The Literary Festival Author Roundtable and Visiting Writer Readings 

The 16th Annual Literary Festival was a brilliant success. Festival visitors heard readings from Dustin M. Hoffman, Santee Frazier and Jessica Lee Richardson. On the following day’s readings, visiting writers included Liz Countryman, Sheri Reynolds and Samuel Amadon. Then later in the evening at Moe Joe Coffee, Manuel Gonzales and M.O. Walsh. 

John Pursely, literary festival director, began the readings by introducing the writers and thanking them for their participation. Pursley also celebrated the organizing efforts of his team of student directors, who were essential in the logistical efforts and to the event’s overall success.

During the readings, participants learned how authors got their unique creative inspiration. Dustin M. Hoffman drew from his career in construction to inform pieces like “We Ride Back.” Santee Frazier was inspired by his family relationships with his work “Sunperch.” Jessica Lee Richardson leaned on the advice to write about her obsessions and wrote a vignette inspired by whales. Stories were told with the incredible selected literary works and insights were shared regarding the writing process.

The idea of creative process and writing was explored deeper in the Author Roundtable discussion featuring Sheri Reynolds, Manuel Gonzales and Jessica Lee Richardson. 

The audience participated by asking questions. The topic of the first question centered around a subject matter or form the authors haven’t tried yet. Richardson riffed on a current idea for a “hush that has fallen over the world” and Reynolds remarked that her tendency to be long-winded has dampened her poetry efforts as a poem easily shifts into flash fiction. 

The authors provided advice for the age old writers qualm, writer’s block. Gonzales gives his student the advice to ‘write the stupidest sentence they can think of’ in order to leave the critical headspace writers often find themselves paralyzed in. Reynolds recommended doing an activity completely other than writing and suggested kayaking. Both responses earned a laugh from the audience, while being helpful. 

When asked about sourcing inspiration for writing, Reynolds recommended revisiting potent memories and thinking of how that memory would play out if one event had gone differently, and using that line of thinking to motivate creativity. 

The authors were asked if they have experienced the sensation of ‘finding themselves in their work.’ The question leaned on the philosophical side, opening up the floor for vulnerable responses. Reynolds explained she is on a continuous journey to find her place and that feeling serves as the motive for her writing. Gonzales shared that earlier in his career he often molded his writing for the eyes of others, producing stories that missed the mark in writing quality but also in his own creative joy. By leaning into his own entertainment, Gonzales was able to feel most confident in his works and his place as a writer. Jessica Lee Richardson embraces the quirks of her own personality in her writing, never backing down from the idea of something being ‘weird.’ 

The round table conversation was as insightful as it was funny. The atmosphere was un-stuffy and honest, focused on the shared interest of the authors and participants-the joy of creative writing and literature.  

Written By: Liv Provosty

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