Each year the English Department hosts the Emerging Writers Festival where recently published poets and fiction authors “emerge” and read from their works. This year featured a diverse assortment of writers. These readings took place on March 30-31 in Fromm Hall. Although all of these authors vary in style, they are similar in that they are establishing themselves in the literary scene.
CJ Evans, an up-and-coming poet in the Bay Area and a Columbia alumnus, read from his collection of poems called “The Category of Outcasts.” He currently works as the managing editor and programs coordinator of Tin House Magazine.
Student ambassadors introduced the writers before their readings, giving students a background of the author and his or her accomplishments. As an ambassador for James Hannaham, I attended a dinner at Kan Zaman held for the writers so they could all meet before their readings. Here, as well as after the readings on last Wednesday night, the writers answered questions about their profession and the publication process.
Ryan Boudinot, a comic writer from Seattle, defined the writing process as “the consistency and the commitment over the days and years.” Boudinot is the author of “The Littlest Hitler” and his newest piece of fiction, “Misconception.” Publisher’s Weekly declares, “Boudinot proves himself a twisted, formidable storyteller. In his dark and surefooted debut.”At the festival, Boudinot also read a short story about his ideal reader.
The discussion turned into the usage of the Internet and how it is evolving into a writer’s domain. Leni Zumas had read from her short story collection “Farewell Navigator.” She has written for multiple reviews including: “Salt Hill,” “New York Tyrant,” “Quarterly West” and “New Orleans Review.” Furthermore, she has taught in several schools including Columbia University.
Evans defended writing for the Internet by saying, “For young people I feel like there is a stigma. I think the Internet is a really good place for exposure.”
Zumas agreed. “You can have a more fluid relationship with the reader,” he said.
Eventually, the conversation turned to what led them to become writers. Evans responded, “I don’t think there’s a right path to becoming a writer.”
Jennifer L. Knox, a University of Iowa and New York University graduate, simply said, “When I started winning poetry slams.” Knox read from her quirky poems from her books “Drunk by Noon” and “A Gringo Like Me.” She has an upcoming book called “The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway” by fall 2010 from Bloof Books.
Zumas, on the other hand, thought it was when she was in the 2nd grade and then when her first story was published.
Hannaham just wanted to get away from the world of graphic design. “I didn’t want to just make things pretty.” Clearly, he wanted to create his own pretty things.
Finally, the writers were asked if there were any special tricks involving the way they write. Evans had a particular trick and shared his secret with the students in attendance. “I underline words in novels and then try to write a poem in the tone of that novel.”
Zoe Bronstein, an English major, said of the readings, “It was cool to see actual authors who understood the process.” Kerry Kirkpatrick, another English major, agreed with Bronstein and added, “We are so fortunate to hear from the professionals of the field we want to enter. This is one way to make important connections.”
Overall, the 2010 Emerging Writers Festival was a success, both for the writers sharing their work and the students who benefited from it. One can only wait to see what writers next year’s festival will bring.