Poet Laureate Contributes to West Michigan's Literary Scene

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Writers block doesn't scare Linda Nemec Foster–she's always writing. As Grand Rapids' first poet laureate, from 2003 to 2005, her literary oven is always cooking, although she hesitates to talk about the projects that are still in the works.

"I'm superstitious. If I talk too much about a project when it's still in the hopper, I feel a little bit uncomfortable…I don't want to jinx it," she says.

There is plenty to talk about that Linda has already completed. As the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College, the poet, playwright, inspired literary artist works to deepen her own knowledge of the written word and excite others as well.

"I always tell people I have three children, a son, a daughter, and the Contemporary Art Series," Linda says.

The series launched in 1997, founded by Linda and her husband, Dr. Anthony Foster. She wanted students and faculty to be involved, and to this day, there is still a student representative on the board helping to decide which writers are invited to speak on campus. Presentations are held twice each semester. Since the inaugural lecture, more than sixty authors have come to speak.

"My husband and I never imagined it would blossom into what it has become," Linda says. "It really has been a labor of love for me, so I'm happy with how this series has grown and really become a permanent fixture in Grand Rapids and the West Michigan art scene."

The series hosts authors of all literary genres to appeal to a wide range of listeners. The goal, Linda says, is excellence. The series is free and open to the public, and each speaker gives two presentations, one at the lunch-time hour and another in the evening.

"It just really opens up the whole world of great literature to the community, and it's not just a once a year or certain genre, it's all facets of the writing life," she says.

Writing has been a mobile passion in Linda's life since she put pen to paper seriously in the '70s.

"I took my first creative writing class in poetry at Wayne (State University) when I lived in Detroit. My husband went to Wayne (Medical School), and I took classes from a poet. Her name was Faye Kicknosway," Linda remembers.

Linda's post-graduate classes supplemented her Bachelors Degree from Aquinas, and she later earned a Masters in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. There, Linda studied under the likes of Raymond Carver, Donald Hall, Lisel Mueller, Robert Hass, and Tobias Wolff.

"They had a remarkable faculty of writers that were just beginning their careers. Many went on to very famous careers. They were our teachers!  It was quite a remarkable program. Boy, did I cut my teeth," she says.

Linda has advice for other women who want to spread their artistic wings.

"Be generous and don't just hog your accolades for yourself. Really share and be gracious with your time and talents," she advises. "Work, work, work at writing, and do not be discouraged if you get a lot of rejection. That's part of the process of the job."

Click here to find out more about Linda's literary works.

Written by: Erika Fifelski was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, sewing, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses.

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