC Publishing, 2012); The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia (Indiana University Press, 2006); The Appalachians: America’s First and Last Frontier (Random House, 2004); and West Point Market Cookbook (University of Akron Press, 2008). He has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Grantland, Redbook and many other publications. He also was a writer for the MTV series Beavis and Butt-Head.

Giffels’ recent awards include the Cleveland Arts Prize for literature, the Ohioana Book Award and the Associated Press’ “Best News Writer in Ohio” award. He has been nominated six times for the Pulitzer Prize.

His next book, The Hard Way on Purpose, a collection of essays about coming of age in the Rust Belt, will be released by Scribner in 2014.

November 27, 2012: Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller, author of The Year of the Gadfly, will visit Hathaway Brown School on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 for a lunchtime presentation.  The evening presentation has been cancelled.

Miller also wrote Inheriting The Holy Land, and her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Marie Claire, Allure, Salon.com, Fast Company, The Millions and the Daily Beast. She holds an MFA in fiction-writing and a MS in journalism from Columbia University. She is a native of Washington, DC and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with all the other writers.


January 17, 2013: Evalyn Gates

Dr. Evalyn Gates, Executive Director and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, will visit Hathaway Brown School on Thursday, January 17, 2013.

Before coming to the Museum in May, 2010, she was the Assistant Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics and a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

Her research focuses on various aspects of cosmology and particle astrophysics, from neutrinos to the cosmic microwave background.  Most recently she has been working on various aspects of dark matter, and searching for ancient stellar fossils in the form of the oldest white dwarfs.  

After receiving her Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Case Western Reserve University in 1990, Gates held postdoctoral fellowships at Yale University and the University of Chicago, and was a member of the theoretical astrophysics research group at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. She spent seven years at the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, initially as Director of Astronomy and then as Vice President for Science and Education. 

Gates has a strong interest in addressing the under-representation of women and minorities in the physical sciences and has written several articles on the topic of women in physics.  She is also committed to inviting individuals of all ages and backgrounds to explore the ideas and discoveries of current scientific research. Her first book, Einstein’s Telescope: The Hunt for Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe, was published by W.W. Norton in February 2009.


February 26: Claire McMillan

Claire McMillan, author of Gilded Age, will visit Hathaway Brown School on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.

McMillan grew up in and around Pasadena, California, but for some reason people always ask if she grew up in Philadelphia.

She is a recovering attorney, having practiced complex corporate litigation in San Francisco for six years.

She holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College.

She currently lives on her husband’s family’s farm, about a half hour outside Cleveland, with her husband and their two children.


March 13 & 14: Jane Piirto

Jane Piirto, author and professor, will visit Hathaway Brown School on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 for her Learning for Life Presentation, "Creativity as the Process of Life" at 7:00 p.m. and Thursday, March 14 for a lunchtime presentation.

Piirto was born and raised in Negaunee, Michigan, descendent of Finnish immigrants. All four grandparents came from Finland. Her paternal grandfather Herman Piirto was from Ilmajoki and her paternal grandmother was Sophie Vahakorpi from Ilmajoki. Her materal grandmother was Ida Karna Eskelinen from Vimpeli and her maternal grandfather was Adam Eskelinen from Kuopio. Ms. Piirto was married from 
1963 to 1980 and is also known as Jane Piirto Navarre. She has two children.

With a long career in higher education, Jane is a Trustees' Distinguished Professor in Graduate Education at Ashland University and has authored 16 books, both literary and scholarly. She is a specialist in the education of the gifted and talented and has focused on creativity and on gender issues. She was named Distinguished Scholar by the National Association for Gifted Children and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mensa Education and Research Foundation. Her first novel received the Carpenter Press Award and she has received Individual Artist Fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council in both poetry and fiction.  


April 5: Matt Manfredi


November 8 & 9, 2012: Erica Wheeler

Erica Wheeler, singer and songwriter, will visit Hathaway Brown School on Thursday, November 8, 2012 for a lunchtime presentation and on Friday, November 9 for an evening concert at 7:30 p.m.

Raised in the suburbs of Washington DC (Chevy Chase, Maryland) Wheeler was exposed to traditional folk and bluegrass music through family escapades to the surrounding regions of rural Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. She began playing guitar in 8th grade, inspired by the music featured in the coal-mining documentary "Harlan County, USA." She notes "Whenever there was tension in that film, the music would cut right through and tell the truth. It impressed me then how powerful music can be." She acquired a book called 1,001 folk songs, and has been playing guitar ever since.

Erica's early musical inspiration came from her parents recordings of folk singers such as Judy Collins and Odetta, as well as bluegrass bands like the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene. Growing up, her brothers collection of 70's singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Neil Young were favorites. In college, when she began writing songs in earnest, Erica was inspired by Ferron and Joan Armatrading, and later, Nanci Griffith, Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Erica has also been deeply inspired by writers such as Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams and the poet Mary Oliver.

Erica's music career began in Northampton, MA, an area known as "home" to a host of touring songwriters, and a hotbed for the New England revival of the acoustic music scene. At a local club of national fame, (The Iron Horse Music Hall,) Erica quickly developed from an opening act into a headliner. She honed her skills there watching artists like Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Suzanne Vega in the 170-seat room. Erica was also a frequent participant in the Northampton Songwriter Group, which then included fellow songwriters Dar Williams, Cliff Eberhardt, Annie Gallup, Jim Henry and more.

After a decade of touring and witnessing the growing sprawl that was changing many of her favorite place, she decided to bring her work full circle, creating the Soulful Landscape programs. Over the past decade she has offered her work connecting people to place at conference, learning centers and public events across the country.

Erica currently lives north of Northampton, Massachusetts in the hilltown of Colrain. Her home is a 100-year-old little house beside a rushing brook, surrounded by her neighbor's 750-acre dairy and maple sugar farm. Erica finds her "sense of place" both at home and traveling back roads of America. A troubadour in the classic sense of the word, Erica's impressions of the people and places she meets along the way eventually work their way into her songs. Her evocative, visual songs and her powerful Soulful Landscape programs inspire a sense of place and connection in listeners that is much needed in our world today. Her passionate love for places sparks an authentic response in others to care about their their survival and stewardship.

October 26: Michael Dirda

Michael Dirda, book columnist for The Washington Post, will visit Hathaway Brown School on Friday, October 26, 2012.

Dirda received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He is the author of the memoir An Open Book and of four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure. His latest book, On Conan Doyle, is part of  Princeton’s “Writers on Writers” series.  Dirda graduated with Highest Honors in English from Oberlin College and received a Ph.D. in comparative literature (medieval studies and European romanticism) from Cornell University. He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, the online Barnes & Noble Review, and several other periodicals, as well as a frequent lecturer and an occasional college teacher.


September 13: George Bilgere

George Bilgere, teacher and poet, will visit Hathaway Brown School on Thursday, September 13, 2012, with an evening poetry reading and book signing at 7:00 p.m. in addition to the lunchtime presentation.  His most recent book of poetry is The White Museum, selected in 2010 for the Autumn House Poetry Series.  His other books include Haywire (winner of the May Swenson Poetry Award in 2006) and The Good Kiss (chosen by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins to win the University of Akron Poetry Prize in 2001). “In the house of contemporary poetry,” said Collins, “The Good Kiss is a breath of fresh American air.”

Bilgere has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Foundation, the Society of Midland Authors, the Ohio Arts Council, the Ohioana Poetry Foundation, and the Witter Bynner Foundation.

He has given readings at the Library of Congress, the 92nd Street Y in New York, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and at schools and libraries around the country. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The Southern ReviewPloughshares, The New England Review, River Styx, The New Ohio Review, FieldShenandoahThe Sewanee Review, and many other journals and anthologies.

Bilgere’s poems are often featured on Garrison Keillor’s National Public Radio program, The Writer’s Almanac, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry.  He was the 2003 recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature, the 2006 winner of the Ohioana Poetry Award, and in 2009 he won a Pushcart Prize.

Last December Bilgere was a featured guest on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

George Bilgere lives in Cleveland and teaches at John Carroll University.


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