The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU hosts the ASU Book Group once a month, which is open to students, faculty and community members.
Judith Smith, a retired ASU media relations officer, began and currently runs the book group meetings. She said her motive to start the book group was in part because of her professional experience.
Smith said she wanted the community to have access to authors who are ASU faculty, staff, alumni and from the Valley.
“As a media relations officer and as a writer for Insight, I got to talk to and interview lots of faculty and staff who had written books,” Smith said. “And I thought it would be wonderful if the whole community, ASU community, could have the same access.”
There are opportunities in the talks to meet the author and ask them questions every month, she said.
Cynthia Hogue visited the book group on Wednesday after writing a collection of poems she titled "In June the Labyrinth." As a current ASU English professor, she said being able to talk to the writer or poet offers the reader a chance to better understand the literary work.
“It contextualizes the work,” Hogue said. “It helps to access some of the layering of meaning that is in poetry.”
She also said that she tasks her students with going out into the community and getting involved in the works they read.
“I’m often focused on my students doing outreach, getting them out there to appreciate something in the community or try to bring the community into their readings, which Piper House also does,” Hogue said.
Jacob Friedman, the marketing and outreach specialist for the Virginia G. Piper Center said that his experience with book clubs has allowed him and others the opportunity to experience literature in a different way.
“It’s really, sort of, a really great partnership for us,” said Friedman. “It allows us to really fulfill our mission and allows people to sort of experience creative writing or literature outside of, say, reading at home or even going to a reading.”
Friedman said that book clubs and groups require more investment from their participants because they must take the time to read the book and then go to the event. But Friedman said that investment pays off.
“There’s real value to being able to wander into or stumble into something that you don’t have to be a member of, say the specific literary community, or follow a lot of creative writers in order to learn something or appreciate something,” Friedman said.
Literature causes the reader to make connections and think deeper, Hogue said.
“Literature is supposed to touch, not simply interest, but touch in a way that might deeply change someone or get them to think about something that they wouldn’t otherwise be thinking about,” said Hogue.
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