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2023 Common Reader

The Rock Eaters, by Brenda Peynado

The Denver 2023 Convention features Brenda Peynado’s wonderful short story collection The Rock Eaters. While these stories could be described as colorful, they can also be exhilarating, thought-provoking, and, at times, terrifying.

The first story in Brenda Peynado’s The Rock Eaters, “Thoughts and Prayers,” opens with the sentence, “The morning before the school shooting passed like any other, all my neighbors out at dawn performing oblations to the angels on our roofs.” The subject of the first half of the sentence feels sadly familiar to us. Peynado forces us to see the world with all its imperfections; she never shies away from the unpleasant issues that challenge our daily lives. But the amazing feature of Peynado’s writing is the ability to shift our focus, even within a sentence, to move us away from what we know in order to examine what we don’t yet understand. This collection of stories is an English major’s dream because we can admire the skillful use of extended metaphor, the careful crafting of sentences, and the imaginative, sensitive use of language. The stories force us to think, to consider how fantastic elements addressed still manage to ‘make sense’ of our daily reality. Some of the stories are chilling; others may make you cry.

What sets The Rock Eaters apart from other books is the writer’s ability to make us feel, to make us care about a world that exists specifically in each story’s setting. Reading Peynado’s writing is like watching a magician reveal objects that we did not see before, but we are challenged to believe that they were always there. This magical element of Peynado’s writing leaves the reader pleased at the details revealed, all the while wondering, “how did she do that?” The author’s ability to recreate the world leaves us wondering what is “real,” and leaves us amazed at the power and impact of language.

The Rock Eaters is a collection of short stories that are perfect for discussion at chapter meetings throughout the year. Each story allows for discussion of particular themes, settings, and topics to spark conversation between two friends, or discussions in large groups of readers. Sigma Tau Delta convention attendees will have opportunities to share their readings of the text with new friends. Most special of all will be the opportunity for us to meet with Brenda Peynado! Not only will we have the privilege of hearing her read her work, in her own voice, but we will be able to discuss her work in a special session with the author, allowing the author and the readers to share colorful observations of these precious gems of stories.

Regents' Common Reader Awards

Chapters can receive $100 for organizing and hosting a local event or activity around the 2023 Common Reader: The Rock Eaters. Chapter members do not need to attend the convention to apply for a Regents’ Common Reader Award. After the event, chapters simply apply for the award money, following the guidelines posted at Award applications should be emailed on or before February 15, 2023, to the appropriate Regent. View application guidelines.

Common Reader Convention Awards

Awards of up to $600 will be given at the international convention for critical essays or other genres of work that deal with the common reader. To be eligible, students indicate on the convention submission form that their work is in the common



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