‘All My Lonely Ones’ opens Spotlight on the Arts

Dr. Wendell Mayo, prize-winning author and Fulbright Scholar, has lived two lives, the first as a chemical engineer, the second as a writer and BGSU faculty member.

Mayo, a professor of English and creative writing, is the featured speaker for the University’s Spotlight on the Arts event Sept. 1. His presentation, titled “All My Lonely Ones: The Short Fiction of Wendell Mayo,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Thomas B. and Kathleen M. Donnell Theatre at The Wolfe Center for the Arts. The event is also part of the Creative Writing Program’s fall reading series.

Mayo started as a chemical engineer at the behest of his father, a nuclear physicist. His mother continually encouraged him to “dream big” and use his imagination.

“My mother, the whole time, encouraged anything that had to do with creativity in me. She would read all my writing, tell me, ‘Don’t listen to your father, someday you’ll be an artist.’ She thought I’d be a painter, or a lawyer.”

Mayo started writing seriously around 1982 while working for Standard Oil, now BP, in San Francisco. He enrolled in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts program, continuing to work for BP at the Lima, Ohio, refinery until he earned his M.F.A. in 1988. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in writing from Ohio University, took a job teaching at Indiana Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and then relocated to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He came to BGSU in 1996.

Though he wrote poetry throughout junior and senior high school, he now focuses solely on fiction.

“Distances,” the first story he had published in the Houston magazine Touchstone, ruminates on distance and alienation, things he felt living so far from home and siblings. The second story, “Apple Orchard,” published in Wind Magazine, was about “the truth in the moment.”

“For me, it seemed like I understood life, or I understood how I make sense of my world, in terms of important moments instead of in a longer narrative arc. For me, short stories are about these important moments that have larger significance to them. So in that sense I’m not a traditional novelist.”

Though Mayo had published numerous stories before arriving at BGSU, “it took me eight years to bring out my first book.” He explained that a good chunk of his time is spent figuring out which short stories belong together in a collection.

His pains were well-rewarded: his story collection, “Centaur of the North,” garnered the Premio Aztlán Prize and “The Cucumber King of Kedainiai” won the 2012 Subito Press Award for Innovative Fiction. Mayo also received the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Writing in 2000 and a 2001 Fulbright, which he used to travel to Lithuania for the second time after working as a teacher there in the early 1990s.

Mayo is constantly writing. “Books are always in progress,” he said.

He frequently presents at writing conferences, public libraries and the Toledo School for the Arts. He occasionally organizes workshops in the community or at BGSU’s Winter Wheat Festival of Writing.

Joining Mayo to assist with some of the readings during the Spotlight on the Arts will be Jackie Cummins and F. Daniel Rzicznek. Cummins is a graduate of BGSU’s M.F.A. program. Her fiction has been a finalist for the Sycamore Review Wabash Prize and published in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. She also has a blog at headstrongmama.wordpress.com. Rzicznek is the author of two poetry collections and four chapbooks. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Kenyon Review and The Adroit Journal.  He teaches in BGSU’s General Studies Writing program.

Spotlight on the Arts highlights the various units that comprise the University Arts at BGSU, including creative writing, art, theatre and film, dance and musical arts.

Guests with disabilities are requested to indicate if they need special services, assistance or appropriate modifications to fully participate in this event by contacting Disability Services at dss@bgsu.edu or 419-372-8495 prior to the event.