CWU News

CWU Announces Broad List of 2017 Big Read Events

Central Washington University Brooks Library’s Big Read grant award from the National Endowment for the Arts will fund a diverse schedule of events starting January 2017. The grant will support community-wide programming through April centered around the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien—and culminating in a visit from the author.

"The Things They Carried" bookThe Big Read will officially kick-off February 3rd at 6 p.m. at Ellensburg’s Clymer Museum & Gallery with a reception and speaking appearances by Mayor Rich Elliott and local Vietnam War veteran Rob Fraser. As with most Big Read events, copies of the book will be made available.

Two pre-kick-off events are planned for January. Brooks Library will host their annual winter quarter book kick-off on January 9th at 6 p.m. in the library foyer. “The Things We Carry” exhibit will open the following day in the CWU Museum of Culture and Environment. The exhibit will run January 11-March 11 and showcase “moving stories” from people living in Kittitas County. An opening reception is slated for January 11th at 5:30 p.m. in the Dean Hall lobby.
Author Tim O’Brien will participate in a number of April events as part of the Big Read finale. O’Brien will give two talks on April 25th, in partnership with the CWU Lion Rock Visiting Writers series. The 7:30 p.m. event will take place in CWU McConnell Auditorium and will be live streamed on CWU-TV for CWU distance students.

O’Brien will meet with local veterans during a special luncheon on April 27th. Later, at 5 p.m. a reception will be given in his honor, in McIntyre Music Building Recital Hall. 

A variety of Big Read events are planned at locations on the CWU campus and in the wider Kittitas County community. Programming is diverse and includes genres such as performing arts, multi-media, poetry, literature, and more. All events are free and most are open to the community.

Below is a condensed listing of upcoming events. For a complete list with descriptions and updates, visit the CWU Big Read event calendar.

February 3, 6 p.m. Clymer Museum & Gallery, 416 N. Pearl, Ellensburg

Kittitas Valley Unitarian Universalist Book Discussion
February 16, 7 p.m., KVUU Church, 400 N. Anderson, Ellensburg

"Music and Words Confront War"
March 1, 6 p.m., CWU McIntyre Music Building Recital Hall

50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" Speech
April 4, 6 p.m., CWU Student Union Building

Roslyn Library Book Club Community Discussion
April 6, 6 p.m., Roslyn Public Library, 201 S. First Street, Roslyn

Amy Quan Barry Reading*
April 12, 7:30 p.m., location TBD

Tim O'Brien Talk*
April 25, 7:30 p.m., CWU McConnell

April 27, 5 p.m., CWU McIntyre Music Building Recital Hall

*Craft talks and readings are provided in partnership with CWU’s Lion Rock Visiting Writers series.

The NEA Big Read grant supports innovative community reading programs designed around a single book—in this instance, The Things They Carried. To further encourage reading and participation, close to 500 books will be given away free throughout Big Read events. A generous contribution by the CWU Veterans Center funds the majority of the free copies. These copies will be distributed to CWU students.

“The majority of the free copies will be distributed to students at our main campus and at the Des Moines and Lynnwood centers, with a limited number available for public distribution at some of our events,” said Maureen Rust, student engagement and community outreach librarian.

The Things They Carried has also been selected by the Kittitas County public libraries as the 2017 One Book One County selection. Copies of the book are available for checkout from all public libraries and from the James E. Brooks Library at CWU. Copies are also available for purchase at Pearl Street Books, Jerrol's, CWU Wildcat Shop, Bailey’s Bibliomania, Basecamp Books (Roslyn), and Inklings Bookshop (Yakima).

Interested community members are encouraged to read the book prior to the events for maximum engagement. 

About the book and its author
Understanding warfare’s effect on soldiers, veterans, and their families continues to be important. Because Tim O'Brien is himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, he speaks about the experience with authority. The Things They Carried features portraits of characters in combat. O’Brien articulates the soldier’s view—often understandably conflicted. O’Brien is recognized for his ground-breaking work, not only for marking a certain period in American history, but also for demonstrating some of the best storytelling in contemporary literature.

Event sponsorship and collaboration
This project is a collaboration among many campus and community entities. The following departments are credited in securing the grant: Brooks Library, CWU English Department, Lion Rock Writers Series, the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, and the CWU Veterans Center. Further program collaborations with CWU ROTC, Kittitas County public libraries, community veterans groups, and Ellensburg High School are instrumental in reaching a larger diverse audience.

The grant
CWU is one of 77 organizations nationwide awarded a grant—the only one in Washington state.

NEA Big Read Logo

“NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.”

“El proyecto NEA Big Read es una iniciativa del National Endowment for the Arts (el Fondo Nacional para las Artes de Estados Unidos) en cooperación con Arts Midwest.”

For more information on the NEA Big Read, visit A complete listing of CWU’s 2017 Big Read events is available online at

Media contact: Dawn Alford, public affairs coordinator, 509-963-1484,

--December 20, 2016