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NB Debut Writers

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The Natural Bridge Debut Writers' Series seeks out the most promising and talented new writers (fiction writers and poets who've published one or two books) and brings them to St. Louis for a three-day visit. During this visit, the debut writer meets with graduate and undergraduate UMSL students. The debut writer’s book (story or poetry collection or novel) becomes assigned reading for UMSL creative writing students. The debut writer comes to class to answer intricate questions about writing craft, theme, language and storytelling. These discussions continue outside of the classroom—at coffee and meals and daytrips that the debut writer shares with UMSL MFA students. On the final evening of the visit, the debut writer presents a reading and book signing at UMSL Gallery 210, an event that is open for the metro St. Louis community. This is a chance for area book lovers to experience exciting new fiction writers and poets at the start of their careers.

Debut Writers for 2012-13


Amanda Coplin - The Orchardist   

The Orchardist

At once intimate and epic, The Orchardist is historical fiction at its best, in the grand literary tradition of William Faulkner, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, and Toni Morrison. In her stunningly original and haunting debut novel, Amanda Coplin evokes a powerful sense of place, mixing tenderness and violence as she spins an engrossing tale of a solitary orchardist who provides shelter to two runaway teenage girls in the untamed American West, and the dramatic consequences of his actions.#160; 

“Patiently beautiful, THE ORCHARDIST builds its characters and its situations so carefully that the story becomes as real to us as this morning’s news. I am in awe of Amanda Coplin’s book, which does not feel like a first novel but a life’s work.” (Charles Baxter, author THE FEAST OF LOVE, National Book Award Finalist )


Amanda Coplin was born in Wenatchee, Washington. She received her BA from the University of Oregon and MFA from the University of Minnesota. A recipient of residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the Omi International Arts Center at Ledig House in Ghent, New York, she lives in Portland, Oregon.

Friday, March 1, 7:00 p.m. Amanda Coplin reads from and signs copies of The Orchardist at Gallery 210


Jessica Greenbaum - The Two Yvonnes

The Two Yvonnes

This is the second collection from a Brooklyn poet whose work many readers will know from the New Yorker. Jessica Greenbaum's narrative poems, in which objects and metaphor share highest honors, attempt revelation through close observation of the everyday. Written in "plain American that cats and dogs can read," as Marianne Moore phrased it, these contemporary lyrics bring forward the challenges of Wisława Szymborska, the reportage of Yehuda Amichai, and the formal forays of Marilyn Hacker. The book asks at heart: how does life present itself to us, and how do we create value from our delights and losses? Riding on Kenneth Koch's instruction to "find one true feeling and hang on," The Two Yvonnes overtakes the present with candor, meditation, and the classic aspiration to shape lyric into a lasting force.

"Readers can be grateful that the poems collected in The Two Yvonnes are between covers at last. In it we find Greenbaum, in her clear, Brooklyn vernacular--usually in the first person--exploring the preoccupations of Inventing Difficulty: issues of story and history, of the places that we inhabit and those that inhabit us, especially the specular urban turf of the city."--Lisa Russ Spaar, Los Angeles Review of Books


Jessica Greenbaum’s first book, Inventing Difficulty (Silverfish Review Press, 1998), won the Gerald Cable Prize. Her second book, The Two Yvonnes (2012), was chosen by Paul Muldoon for Princeton’s Series of Contemporary Poets. Her poems and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, the Nation, Poetry, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor for upstreet and lives in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, April 9, 7:00 p.m. Jessica Greenbaum reads from and signs copies of The Two Yvonnes at Gallery 210

Past writers in The Natural Bridge Debut Writers' Series

Kevin Wilson

Kevin Wilson is the author of the collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Ecco/Harper Perennial, 2009), which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award, and a novel, The Family Fang (Ecco, 2011).  His fiction has appeared in PloughsharesTin House,One StoryCincinnati Review, and elsewhere, and has appeared in four volumes of the New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best anthology.  He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts.  He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, with his wife, the poet Leigh Anne Couch, and his son, Griff, where he teaches fiction at the University of the South.

Eric Puchner

Eric Puchner is the author of the novel Model Home (Scribner, 2010), which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and won a California Book Award and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award (2nd place). His debut short story collection, Music Through the Floor (Scribner, 2005), was a finalist for the NY Public Library's Young Lions Award. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in GQ, Tin House, Zoetrope: All Story, Chicago Tribune, The Sun, Glimmer Train, Best New American Voices, and many other journals and anthologies. Eric is an assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, novelist Katharine Noel, and their two children.