03/21/2012 04:04 pm ET

'Detroit Fiction Writers Speak' Brings Together Local Authors Bill Harris, Dorene O'Brien, Peter Markus

College students studying the works of Detroit writers Bill Harris, Dorene O'Brien and Peter Markus will soon have a chance to meet them in person.

The three authors are participating in Thursday's installment of a local speaker series sponsored by the University of Michigan's Semester in Detroit, a program that allows students to live and study in the city while focusing on community engagement. The event, "Detroit Fiction Writers Speak," is open to the public and will feature readings and a panel discussion.

Semester in Detroit's Associate Director Craig Regester said the night's literary emphasis will be a small shift for the series, which usually focuses on political and economic affairs.

"It's bit of departure -- an intentional one," he said. "We're not just trying to feature discussion about all the challenges of Detroit but the riches as well, including the richness of its writers."

Lolita Hernandez, a Creative Writing lecturer at U-M and retired UAW activist, said the event grew out of the class "Detroit: Fiction or Real." Hernandez, the panel's moderator, ranks Harris, O'Brien and Markus among Detroit's "finest" contemporary writers.

Bill Harris has had an eventful career as a playwright, poet and (now retired) Wayne State University English professor. He has produced over 100 plays, including "Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone," which starred Denzel Washington. In 2011 Harris won the Kresge Foundation's Eminent Artist Award. His latest book, "Birth of a Notion; Or, the Half Ain't Never Been Told," is a critical look at minstrelsy, popular culture and the African-American identity.

Dorene O'Brien has over 20 years experience writing fiction. Her expertise with the craft has earned her the Red Rock Review's Mark Twain Award and the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award and Bridport Prize. O'Brien, who teaches creative writing at WSU and the College for Creative Studies, has also received a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Peter Markus is known for writing very short stories. He has written the novel "Bob, or Man on Boat" and several books of short fiction that include "The Singing Fish" and "We Make Mud." Markus teaches creative writing in the Detroit Public Schools with the InsideOut Literary Arts Organization and at Eastern Michigan University.

"Detroit Fiction Writers Speak" will take place Thursday, March 22 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the South Studio of the U-M Detroit Center, 3663 Woodward Ave, Suite 150. Admission, light refreshments and free parking will be available to all attendees. For more information, visit

Flickr photo by Twylo.