The Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence Series

“When I was a student working toward my MFA in Writing, esteemed authors visited campus. Listening to and mingling with these individuals had a huge impact on my creative outlook. To gain inspiration in such a way is empowering. It gives me great pleasure to offer this opportunity to the UCSB community.”

-Diana Raab

Diana Raab is the award-winning author of nine books, including the 2014 poetry collection Lust. She recognizes the transformative power of writing for both the writer and the reader. Thanks to the generous support of Diana and Simon Raab, the UC Santa Barbara community has the opportunity to engage with some of today’s most dynamic authors. Through The Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence Series, creative writers, humanities scholars, journalists, and filmmakers explore the craft of writing with UCSB students in an intimate classroom setting. While in residence, the writers also deliver a public lecture or reading for the Santa Barbara community.

The Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence Series is based at the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC), one of the most active and innovative humanities centers in the country. The IHC organizes lectures, seminars and conferences and sponsors an annual series on an issue of social consequence. It also supports interdisciplinary research groups, hosts artist residencies and offers a variety of humanities courses, including writing workshops for UC student veterans. The Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence Series is copresented by the UCSB Writing Program. Serving more than 7,000 students each year, the Program’s courses focus on study of and practice with writing in academic, professional, and civic contexts. Recognized nationally for its innovative theoretical and practical approach, the Writing Program was recently awarded a Certificate of Excellence by the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

The 2020 Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence is MacArthur Genius and two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward. Ward has been called “the new Toni Morrison” (American Booksellers Association), and in 2017, she became the first woman and first person of color to win the National Book Award twice. Ward’s novels, primarily set on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, are deeply informed by the trauma of Hurricane Katrina. Salvage the Bones, winner of the 2011 National Book Award, is a troubling but ultimately empowering tale of familial bonds set amid the chaos of the hurricane. Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, deals with the loss of five young men in her life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows people who live in poverty. In 2016, Ward edited the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race. Her newest novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, won the 2017 National Book Award and was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. An associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University, Ward received the 2016 Strauss Living Award and a 2017 MacArthur Genius Grant, and was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018.

The 2018-2019 Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence was award-winning poet and educator Tyree Daye. Daye is a poet from Youngsville, North Carolina. He is the author of two poetry collections: River Hymns, 2017 APR/Honickman First Book Prize winner, and Cardinal, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press, 2020Daye is a 2017 Ruth Lilly Finalist and Cave Canem fellow. Daye’s work has been published in Prairie SchoonerThe New York Times, and Nashville Review. Daye won the 2019 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Langston Hughes Fellowship and is a 2019 Kate Tufts Finalist. Daye most recently was awarded a 2019 Whiting Award in Poetry.

The 2017-18 Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence was acclaimed naturalist and writer Helen Macdonald. She is the author of three books, including Shaler’s Fish (2001), Falcon (2006), and H is for Hawk (2014), winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction, the Costa Book Award, and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger. Her work includes poetry, naturalist non-fiction about birds, and memoir. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. In addition to her work as a writer, Macdonald has contributed to various film and television programs, most notably the 2017 documentary “H is for Hawk: The Next Chapter” for PBS Nature, the film “10 X Murmuration,” made in collaboration with filmmaker Sarah Wood for the 2015 Brighton Festival, and the BBC Four documentary series, “Birds Britannia.” She is also an Affiliated Research Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University.

The 2016-2017 Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence was internationally renowned poet Yusef Komunyakaa. Komunyakaa gave a public reading at the UCSB MultiCultural Center Theater on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. He is the author of seventeen books of poetry, including Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (1994), winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Komunyakaa’s other works include Warhorses (2008); Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy, Part 1 (2006); Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999 (2001); Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); and Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent collections of poetry include The Chameleon Couch (2011), Testimony: A Tribute to Charlie Parker (2013), and Emperor of Water Clocks (2015). He is the author of Gilgamesh: A Verse Play (2006), and, in collaboration with composer T.J. Anderson, the opera libretto Slip Knot . In 2011 Komunyakaa was awarded the Wallace Stevens Award. He is also the recipient of numerous other honors and awards, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Currently he serves as Distinguished Senior Poet in New York University’s graduate creative writing program.

The 2015-16 Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence was best-selling memoirist, poet and essayist Mary Karr. Karr gave a public reading at UCSB on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM in UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion. Karr’s most recent publication, The Art of Memoir, features excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experiences. The Art of Memoir breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir and expands our concepts of memory and identity, illuminating the cathartic power of reflecting on the past. Karr is the author of the memoirs The Liars’ ClubCherry and Lit, and the poetry collections Sinners WelcomeViper RumThe Devil’s Tour and Abacus.

The 2014-15 Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence was Booker International Prize winner Lydia Davis. Davis is a fiction writer, essayist and translator of literature. Her short story collections include Can’t and Won’t (2014) and Varieties of Disturbance (2007). Davis’ translations include Proust’s Swann’s Way and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Davis gave a public reading at UCSB on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

The inaugural Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence Series was novelist and memoirist Gary Shteyngart. Shteyngart gave a public reading on Thursday, April 10 at 8:00 PM at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. This event was copresented by UCSB Arts and Lectures. Shteyngart is the author of Little Failure: A Memoir, and the novels Super Sad True Love StoryAbsurdistan and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook. Shteyngart’s work has appeared in The New YorkerTravel + LeisureEsquireGQ and The New York Times Magazine.