Award-winning Author Ruocco reads to the CMU community

Ruocco was part of the Meijer Visiting Writer Series, made possible by a grant from the Meijer Foundation.

Author Joanna Ruocco reads her work on Oct. 4 in the Charles V. Park Library Baber Room.

Joanna Ruocco, an award-winning author and assistant professor at Wake Forest University, does much more than write “books.” 

With seats filling up an hour in advance, Ruocco started reading at 8 p.m. Thursday night in the Charles V. Park Library Baber Room. 

Her visit was part of the Meijer Visiting Writer Series. Her comedic style captivated the audience who listened and laughed alongside each other. 

The series has been dedicated to bringing diverse writers to the Mount Pleasant community for 20 years. Funding for the series comes from a grant allocated by the Meijer Foundation.

Ruocco earned her MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and her PhD from the University of Denver. A winner of the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Fiction Prize, she claims her style is a mixture of stream of consciousness, repetition and inspiration from her surroundings. 

Coming from South Carolina, Ruocco said she was unprepared for how cold Michigan could be. She joked about placing both hot tea and water on the podium as a way to mitigate the cold.

Ruocco read aloud pages from “Dan,” a fiction piece that resembles a crooked image of what the American dream looks like. She said her inspiration came from a painting she found in her friend’s uncle’s home.

Other works she read included a short piece written for a journal called “The Face of Things,” and one that was commissioned for a museum called “Acid Park.” Both pieces highlight Ruocco’s imagination, humor and strong vocabulary.

Audience members laughed when she described a papaya plant named Marcel that appeared in her dream, and how her future boyfriend could be “Jesus Christ” during her reading of "Acid Park." 

Mount Pleasant Junior Jacqueline Henderson said she chose to attend Ruocco’s reading because she's inspired by Ruocco's success as a female writer.

“Out of all the events my professor showed us, this one seemed the most interesting to me. I really liked that it was a woman writer,” Henderson said. “Getting to hear from someone like Joanna, who has been doing fiction for a while, helps me gain an edge in understanding her process.”

English language and literature faculty member Matthew Roberson introduced Ruocco with admiration. 

“She is very simply one of the most interesting writers that work in the world today,” Roberson said. “She’s as wonderful a person as a writer - just a smart, funny, creative, cheerful human being.” 

After Ruocco was done reading, many audience members participated in the Q&A session that took place. Light refreshments were free for those in attendance.

Various works of Ruocco's were stationed outside of the Baber Room for purchase. The CMU Bookstore offered "Another Governess/The Least Blacksmith," "The Week" and "Field Glass" at a table outside of the room.

The event was sponsored by the department of English language and literature and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.