Driving home from her father's funeral, some years ago, Maxine Hong Kingston found her neighborhood and home aflame, including the notes for the novel she was working on. In The Fifth Book of Peace, she attempts to recreate the novel and blends fiction and memoir, a technique she used to great effect in her 1975 work The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, famous among liberal-arts types for its explorations of gender roles and Asian ethnicity. As part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series, she gives a free talk at David Lawrence Hall, in Oakland, on Sept. 29.
It's back! After a one-year hiatus, The Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference returns with the theme "Writing About Science and Technology," featuring workshops, discussions and even good ol' Rick Sebak to flesh out the genre that calls Pittsburgh home. This year's theme reflects the city's history and future as a home for innovation. Oct. 2-4 (www.creativenonfiction.org).
Writers from the Middle East, the Caribbean and the Americas come together for Chatham University's Bridges to Other Worlds: An International Literary Festival, Oct. 4 and 5, on Chatham's campus. Eleven writers shed light on how creativity is a function of geography -- both mental and physical. Poet Laureate Robert Haas is the keynote speaker. Attendees can apply for small-group workshops with the panelists. Longtime journalist and author Derek Green leads a session on fiction; Haas, poetry; Naomi Shihab Nye covers children's writing; Jamaican poet and multi-media artist Claudia Rankine takes creative nonfiction; and Alexis Levitin explores literary translation. The weekend is free for Chatham students, faculty, staff and alumni, and $30 for others (www.chatham.edu/bridges).
Haitian-born Edwidge Danticat moved to Brooklyn at 12, 10 years after her father and eight years after her mother. Her most recent work, the National Book Critic's Circle-winning Brother, I'm Dying, is the account of her family, both her father's new life and the life of the uncle who raised her and her brother in Haiti. Danticat is often mentioned in the same breath as her friend and contemporary, Dominican-born Junot Diaz. She appears Oct. 6, as part of the Drue Heinz Lectures, at Oakland's Carnegie Music Hall (www.pittsburghlectures.org).
Fulbright scholar, poet and Iraqi immigrant Zaineb Alani's work speaks to the desire for peace in Iraq, and of nostalgia and longing for those left behind. She is the featured speaker at the Thomas Merton Center's Conference and Action to End the U.S. War in Iraq, taking place Oct. 11 -- the sixth anniversary of Congress's vote to authorize the president to go to war. Beginning at 9 a.m., in East Liberty's Shadow Lounge, the program is timed so attendees can go directly to the weekly Black Voices for Peace vigil just a block up Highland Avenue, and then return for an afternoon of anti-war organizing. (Call 412-361-3022 or see www.pittsburghendthewar.org).
Scratch your head, laugh and realize you're in the company of a wildly educated and painfully clever word-nerd when you go see Pulitzer-winning Paul Muldoon. The Irishman, considered by some to be the greatest living poet, delights in complex poetic forms like ghazals and villanelles, and tosses off obscure and dazzling rhymes with the ease of Kanye West rhyming "baby" with "baby" -- except, you know, smart and satisfying. He's also a dilettante guitar hero in the band Rackett, and rocks some absurdly cool hair. He reads Oct. 15, in the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall in Oakland, kicking off the International Poetry Forum's season (www.thepoetryforum.org or 412-621-9893).
Walter Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins detective novels (like Devil in a Blue Dress). But his short fiction has appeared everywhere from The New Yorker to USA Weekend, and his fired-up political commentary turns up in The Nation. The Trust Presents series hosts Mosley in a rare Pittsburgh appearance, Oct. 16, at the Byham Theater (412-456-6666).
- Wild Irish: Paul Muldoon visits the International Poetry Forum.