Rochester Writers is pleased to announce Bonnie Jo Campbell as the Lunchtime Keynote Speaker at the October 17, 2015 Rochester Writers’ Conference.

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the National Bestselling novel Once Upon a River (Norton, 2011), a river odyssey with an unforgettable sixteen-year-old heroine, which the New York Times Book Review calls “an excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom.” Her first novel, Q Road, delves into the lives of a rural community where development pressures are bringing unwelcome change in the character of the land.

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Campbell’s critically-acclaimed short fiction collection American Salvage (Wayne State University Press, 2009) was finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. The collection consists of fourteen lush and rowdy stories of folks who are struggling to make sense of the twenty-first century. Donna Seaman wrote, “Campbell’s busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness, and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by this gutsy book’s fierce compassion.” Campbell’s collection Women and Other Animals, won the AWP prize for short fiction, and details the lives of extraordinary females in rural and small town Michigan. Her story “The Tattoo” is included in the anthology Shadow Snow, a tribute to Ray Bradbury. Her story “The Smallest Man in the World” was awarded a Pushcart Prize and her story “The Inventor, 1972” was awarded the 2009 Eudora Welty Prize from Southern Review. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. Her newest book of stories, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, is due by Norton in Fall 2015.

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell grew up on a small Michigan farm with her mother and four siblings in a house her grandfather Herlihy built in the shape of an H. She learned to castrate small pigs, milk Jersey cows, and, when she was snowed in with chocolate, butter, and vanilla, to make remarkable chocolate candy. When she left home for the University of Chicago to study philosophy, her mother rented out her room. She has since hitchhiked across the US and Canada, scaled the Swiss Alps on her bicycle, and traveled with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus selling snow cones. As president of Goulash Tours Inc., she has organized and led adventure tours in Russia and the Baltics, and all the way south to Romania and Bulgaria.

For decades, Campbell has put together a personal newsletter—The Letter Parade—and she currently practices Koburyu kobudo weapons training. She has received her MA in mathematics and her MFA in writing from Western Michigan University. She lives with her husband and other animals outside Kalamazoo, and she teaches writing in the low residency program at Pacific University.

Bonnie Jo Campbell’s website

Ms. Campbell will speak directly following lunch. “Following Your Obsessions to the Story Within: What my mother taught me about writing.” Her new book, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, will be available and she will be signing copies.

The strong but flawed women of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters love and betray one another; their richly fraught relationships can act as anchors, lifelines, or deadly poison. Bonnie Jo Campbell’s working-class protagonists are at once vulnerable, wise, cruel, and funny, and they are always getting into or out of trouble. In “My Dog Roscoe,” a new bride becomes obsessed with the notion that her dead ex-boyfriend has returned to her in the form of a mongrel. In “Blood Work, 1999,” a phlebotomist’s desire to give away everything to the needy awakens her own sensuality. In “Home to Die,” an abused woman takes revenge on her bedridden husband. In these fearless and darkly funny tales about women and those they love, Campbell has created characters that will capture the hearts and minds of her readers.

Please Note: All events take place in the Oakland Center of Oakland University (2200 N Squirrel Road, Rochester, MI 48309). Use parking lot 2 (P2) and walk south (opposite the pond) for the shortest distance into the Oakland Center. In addition, use parking lot 1 off Squirrel Road (P1) and walk east toward the building. The Oakland Center is positioned between the lots and the Clock Tower. Look for Bright Yellow Signs. The Oakland Center is #13 on the printable version Campus Map.