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“Lectores” Blends Ybor City History with Creative Writing Giants

Published: January 03, 2012
The “Lectores” public reading series begins Friday.
The “Lectores” public reading series begins Friday.

In their heyday, Ybor City’s cigar rollers would sit at their stations rolling one tobacco leaf after another while from a podium, they were read newspapers, novels and even poetry aloud. The cigar factory readers, or lectores in Spanish, would educate and entertain the cigar rollers, making them more productive and often fanned the revolutionary flames of the rollers, many of whom were Cuban, Spanish and Italian.

In a nod to the history of these cigar readers, the “Lectores” public reading series will host prominent authors Michael Connelly, Amy Hill Hearth, George Saunders and many others in its inaugural season. The series includes seven events and coincides with the first class of the new MFA in Creative Writing program at UT, a low-residency program that biannually brings writers from around the world to Tampa.

“It connects our MFA program to the history of the Tampa community and is a great example of the impact words on a page can have,” said Jeff Parker, director of the program, which he considers a master class for writers. “We’re developing advanced writing and looking into the dark heart of the process of completing a book.”

Of the 20 writers in the first class, Parker said he was impressed with their professional backgrounds. One of the participants runs a literacy program for youth in Baltimore; one is a poet working in Moscow because of her husband’s job; one lives in Beirut and used to be an editor at Rolling Stone and the Village Voice. All found the flexibility of the UT program appealing, Parker said.

The official opening reading of the new program will occur on Saturday, Jan. 7, with local bestselling author Michael Connelly and UT alumna author Amy Hill Hearth giving readings at 7:30 p.m. in the 9th floor of the Vaughn Center on the UT campus.

The events are free and open to the public. All begin at 7:30 p.m. in their respective venues.

  • Friday, Jan. 6 — Publishing in Peril: A discussion with Amy Hill Hearth (author of The Delaney Sisters), Carla Jimenez (owner of Inkwood Books) and Enid Shomer (author and University of Arkansas Press poetry editor). The discussion will be moderated by Colette Bancroft, books editor of the St. Petersburg Times. Held in the Jaeb Theater in the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Saturday, Jan. 7 — Official Opening Reading of The University of Tampa MFA in Creative Writing: Readings by authors Michael Connelly and Amy Hill Hearth. Held on the UT campus, Vaughn Center, 9th Floor.
  • Sunday, Jan. 8 — Reading: Jeff Parker and Creative Loafing contest winner. Held in the Creative Loafing offices, 1911 N. 13th St., Suite W200, Tampa.
  • Monday, Jan. 9 — Reading: Readings by UT professors Erica Dawson and Donald Morrill, and St. Petersburg poet laureate Peter Meinke. Held on the UT campus, Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 10 — Reading: Essayist and MacArthur “Genius” George Saunders, in conversation with Creative Loafing editor David Warner. Held on the UT campus, Vaughn Center, 9th Floor.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 11 — Reading: Novelists Josip Novakovich and Terese Svoboda. Held on the UT Campus, Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values.
  • Thursday, Jan. 12 — Truth/truth: A joint event of the UT MFA and The Poynter Institute that will feature a discussion with Roy Peter Clark, writer and vice president and senior scholar of The Poynter Institute, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas French and Peter Meinke. Moderated by John Capouya, UT professor and author of Gorgeous George. Held on the UT campus, Vaughn Center, Reeves Theater. 

The Lectores series is sponsored by The University of Tampa College of Arts and Letters, The Poynter Institute, Creative Loafing, Tampa Bay Times, Inkwood Books and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

For more information on the MFA in Creative Writing, go to