Tag Archives: writing

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.

Ignatian Launches New Issue

Eighteen USF students will become published writers on Saturday, May 2 when the editorial staff releases the 2008-2009 issue of the Ignatian, USF’s literary magazine.  The Ignatian is published annually and features a few genres of student art, including prose, poetry and photography.  Anna Shajirat, a senior English major and editor of the Ignatian, said “It got fairly heated in the debates (surrounding the selection process), because we had a lot more submissions than last year.”  Shajirat said that she received approximately 100 submissions for this year’s issue.  The editing process differed from the editing process in previous years.  In the past, the editorial staff read and voted on submissions electronically, but this year the editorial staff held a series of meetings in which they read over the submissions, discussed the merit of each submission and then held a vote.  Shajirat said that as editor she had to make the final decision and break the ties in a few cases.

The newly published authors wrote about various subjects and had different beginnings, but their writing processes were quite similar.  Lauren Go, a senior psychology major, wrote a poem entitled “People Always Want to Know Who You’re Writing About,” which illustrates the strain of a crush.  Go began writing when she was in first grade.  She said at that time, “My topic range included unicorns and doughnuts, so I guess you could say my writing has grown.” Of her writing habits, she said, “I don’t have any structured approach to how I write.  I have numerous Moleskin journals that never get filled up.  I will just throw out a bunch of words and phrases on paper.”

Sarah Roberts, another newly published writer and senior English major, has slightly different writing habits.  She prefers to write late at night and also enjoys listening to music while writing.  She said, “Right now I like a lot of acoustic things, like Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel.”  Putting the songs on repeat allows her to tune them out, but still enjoy the music.

Roberts recalled the first time she started writing.  She said, “I remember starting to write, I was in a guitar shop back home, where my Dad took lessons.  I had to write a poem about something and the music helped me write.”  She wrote a poem about riding a horse, which coincidentally she has never done.

Her writing topics have expanded over time and her story printed in the Ignatian, “To Virginia,” is about a girl, Danielle, who struggles to move past her traumatic rape and connect with her boyfriend, Matt. When asked about her influences, Go said, “I’ve always been really inspired by different poets, especially e.e. cummings.  He was my first favorite poet.  I feel like he approaches romantic topics while completely avoiding sounding cheesy.”  Roberts’ favorite novel is “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner.

The new Ignatian will be available Saturday May 2 at the Ignatian Launch party, which will be held from 7 p.m. – 9 in McLaren 252.  The party will feature standup comedy by Go, an open mic portion, a performance by Women of the Tenderloin and free food.

The new Ignatian can be picked up at: University Center 100, the English department in Kalmanovitz Hall 487, the dean’s office in Harney 240, the residence halls and at One Stop.  In addition, the Foghorn will release a podcast on our web site of the full interviews with four finalists and editor Anna Shajirat.

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.”