BUFFALO, N.Y. – Get ready to meet Shelley Jackson, the genre-defying author who leaps skillfully through mediums ranging from Instagram based fiction, to print-based novels, to a story published in single-word tattoos on the skin of 2,000 volunteers.
Jackson will discuss her latest work, the illuminated novel “Riddance: Or: The Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children,” at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.
Her visit is part of the University at Buffalo English department’s Exhibit X Fiction Series, which for more than 10 years has been showcasing the work of innovative writers through classroom instruction, conversation and public lectures.
“Each of Shelley’s projects takes a new form, and she excels in all of them, whether she’s re-envisioning the Frankenstein myth in her hypertext Patchwork Girl or in her new book Riddance with its extensive graphic design component using archival photos of medical equipment once used to cure stuttering,” says Christina Milletti, associate professor of English at UB and one of the series’ coordinators.
Exhibit X is a campus and community partnership that allows students to encounter creative new works by groundbreaking authors while introducing them to the vibrant arts and cultural fabric of downtown Buffalo.
Prior to each author’s visit, Milletti says instructors teach their new work in the department’s fiction and literature courses. She also hosts a salon in her home for students and the visiting author followed by the free reading and Q&A session which is open to the public.
The gradually unfolding event from its prelude to final presentation in many ways mirrors the writer’s creative process.
“We tend to think of ‘the book’ as a packaged finished project, but that’s just part of what we’re showcasing at Exhibit X,” says Milletti. “By inviting authors to our series, we not only get to read and hear about their work, but to have a broad conversation about the current cultural situation we all find ourselves in—the issues and ideas that inspire their work—which they’re responding to in their fiction.”
Milletti also mentions what has emerged as the “Exhibit X bump” where those invited authors who haven’t already won a major literary prize, seem to receive such an honor within a year of their UB visit.
“And Shelley is due,” she says.
Jackson was previously at UB and Hallwalls as the WBFO Visiting Professor in the Arts for 2015-16. At the time, she was working on the book she’ll discuss during her upcoming visit.
“Seeing an author like Jackson in person is an experience different than strictly reading her work on the page,” says Milletti. “With this return visit, we’ll get to hear the back story of how her novel was written and designed, which is sure to be an enriching experience for new readers as well as long term fans of her fiction.”