The Minnesota State University, Mankato Good Thunder Reading Series has a new, impassioned director at its head. Chris McCormick, Associate Professor of creative writing at MNSU, and author of “Desert Boys”, an award-winning short story collection.
McCormick hails from California, where he attended Berkeley as a music major, before discovering a passion for writing. He then attended the University of Michigan to receive his MFA in Creative Writing, before starting his position at MNSU in 2017.
McCormick is directing Good Thunder with the help of third year MFA student Eimile Campbell.
Robyn Katona, another MNSU MFA student involved in Good Thunder, stated, “I’m quite excited that Chris is leading Good Thunder. He has a way of looking and understanding text that focuses on the heart of stories.”
Both McCormick and Campbell credit their joy surrounding working with Good Thunder to their own experiences during their undergraduate years.
Campbell was involved with the Iowa Writers Workshop while attending the University of Iowa, and McCormick sat in on author readings presented by the writing community.
McCormick commented on the joys of this experience with, “It was the greatest gift. I couldn’t believe that this writer, who is living and breathing and creating art, was spending time with a kid. I felt very lucky.”
The Good Thunder Reading Series is a group of events that brings in authors from all around the country to the University to share their writing tips and tricks with students through workshops, as well as read some of their own work later in the day.
“Something that we want to stress is the value that we provide for the community and for the school in general,” said Campbell. “Yes, the University allows us to do this work, but it’s not university specific, it is also for community members and really people all over southern Minnesota.”
This year is Good Thunder’s 40th season, and McCormick is looking to maintain the legacy he has been left with while also making room for new involvement and decisions.
“I want to see the most exciting voices in world literature show up to the community. The biggest thing is getting our dream writers to show up, which we’ve been really good at so far,” said McCormick.
The director wants to bring in writers who can also be viewed as artists. He stated how the ripple effects of community outreach, visibility, and representation, can be achieved by bringing these voices into the campus community.
Campbell spoke about keeping events accessible to all, and to do so the events will be either in-person or streamed over Zoom, but they are always looking for new options.
“We want it so that people who might have access to campus or not are still able to attend,” Campbell stated.
Katona will be one of the authors reading their stories this season and discussed the benefits of hosting the events in-person and online.
“With such an accessible format that live recording provides, I am looking forward to my family being able not to drive all the way down five hours to hear a twenty-minute reading,” Katona explained.
A goal that McCormick is stressing for this season is increasing community engagement.
“My goal is to promote it in such a way that everybody wants to come to this no matter who the writer is. I want this program to be the most diverse reading series in the region. I want a wide range of experience from writers who have written twenty books to the debut authors who you know are changing the game in some major way, making it unpredictable.”
This year, due to COVID-19 related issues, grant funding, and a new focus on getting writers the community wants, Good Thunder will be hosting four events as opposed to their usual six. There will be two sessions in the fall semester and two in the spring.
McCormick expressed his excitement for the first author, Jaquira Diaz, who will be in Mankato on Sept. 16 to read sections from her award-winning work.
“I want the experience to be viscerally engaging,” McCormick said. “I’m just excited about the possibilities.”