Though his claim to fame is authoring the book adapted into the award-winning film “Winter’s Bone,” Daniel Woodrell has much more to offer in terms of his writing abilities.

Zell Visiting Writers Series: Katie Estill and Daniel Woodrell Readings

Thursday at 5:10 p.m.
Helmut Stern Auditorium

This Thursday, Woodrell will be reading selected passages from his most recent work as part of the Zell Visiting Writer’s Series. His wife and fellow author Katie Estill will join him, reading from her own body of work.

Many of Woodrell’s books are about people on the fringes of society — a type of country life that Woodrell experienced for himself, living most of his life in the Missouri Ozark mountain country. It shows in his works too: Woodrell hardly ever strays from the familiar environment of rural Missouri as a backdrop on which to weave his tales.

Shaped by his experiences, Woodrell’s books wrestle with tough themes of violence and crime. While many authors write crime dramas or violent thrillers, Woodrell’s work is impactful because, between these outbursts, one can find moments of calm emotion and a strong feeling of family.

“The idea of family or the search for family turns out to be at the core of every book I’ve written,” Woodrell said. “It may not be a blood family, it may be some facsimile family that you create among like-minded and needy people, but almost all of them seem to concern that.”

His newest story, “The Maid’s Version,” which Woodrell plans on sharing with attendees on Thursday, illustrates what he seems to bring to life so well — a sense of family love set amidst a disaster or difficult situation. This might be his most personal tale, based off a true disaster and what ensued. This story makes his already personal and emotional style of writing all the more visceral.

“It’s kind of a family tale,” Woodrell said. “Although it’s a family tale designed around a catastrophe that happened when a dance hall blew up around here. There was an actual event like that.”

In addition to Woodrell’s literary awards, the film adaptation of “Winter’s Bone” received the Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Over the past several years, Woodrill’s wife Katie Estill has worked as a teacher and journalist, while authoring an assortment of short stories, as well as two novels: “Evening Would Find Me” and “Dahlia’s Gone.” At Thursday’s reading, Estill will be showcasing “Dahlia’s Gone” and sharing her experiences from writing the novel.

“One of the things that I was thinking about a lot while I was writing the book was how polarized we have become as a nation — politically and culturally — and I was looking for characters that were very, very different, who had extremely different ideas about human politics and were brought into contact because of this incident,” Estill said.

Estill finds orally reciting her work an “enriching experience.” She added, “but, it’s definitely one of those experiences that can be shared by when you go to the theater or see the movies at the theater. You’re here and the experience is with a community of people — something happens there, some subconscious moral that doesn’t happen on your reading alone.”

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