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Author brings appreciation for regional literature to Reading Series

Sept. 23, 2014 at 11:51 p.m.
Updated Sept. 24, 2014 at 12:38 a.m.

Ron Riekki

Ron Riekki

When Ron Riekki went on a Georgia radio show to promote his work, he had a lot to say but not much of it was about his own writing.

He spent the majority of the interview talking about other writers who impressed him.

Riekki, the next speaker in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Reading Series, will bring that same enthusiasm for good writing with him to Victoria. The award-winning author of "U.P." and "The Way North," as well as numerous poetry chapbooks, plays, nonfiction works and more, will speak at noon Thursday.

The series is free and open to the public.

Riekki said he has so much to talk about, it will be difficult to narrow it down. He's written novels, poetry and for TV - a bit of everything.

In addition, he has worked in the publishing world, done some marketing and recently co-wrote a commercial featuring actress Julia Roberts.

It's a huge background, but Riekki said his main focus will be the appreciation of state literature. He will follow that up with a bit about marketing.

"Ron Riekki is an amazing, talented writer who will bring a unique perspective to the American Book Review," said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. "We are honored to host him as part of the fall Reading Series."

As a native of the Michigan Upper Peninsula, Riekki has read a lot of literature from Michigan authors. One of his favorites is a Native American author from the early 1800s named Jane Johnston Schoolcraft. Her native Ojibwa name is Bamewawagezhikaquay. Her poems and other writings are powerful expressions created out of a lifetime of experience.

"I can't write like that," Riekki said. "I can never be a 1830s Native American woman. I was in the Library of Congress looking through old letters and poems and things she wrote, and it just transports you back to the 1830s."

It's that love and appreciation for one of the writers of his native state that he wants to share with Texas residents during his visit. In particular, he wants to encourage residents to explore and appreciate some of the great writers of Texas.

Jeffrey Sartain, managing editor of the American Book Review, looks forward to hearing Riekki's perspective on the importance of region-specific literature. It will be a good opportunity for students to think about what is unique to the South Texas region and how writers express that in their work.

"Riekki is very important as a regionalist writer, but also as a regionalist editor and promoter for the writings of Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula," Sartain said. "Because of that, he's very interested in the role writing has and how that relates to notions of place, space, time and context."

Riekki plans to share with the community some of his experience in publishing. In particular, there are two wildly different approaches writers take that can damage their chances of being successful. The first is to refuse to do any marketing whatsoever.

But on the flip side, it can also damage a person's chances of being successful if he markets too aggressively. When writers make every tweet or Facebook post about their new publication, inundating social media with constant repetition and promotion. In the same way, over promotion can drive potential readers away.

"When people ask how to become a writer, the answer is, 'just write,'" he said. "Start a Twitter account. Start a blog. Start working at a library or a bookstore. Get involved in a poetry group. You want to make your entire day involved around it. You can start making your career now. You don't have to wait until you get your Master of Fine Arts."


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