R.O. Kwon: Another “Distinguished” Success

Did you know that Holy Family University holds a Distinguished Writers Series event every semester?  On Wednesday, September 16, 2020, award winning author R.O. Kwon spoke to the HFU community via Zoom to discuss her debut novel.

According to Dr. Keith Kopka, “The authors and speakers that we are bringing in to the HFU community are all published nationally, and their work is often award winning.”  HFU was able to get one of the best up and coming authors to speak to the campus community.

R.O. Kwon is an award winning, Korean-born, American author whose first book, The Incendiaries, was released in 2018.  The story centers around two students–Will and Phoebe–who attend Edwards University, located on the east coast.  They become involved with an extremist cult.  Will loves Phoebe but that love is tested throughout the novel.  Phoebe plays the rich teenage stereotype in that her destructive actions lead to her downfall even though she has everything handed to her in life.  On the other hand, Will is a hard worker who is badly influenced by the entitled Phoebe.  

Before R.O. Kwon spoke to the audience, Dr. Keith Kopka introduced Dr. Shirali who helped to organize the event as well.  They both praised the author before handing over the mic to R.O. Kwon.  Mrs. Kwon started off her presentation by giving some background information on the book.  One thing that stood out was that it took her ten years to write The Incendiaries because she is highly attentive to detail–down to every punctuation mark. 

After a few minutes, the author began reading the first chapter of her book to the audience.  This chapter left the audience wanting to learn more about what motivated Will and Phoebe to do what they did.

After the reading, Dr. José Pablo Barragán, who also helps to organize this event series, opened the floor for a question and answer session.  The questions touched on various subject matter. R.O. Kwon responded to questions about why it took her so long to write the book to what is her favorite punctuation mark.  Specifically, one of the questions was, “Why did you pick the one quote on the cover?”  R.O. Kwon responded, “It just felt right for the book.” 

Kwon answered about fifteen questions from faculty and students before the evening came to a close. More information about this author and her book can be found at

At the beginning of the reading, Dr. Kopka stated, “Current students will also benefit from these visiting writers and scholars by being able to have firsthand experiences with working professionals who are connected to curriculum in their course of study.  The events are always open to our students as well as the surrounding Philadelphia community.”

And his words certainly rang true! Overall, the night was very successful, and there was a great turn out.  Stay tuned for the next edition of the Distinguished Writers Series!  It will take place during the spring semester at a time and place to be determined.

Robert F. Costello, III