Tag Archives: Emerging Writers Festival

Between the Lines: USF Hosts Writers Festival

Up-and-coming writers gathered to read from selected events at the University’s Emerging Writers’ Festival last week. The two-day event on April 8 took place in Fromm Hall. The festival was sponsored by the English Department and co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Studies and African American Studies Programs.

Ryan William Van Meter, Assistant Professor of English at USF as well as one of the main figures in charge of the festival, described the festival’s main focus as “celebrating the pleasure of reading and writing as an active member in a literary community while being inspired by fellow artists”. The festival began with three readings from distinguished authors Adam Peterson, Roger Reeves, and Michelle Orange. Peterson, a published author of flash fiction, commenced the event with shorter pieces he had written. His quirky delivery and side commentary resulted in laughs from the crowd and they only continued throughout his comical readings.

Next up, Roger Reeves, published poet and assistant professor at The University of Illinois, Chicago, read his poems with themes  ranging from racism to popular culture. With each reading, Reeves emphasized every emotion and feeling the poem offered, resulting in cheering and praise from the audience.

The last author, Michelle Orange, read one of her essays from her published novel, “This is Running For Your Life: Essays,” discussing her trip to Beirut, Lebanon during the spontaneous bombings occurring. Her vivid use of language and detail transported the audience right into her essay and a silence drifted through the crowd as she read through her experience.

The second night featured two writers, poet Sandra Lim and author Manuel Gonzales. Lim began by reading a handful of pieces from her book “The Wilderness” as well as a few pieces from her upcoming book. Most of her poetry discussed real life experiences, especially her move from California to Massachusetts as an assistant professor at The University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Gonzales finished the event by reading the last part of his work, “The Miniature Wife and Other Stories.”  His out-of-the-box story, discussing the woes of a zombie office worker falling in love with his human co-worker, earned laughs from the audience, helped by his quick delivery.

This group of authors exemplifies what the festival aims to accomplish. Each author’s pieces all differed in style and subject matter, resulting in a perfect balance of material for the festival.

“We aim to represent the richness of the current literary scene by inviting writers who come from a diversity of backgrounds and who work in a range of aesthetic styles,” Van Meter said. “We want to bring to campus writers who test boundaries and whose career paths will stand as compelling examples from students.”

The campus bookstore has set up a special display showcasing the authors’ novels.


Emerging Writers Showcase Literary Work

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.

Writers Festival Features New Talent


Writers Anthony Varallo and Camille Dungy read from their work to a packed audience in Fromm Hall on the night of Wed., April 15 as part of the Emerging Writers Festival. (Melissa Stihl|Foghorn))

“Writing is like an apprenticeship,” said Anthony Varallo, winner of the 2005 John Simmons Short Fiction Award and author of the new short story collection “Out Loud.”  Varallo was one of four writers that came to USF last Wednesday and Thursday as part of the annual Emerging Writers Festival sponsored by the English department and the African American studies minor. 


Writing can be a solitary activity, leaving only the writer and his or her muse, whittling away hours in front of a blank computer screen.  However the Emerging Writers Festival sought to bridge the gap between writers by exposing students to new, emerging writers.  Anthony Varallo and Camille Dungy read from their work and spoke to a packed, eager audience on Wed., April 15 with Caille Millner and John Casteen following on Thursday evening.  In addition, a lunch was held on Thursday afternoon to provide students with the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the emerging writers. 

Varallo began by reading the first story in his collection, “In the Age of Automobiles.”  He prefaced this by explaining that he attended an all-boys Catholic school.  Varallo often employs the muse of an isolated preadolescent boy without a father figure in his stories.  

“In the Age of Automobiles” relies on a car ride in which Cody, a lonely adolescent, asks his unpopular teacher Mr. Tercel to give him a ride home.  The story highlights many familiar junior high embarrassments and insecurities which prompted poet Camille Dungy to say, “I am trying to recover from the terror of junior high” in Varallo’s story.  Dungy, a Bay Area resident and alumnus of Stanford University, read several poems from her collection entitled “What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison.”  She read “Long Time Gone, Long Time Yet to Come”, “Requiem”, “Black Spoon” and “The Preachers Eat Out.”  Dungy tackles racism and failed relationships in her poetry.  “The Preachers Eat Out” describes unequal treatment of black preachers in a restaurant.  It ends strongly with one of the preachers saying to the waitress, “Lady, my one regret/ is that we don’t have appetite enough/ to make you break every damned plate inside this room.”

Dungy  read her poetry with confidence, and made eye contact with the audience often, showing that she had many portions of her poems memorized.  She has received multiple fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Virginia Commission for the Arts, amongst other awards.  In addition, Dungy is an assistant editor of “Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade.” 

Michael Fortes, a senior English major said of the readers on Wednesday night, “I thought it was a great contrast between a narrative and poetry.”