By RILEY SPELLMAN
Ellen Akins read her hilarious and inspired works, “A Rhythm Does Take Hold” and “A Modest Appetite,” on October 6th as a guest author of the SLU Writers Series. No one was more pleased about this than her old professor, SLU’s very own Dr. Peter Bailey.
Akins was one of the first students of Dr. Bailey’s teaching career at Johns Hopkins University, where she graduated from the Writing Seminars program. Akins and Dr. Bailey have maintained a great friendship since her collegiate days, as Dr. Bailey has continued to be a source of encouragement and advice for the author. Akins shared that it was Dr. Bailey who had finally taught her to focus on one story at a time rather than six or more.
“Ellen Akins,” noted Dr. Bailey in his welcoming remarks at the reading, “isn’t a household name.” He suggests that this is because her literature is “densely literal”—inspired by great writers such as William Faulkner and James Joyce—and thus not for everyone.
This lack of possessing a household name certainly does not mean Akins is unsuccessful. In 1989, Akins won the Whiting Writer’s Award, and in the spring of 1993, she won the Literature Award for her fiction writing from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Furthermore, she has earned grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Ingram Merrill Foundation.
Akins is the author of the following novels: Home Movie (1988), Little Woman (1990), Public Life (1993), and Hometown Brew (1998). She has a short story collection as well, entitled World Like a Knife (1991). Akins has published short stories and reviews in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Southern Review, and The Georgia Review. She was also published in The Missouri Review and The Southwest Review, both of which awarded her their biennial short fiction awards. Currently, Atkins works on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Those who treated themselves to the brilliance and humor of Akins’s work, more specifically her reading of that work, certainly seemed to enjoy the entertainment and laughs embodied in Akins’ tales. If you didn’t go (or couldn’t find a seat in the packed room of Sykes Formal Lounge), hit up Brewer Bookstore or ODY, and settle in for a smart read.