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Academian turned best-selling author presents reading Nov. 17 at ASU

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Article Published: Nov. 10, 2011 | Modified: Nov. 17, 2011
Academian turned best-selling author presents reading Nov. 17 at ASU

Mary Doria Russell will present a reading Nov. 17 at ASU.

Photo by Dina Rossi

Mary Doria Russell was a biological anthropologist at Case Western Reserve University and had done field work in Australia and Croatia before she changed careers and turned to writing.

She is now considered one of the most versatile writers in American literature and one of the greatest contemporary storytellers.

Russell will read from and talk about her work Nov. 17 through the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State University.

Her craft talk, “Writing Historical Fiction,” will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Plemmons Student Union’s Table Rock Room.

She will read from her work beginning at 7:30 p.m., also in Table Rock Room.

Books will be available for sale and signing at both events, which are free and open to the public.
Russell has requested that individuals attending her craft talk read the first chapter of her book “Doc” and the first chapter from “Doc Holliday: A Family Portrait” by Karen Holliday Tanner as examples of historical biography and historical fiction.

To read the online materials, go to, click “Reserves” and then select “By Instructor” or “By Course Name” and enter “Visiting Writers Series.” Then select “Doc: Playing for Time” or “Doc Holliday: A Family Portrait.” The password is asuwriters.

Russell describes herself as a “recovering academic [who] must still rely on a higher power to resist the impulse to footnote everything she writes.”

She was reared in the Catholic church but converted to Judaism as an adult. Her work is, as she puts it, is “an exploration of the human soul.”

Russell’s novels are critically acclaimed commercial successes, studied in literature, theology and history courses in colleges and universities, and often chosen as book club and “community read” selections.

Her first novel, “The Sparrow,” was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Entertainment Weekly and won the Arthur C. Clarke Prize, the British Science Fiction for Best Novel in 1998.

The sequel, “Children of God,” won the Friends of the Library USA Reader’s Choice Award and was nominated for the Hugo Award, Best Novel in 1999.

Her first historical fiction, “A Thread of Grace,” nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, was described by a reviewer in the San Francisco Chronicle to be, “As sad as the history that engendered it, and hauntingly beautiful.”

Russell’s fourth novel, “Dreamers of the Day,” was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Her most recent fiction, “Doc,” examines the Old West of Doc Holliday and Dodge City and the OK Corral.

Parking is free on campus after 5 p.m. The parking deck on College Street, which opens to the public after 5:30 p.m., is closest to Plemmons Student Union. For further parking information or a map, visit or call the Parking and Traffic Office (828) 262-2878.

The Fall 2011 Visiting Writers Series is supported by the Appalachian State University Foundation; Appalachian’s Offices of Academic Affairs, Multicultural Student Development, and Cultural Affairs; the College of Arts and Sciences; the Department of English; the Summer Reading Program; the University Bookstore; Belk Library; and the Appalachian Journal.

Business sponsors are The Gideon Ridge Inn and The Red Onion Restaurant. Community sponsors include John and Marjorie Idol, Mildred Luckhardt, Paul and Judy Tobin, Alice Naylor, Thomas McLaughlin and The High Country Writers.

The Visiting Writers Series is named in honor of Hughlene Bostian Frank, class of 1968, trustee and supporter of Appalachian State University.

For further information on the fall season, call 262-2871 or see To receive Appalachian’s “This Week in the Arts” announcements by email, contact

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