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Reading Steve Tollefson, Berkeley 'writer at work'

By Cathy Cockrell


The writings of the late Steve Tollefson, creator of Berkeley Writers at Work, will be celebrated in a sessionof the venerable campus author-interview series, set for Tuesday, Oct. 20, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., in Doe Librarys Morrison Room.

Steve Tollefson

Steve Tollefson (UC Berkeley photo by Peg Skorpinski)

We know knew him as a colleague, teacher, mentor of new faculty, organizer of the Distinguished Teaching Award, and tireless advocate for teaching excellence across campus, wroteTollefsons successor asdirector of the campuss Center for Teaching and Learning,Richard Freishtat,in an invitation to the campus community.

A fortunate few of us knew him as a writer, he added. Through a staged reading of Tollefsons writing,you will recognize Steves wit, his humanity, his plain good sense.

Tollefson, who died in June at the age of 66, came to Berkeley in the early 1970s to teach writing. But as a ministers son who tries to practice what he preaches, as he put it, healso exercised the skills he taught. Inintelligent, down-to-earth essays and stories, he tackled a broad range of topics from names in fiction (Holly Golightly, Yossarian, Humbert Humbert, Eustacia Vye, Queeqeg were favorites,) to his sweaty efforts to memorize poems while working out at the gym.

In 1997 Tollefson created Berkeley Writers at Work as a way to focus on faculty members as writers. Research at Berkeley is highlighted in many ways on this campus; to a lesser degree, so is teaching, he wrote of its launch.However, writing itself the primary way that faculty convey the results of their research is rarely discussed.

A compendium of writing by and about Tollefson is available online.

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