Cathy Day, assistant professor of English, and acclaimed author, ended her five-year teaching career at the College with a final reading from her first novel, “The Circus in Winter,” at the Don Evans Black Box Theater last Thursday. She will relocate to the University of Pittsburg in the fall.
Day read “Circus People,” the last story in her novel – interconnected short tales. The tales center on the people who live in the circus town of Lima, Ind., where she actually grew up.
“The Circus in Winter” took Day 13 years to complete. The novel consists of both subtle and blatant autobiographical elements, causing the reading to be more personal for both her and the audience.
The story Day read featured the main character and narrator, Jenny Perdido, a young college professor who returns to her small hometown upon her grandfather’s death.
Day delighted the audience when conveying Jenny’s often humorous thoughts and memories. Among these was her confession that she often used her father’s occupation as an undertaker and her great-grandfather’s death, caused by an elephant, as party topics.
Perhaps the most striking similarity between the fictional Jenny and Day was a need to go home. Jenny was called by unforeseen sorrow and Day by the birth of her first nephew only hours before the reading.
“This has been a really big day for me,” Day said with laughter. But her laugher was short-lived. Sensing the sadness and questions from her audience, who wondered why she was transferring out of the College, Day said, “Let this reading answer your question as to why I am leaving.” For many, it did just that.
“I think that it’s important for people interested in literature to hear a writer read their work,” Lauren Miskin, sophomore English major, said. “It is a whole new sensation and gives the reader a whole new perspective when they hear the author and are able to get inside both the character and author’s head.”
Day received her master’s in creative writing from the University of Alabama. She received both the Tennessee Williams Scholarship and an artist fellowship from the Bush Foundation. Day was also one of three finalists in the Story Prize Competition held in New York City, and her book earned high reviews in “People.”
Day’s reading concluded the Visiting Writers Series (VWS). VWS is a student-run program that brings accomplished authors to the College to read their works and share their writing experiences. Mark Halliday, Dan Pope, Amy Benson, Jonathon Lethem and Jennifer Vanderbes were other authors the program featured this year.
Bethany Allinder, junior and vice president of the creative writing organization ‘ink,’ said it was fitting that Day’s reading was the final one. The reading had originally been scheduled in February but was postponed due to snow. “It’s more appropriate now that she’s leaving. It’s a nice way to end her teaching career here and also a nice way to end our series,” Allinder said.
“Cathy is someone I respect immensely for her dedication and I’m really proud of her,” Allinder said. “She has been there encouraging us and I don’t think I would be the same writer I am today without her influence.”