Lectures & Speaking Topics

The Story
As a graduate and teacher of MFA programs, Mathis finds that discussions about writing often neglect the most important element of fiction: storytelling. This talk, tailored to the needs and skill level of the audience, is dedicated entirely to the craft of literary storytelling. There are no rules in writing, but we have a pretty good set of tools at our disposal. Mathis will touch on her own process, and then move the discussion outward to talk about various matters of craft and technique—from point of view to dialogue to voice—with a concentration on character and character development.
Singing the Unsung
If history is written by the victors, or at least those with the loudest voices, what happens to the stories of the regular folk? In this talk, Mathis will discuss the importance of telling the stories of frequently unsung people: people of color, poor people, women of the lower and working classes. In short, the literature of the ordinary person. The talk will explore literature produced by or about these people, as well as draw on Mathis’ own work and background.
Why We Read
There's a lovely but slightly antiquated term for essays about books that used to appear in newspapers and periodicals around the country: literary appreciation. The phrase calls to mind teacups and doilies, but those essays asked real questions about what we read, and why we read it. What is it about a Eudora Welty story that grips us? Why is James Baldwin's Go Tell It On the Mountain important? How is Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom relevant? The best books reveal some aspect of what it is to be human, this talk will focus on how certain works do just that.
The American Migrant
We are a nation of migrants. The difficulties of displacement and the narratives of reinvention and nation-building are quintessential American struggles and triumphs. The Great Migration, a migratory movement of 6 million blacks from the south to the north, profoundly changed the United States geographically, culturally, and artistically. This talk is about the ways in which migration is explored in Mathis’s own work and in the literature of the Great Migration and other migratory movements. The focus is on character and the lives of individuals as they create and are influenced by larger historical and social factors.
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