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Writing Wonder: A look at Writing Joy in Difficult Times

September 2021

It’s no doubt that the world of late–with fires and a pandemic and floods and political upheavals–is a difficult one. This course  will look at some writers who write joy in all its complexities via the natural world, the spiritual world, and via the transformative power of language itself. We will compose and discuss drafts of our own essays about wonder

This course will begin on Monday September 13th – Monday October 11th with live ZOOM calls every Tuesday evening from 7:00-8:30. 

Meet Your Instructor

Karen Salyer McElmurray

Karen writes both fiction and creative nonfiction. Her memoir, Surrendered Child, won the AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction and was listed as a “notable book” by the National Book Critics Circle. She is also the author of Motel of the Stars, Editor’s Pick from Oxford American, and a Lit Life Book of the Year.  Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven (University of Georgia Press), a novel that won the Lillie Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing and, most recently, Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean, co-edited with Adrian Blevins, from Ohio University Press.  Her essays have won the Annie Dillard Prize, the New Southerner Prize, the Orison Magazine Anthology Award and have several times been Notable in Best American Essays.  A collection of her essays is forthcoming from Iris Books.  Her newest book, a novel called Wanting Radiance, will be released in April 2020 from University Press of Kentucky.

Karen has an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Virginia, an MA in Creative Writing from Hollins University, and a PhD from the University of Georgia, where she studied American Literature and Fiction Writing. Her work has received numerous awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She is frequently visiting writer and lecturer at a variety of programs and reading series.


To purchase copies of Karen Salyer McElmurray’s books, we encourage you to support our local independent bookstore, the Read Spotted Newt, by purchasing through their store on