welcome to word power

Good evening, and welcome to Word Power: How Words Define and Confine Our Reality.

We just had the pleasure of experiencing James Brown, MD, on his Arborlune.

My name is James Schirmer and I'm currently chair of the English department at the University of Michigan-Flint.

It is my honor and privilege to not only welcome you to this event but to also recognize my incredible colleague Dr. Erica Britt as tonight's moderator.

Before turning everything over to her, I have a couple things to share.

First, this is a public event streaming through both Zoom and Facebook Live.

Those interested in Q&A participation should be viewing Word Power through Zoom, but we'll keep an eye out for any comments or questions on Facebook.

Second, you should feel free to click on the "Live Transcript" button in Zoom to follow along a bit easier.

Third, words matter. With apologies to the late, great Prince, words, like albums and black lives, still matter.

The words we choose to use, the reading and writing and speaking of them, the tapping and typing, the scribbling and swiping, constrain and frame, praise and blame, construct and destruct who we and others are.

Of course, that understanding is why we are here.

So, again, I am honored and privileged to be here, to listen in on what lies ahead and behind and now.

And I am glad you are here, that we are here, amid pandemic and police brutality, despite uncertainty and strife.

We are here and we are ready to hear. Dr. Britt, let's begin...

books recently read - mar/apr 2020

The World-Ending Fire by Wendell Berry

Incidental Inventions by Elena Ferrante 

Dictionary of the Undoing by John Freeman

That Wild Country by Mark Kenyon

Inland by Tea Obrecht

Weather by Jenny Offill

Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener

books recently read - jan/feb 2020

Walking by Erling Kagge

Waking Up White by Debby Irving

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Walking Art Practice by Ernesto Pujol

Little Weirds by Jenny Slate 

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson 

books recently read - nov/dec 2019

Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

A Walking Life by Antonia Malchik

White Flights by Jess Row 

Trace by Lauret Savoy 

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine 

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher 

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson 

books recently read - sep/oct 2019

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Need by Helen Phillips

The Third Horseman by William Rosen 

The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing

opening remarks at the Flint Festival of Writers

Good morning. My name is James Schirmer and I'm currently chair of the English department at the University of Michigan-Flint and, on behalf of my fellow event planners and partners, it is my honor and pleasure to welcome you to the Flint Festival of Writers

It's great to see everyone this morning. I'd like to think that you're here for many of the same reasons that brought my colleagues/companions/comrades Sarah Carson, Bob Campbell, Katie Curnow, Connor Coyne, Jan Worth Nelson, and I together: the belief, the knowledge that Flint is a place rich with stories, that the writing done in and about Flint is uniquely important and deserving of attention and support. Everything about today's festival is intended to acknowledge the power and value in reading, in writing, in sharing words with others, sharing our perspective, sharing our stories, in sharing your story. 

So, we can and do look forward to learning from LaTashia, Jonah, Ben, and Bob in this morning's panel, to working with Jonah and Liz and Kelsey this afternoon, to hearing from Flint's young writers, to networking and perusing at the book fair, and to listening to LaTashia in the early evening. And yes, there is an after-party open mic celebration at Totem tonight, but, given what I think unites us in coming here, my hope is for the entire day to be a celebration. 

Here's to a beautiful, inspiring, restorative day in the city of Flint. 

books recently read - jul/aug 2019

Nature's Mutiny by Philipp Blom

Generous Thinking by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell 

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires 

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells 


books recently read - may/jun 2019

Milkman by Anna Burns

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Time Travel by James Gleick

Witness Tree by Lynda V. Mapes

This Is The Way The World Ends by Jeff Nesbit

The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward 

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben