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book cover of "Fig"

“Fig,” a national award-winning novel by Colorado-based writer Sarah Elizabeth Schantz, is this year’s Colorado Mountain College Common Reader selection.

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz, author of “Fig,” a 2015 National Public Radio Best Book selection, and CMC faculty Kimberly Harding, author of a workbook, “Ascend and Transcend,” will give free presentations at seven CMC locations this month. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this presentation of the college’s annual Common Reader.

Schantz’s book, which won the 2016 Colorado Book Award in the young adult category, tells the story of a girl named Fig. The novel is an often-painful portrayal of Fig’s struggles with her mother’s mental illness and the lengths to which she must go to handle the ordeals — real and imaginary — thrown her way. 

Harding’s accompanying workbook is among the initiatives funded by a multiyear grant from the Colorado Health Foundation that focuses on developing the most effective services to support students in areas of mental health and disability services. The workbook is a hands-on tool designed to explore “Fig” at a deeper level, as well as to facilitate personal growth and success. Harding will moderate the presentations, based on the workbook, with insights from Schantz. In case people have additional questions or concerns, support services from the college or local agencies will also be at each presentation.

Sarah Schantz

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz, author of CMC’s Common Reader selection, “Fig.”

According to “A Strategic Primer on College Student Mental Health,” by Louise A. Douce and Richard P. Keeling, “About 70 percent of the students who use counseling services at their college or university report that their personal problems have had an impact on their academic performance, and 20 percent have considered withdrawing from school because of those problems.”

“We applied for this Colorado Health Foundation grant because we recognize that mental health and mental illness are critically important to our students, employees and communities,” said Lisa Doak, assistant vice president of student services at the college. “CMC contracts with local mental health agencies to provide support to our students and employees, but we want to do more. Opening that discussion is one reason our Common Reader committee chose this book last spring.”

Schantz is primarily a fiction writer living outside of Boulder. She teaches creative writing at Front Range Community College, and her short stories, lyric essays and poetry have been published in literary journals such as “The Los Angeles Review,” “Hunger Mountain” and “Third Coast,” among others.

From Oct. 16 to 25, Schantz and Harding will give author talks at the following Colorado Mountain College locations: Breckenridge (Oct. 16), Leadville (Oct. 17), Steamboat Springs (Oct. 18), Rifle (Oct. 23), Aspen (Oct. 24), Morgridge Commons in downtown Glenwood Springs (Oct. 24) and Vail Valley at Edwards (Oct. 25). All author presentations are at 7 p.m. except for the CMC Aspen presentation, which is at 10 a.m.

Copies of “Fig” and the “Ascend and Transcend” workbook are available at the front desks at CMC Breckenridge, Rifle, Vail Valley at Edwards, Leadville and Aspen; at CMC campus libraries at Spring Valley and Steamboat Springs; Garfield County libraries; and through CMC’s virtual library at https://library.coloradomtn.edu/home/vl.

The college is also sponsoring an art and creative writing contest. All CMC students and community members are invited to participate. The submission deadline is Dec. 3, and cash prizes will be awarded for the top entries.

For more information on the Common Reader program, or the art and creative writing contest, go to coloradomtn.edu/commonreader or call 800-621-8559.