Celebrated novelist to be awarded at BBC

Image by Tulane Public Relations, courtesy of Creative Commons

Nicole Montero/Asst. News Director

The University’s creative writing program, in accordance with the Writers on the Bay reading series, will be honoring published writer, Michael Ondaatje, with the 2015 Lawrence A. Sanders Award in Fiction.

The program presents the award to one author each spring and, this year, Ondaatje, novelist and poet, will be its sixth recipient.

According to Julie Wade, assistant professor in the Department of English and Writers on the Bay coordinator, Ondaatje embodies the vision of the creative writing program.

“He is prolific; he works in multiple genres; and he contributes to contemporary literature in many ways, including his work as a writer, editor, and critic,” said Wade, “He brings with him to FIU forty years of rich experience and earned insight to share with our audience.”

Ondaatje has published 13 books of poetry and six novels. He is also a memoirist and was the editor of the Canadian literary journal, Brick, for more than 20 years.

“Ondaatje’s multi-genre expertise reflects the spirit of literary exploration that the creative writing program at FIU celebrates and encourages in our own faculty, students and alums,” Wade said, “We feel so lucky that he will join us for a reading from his work.”

Other than the reading, there will be an on-stage interview with a faculty member, as well as a Q&A session for guests.

Among his honors, Ondaatje was made an officer of the Order of Canada and, in 2005, he was presented with Sri Lanka Ratna by the former Sri Lankan president, the highest honor given by the government for foreign nationals.

“He has something specific to offer for readers and writers of any genre,” Wade said, “His contribution to global literature is notable, as a Sri Lankan and Canadian who is read widely around the world.”

Evelyn Rodriguez, junior education major, thinks that his talk will help develop her writing.

“I love to write fiction stories,” said Rodriguez, “Right now, I’m going through a kind of writer’s block and I’m stuck. I’m really hoping that by attending this reading and asking him some questions about character and story development I can move forward with my stories.”

Rodrigo Hernandez, senior English major, thinks that Ondaatje’s presence at the university will help all aspiring writers.

“I think that he very much deserves the Sanders award,” Hernandez said, “This writer is phenomenal and, honestly, he’s one the biggest influences for me. His novel ‘Coming through Slaughter’ was the best book I’ve ever read. I was captivated the whole time and, for me, that’s amazing.”

Hernandez is glad that the University takes part in the Writers on the Bay reading series.

“Basically, this is why I love FIU,” he said. “Look at all the opportunities it provides. I’m going to get to sit in the same room and talk and ask questions to Michael Ondaatje, a person who I’ve looked up to for a long time. We should all thank FIU for everything it does for its students.”

The event will be held on March 26 in the BBC Wolfe University Center, Room 221.

It will start at 8 p.m, and it’s free and open to the public.

“Writers on the Bay makes possible not just readings but genuine encounters between writers and readers,” said Wade, “When we hear literature read aloud and have the opportunity to talk about it with others, including the writer, we grow as a community – one of the greatest pleasures and values of university life. So, people should take advantage of that.”


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