Award-winning authors Lillian Laitman ’93 and David James Poissant, associate professor of English, kickstarted UCF’S new Alumni Book Club with a series of virtual interviews. Each semester, the book club, established last September, celebrates UCF authors by reading and discussing books written by alumni.
Poissant, award-winning author of the novel Lake Life, walked viewers through his inspiration, writing process and plans for future works. A self-proclaimed voracious reader, Poissant revealed he once despised reading and only enjoyed it once his mother introduced him to comic books. This unexpected passion led him to pursue degrees in English and creative writing, write his own works and educate the next generation of readers and writers.
During his interview, Poissant discussed how his own experiences influenced Lake Life, which follows the story of a family at a lake house after witnessing a tragedy. Drawing inspiration from his own lake house visits and experience witnessing an almost-tragedy, Poissant tackles difficult topics that many authors hesitate to address. This stems from Poissant’s belief that he cannot truly understand his own characters — or other people — until every part of their political, religious and other beliefs are known.
Laitman, a UCF College of Arts and Humanities alumna and award-winning editor, discussed herself and her novel, Suit Up! Empowered with Purpose, during the first installment of the AlumnKnight Author Spotlight series. She has an extensive editing career, with experience in textbook education publishing, independent trade publishing, large consulting firms and nonprofits.
Laitman’s goal is to help people embrace their uniqueness and empower them to carry out their life’s purpose. With this goal, and her longstanding admiration for Wonder Woman, Laitman set out to write her self-help novel to inspire readers to transform their fears into their strengths. She took the unique approach of basing each chapter of her book on one of Wonder Woman’s weaknesses and showing readers how they can turn it into a strength. Laitman hopes to continue inspiring readers to pursue their life’s purpose by preparing study guides and supplementary material to follow.
These interviews are just one part of the UCF Alumni Book Club’s dedication to harnessing the virtual world to collaborate. The club hosts lively discussions on Facebook, enjoys virtual meetups from around the world and directly connects members with the authors of the works they discuss.
“When putting together the book club, we really wanted to try something different than other university book clubs,” says Stephanie St. John, executive assistant of alumni engagement. “Based on feedback from our graduates, we’ve tried to incorporate selections by alumni, faculty and non-alumni authors to provide a variety of content and highlight our alumni and faculty’s hard work. By featuring different selections, we hope to introduce our book club members to books and authors they might not have known about, and we hope makes them proud to be UCF Knights!”
The club recently completed Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz, a CAH alum. Several members are currently reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones as part of the NEA Big Read: Central Florida in partnership with the Up All Knight student book club.
Alumni who are interested in learning more are encouraged to visit the UCF Alumni Book Club website.