SPEARFISH | For the past month, Kent Meyers, Black Hills State University associate professor of humanities, has been spending several hours a day brushing up on his French language. His hours of studying will soon come in handy as he travels across the Atlantic to spend five weeks as a writer-in-residence in two French cities.
Meyers, who is currently on sabbatical from BHSU to work on his next novel, leaves Sunday, March 10 for a four-week writer-in-residence in Clermont-Ferrand, and then will spend his final week in the city of Grenoble.
“French people are really interested in literature. They value books and literature and have money for this type of thing,” Meyers said. As a writer-in-residence, Meyers will be provided with living space to write. While the majority of his time will be spent working on his next novel, he will also meet with French school, civic and community groups a few times a week to discuss his work as well as American literature in general. He will also participate in spring book festivals in each of the cities.
“I am hoping this turns into a real retreat,” Meyers said of dedicating his time to finishing his next novel which is due to the publisher in September. While in France, Meyers also hopes to start research for another book involving Augustin-Jean Fresnel , a French engineer and physicist who is best known for inventing the Fresnel lens first used in lighthouses.
Meyers’ connection with France’s literary world came after his novel “Twisted Tree” was translated into French and published by a French publisher. Last fall, Meyers was invited to Vincennes, France, to present the recently translated novel at the major literary expo Festival America. Meyers was one of only 70 authors from North and South America to receive an invitation to the four-day celebration of American writing.
While he was there, his French publicist, Marie-Anne Lacoma, took him on a book tour which included the city of Clermont-Ferrand which hosts a writer-in-residence every year. His publicist also arranged for the writer-in-residence opportunity in the city of Grenoble.
Meyers said he is excited to return to France and continue the literary discussions . Many of the discussions Meyers had in France regarding his novel “Twisted Tree” mirrored those that he had in the United States. “I am amazed at the clarity of the translation,” he said. “I found the French people were very astute and asked really probing questions about the book. I’m curious to experience that again.”
While Meyers will have a translator during his stay, he hopes to communicate as much as possible in French.
“It’s been great fun – to study a foreign language on my own,” Meyers said. “I’ve been really kind of amazed how much you can pick up.”
Meyers has published three novels, a collection of essays and a collection of short stories. His most recent novel, “Twisted Tree,” received rave reviews from sources such as the Washington Post, People, and the New York Times.
Meyers’ other novels include “The River Warren” and “The Work of Wolves. “ The “River Warren” was a finalist in Barnes and Noble’s Discover Series Awards and was a New York Times Notable Book/ Accolades for the “Work of the Wolves” include: the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Regional Book Award in the fiction category, finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, and a Christian Science Monitor Noteworthy Book of the Year.
Meyers received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota-Morris and his master’s degree in English from Washington State University. He has been a member of the BHSU faculty since 1980.