A large, auditorium-style classroom in the Hall of Letters was filled with just over a hundred students from the University of Redlands on September 26th who came to listen to the poems and stories of their professors and several guest authors. These writers commanded the attention of the entire room; voices fell silent when they stepped up to the microphone to read their works.
Sometimes, students forget that their professors have lives outside of school. The authors at the reading, however, proved that to teach about writing requires years of experience and a very creative mind in the world outside of the classroom.
Over the past several years, authors have come to the University of Redlands to read their works for students, staff, and the community. At the first reading of this year, three guest authors and five professors at the university made an appearance, bringing a broad range of material to the reading. Some read poetry while others brought non-fiction. Many works were filled with humor; others spoke of loss or confusion.
Among the guests was author-artist Rilla Jaggia, and poets Jennifer K. Sweeney and Youna Kwak. Staff readers included creative writing professors Patricia Geary reading Guru Cigarettes, Alisa Slaughter with her book Bad Habitats, Greg Bills with Consider this Home, Joy Manesiotis’ They Sing to Her Bones, and Leslie Brody’s Red Star Sister. They all brought different backgrounds and isight to the reading, making for an interesting mesh of styles and tones.
Although some pieces, such as Youna Kwak’s poem about finding one’s identity and determining between right and wrong while growing up, were serious and introspective, a sense of humor ran through the room when others read. Jennifer K. Sweeney’s piece titled “Jennifers of the 1970s” joked about the popularity of her name in that decade and the “identity loss,” that some young women felt in a sea of Jennifers. The tone was upbeat and light, and brought an infamous 70s nostalgia into the room.
Alisa Slaughter, who teaches journalism and creative writing at the U of R, read a piece of non-fiction that is currently in progress. She explained that the book is “based on randomly generated geographical coordinates.” Wherever those coordinates are located, she writes a piece about the main aspects of the land and life of that area. The idea for her work is unusual and the style reflects her background in journalistic writing.
For those interested, another reading with snacks and drinks will be held in Room 100 of the Hall of Letters on October 17th at 4 pm. This reading will center around award-winning poet and young adult novelist Kristen Tracy (Half-Hazard, Lost It, Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus). Ms. Tracy will also discuss writing books for young readers, and have a Q&A with her audience. It is a great opportunity for anyone looking to improve their own writing, learn about authors, or simply relax and enjoy the creativity of others in a positive atmosphere.