The 2017-2018 Visiting Writers Series opens with a reading by novelist Alena Graedon on Tuesday, September 19 at 4:30 p.m. in the Great Hall Auditorium on Monmouth University’s campus.

Alena Graedon’s first novel, The Word Exchange, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and Paperback Row pick, and selected as a best novel of 2014 by Kirkus. It has been translated into eight languages. She has twice been a MacDowell Colony Fellow (2012 and 2017), and has also received fellowships at Yaddo, Ucross, The Virginia Center for the Arts, The Vermont Studio Center, and Jentel. Her nonfiction has been published in The New York Times Book Review,, The Believer magazine, Guernica, and Post Road among other publications. A native of Durham, NC, Graedon is a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University’s MFA program, and she is an Assistant Professor of English at Monmouth University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently at work on her second novel and a collection of short stories.

On her first novel, The New York Times writes, “Clever, breathless and sportively Hegelian in theme (the book has three sections — Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis), The Word Exchange combines the jaunty energy of youngish adult fiction (boyfriend trouble, parent conflicts, peer pressure and post-collegiate jitters) with the spine-tingling chill of the science-fiction conspiracy genre… a nervy, nerdy dystopic thriller set in New York City in the very near future, the risk of “suddenly becoming stupid” is not notional, it’s actual. A highly contagious, sometimes fatal virus called “word flu” has leapt from computers to their users, corrupting not only written language but also spoken words with gibberish and scaring the “pask” out of infected netizens.”

When asked about her writing process, Alena offered these words, “The best advice I got about writing came from a former professor, the wonderful fiction writer Sam Lipsyte. He said: ‘Focus on the words in front of you. It’s a deceptively simple instruction, but it’s how I did a thing that seemed a little impossible to me, fraught and full of hubris: write a first novel.’ I took it to mean: don’t worry about the giant schism between the book you hoped to write and the one you’re actually writing, forget about what’s happening in the “literary world”—don’t try to fit into or deviate from trends, don’t think about who may read the book one day, or if anyone will. Just write several sentences that you don’t hate. Write some more sentences. And then, when you have what feels like enough sentences, go back over them, and revise them until they’re doing more or less what you want them to be doing, with as much vitality and strangeness–and generosity for your characters–as you can. While doing this, try to laugh at yourself as often as possible, while simultaneously taking yourself completely seriously.”

Monmouth University’s Center for the Arts Visiting Writers Series brings the most celebrated poets and authors from around the world (Andrei Codrescu, Colm Tóibín, Adam Zagajewski,) and our own back yard (Long Branch’s own US Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky) to the beautiful auditorium of the University’s centerpiece, the historic Great Hall. For additional information, please contact the director of the Visiting Writers Series, Michael Thomas at 732-263-5635 or visit online at