- From left, MFA faculty TC Tolbert, Laura Winberry, Jennifer Tseng.
Picture a writer in her element.
Does a lonely desk in a tucked-away locale come to mind?
It might—but for a working writer, that's really just part of the story. Doing the work of writing may very well require that quiet location—but afterward, the writer needs to sell her work, and often, to communicate with her audience away from the printed page. Communication, it turns out, isn't limited to crafting the written words. It also extends to the interactions writers have with audiences during public performances. So how does a writer, subsisting on a steady diet of internal reflection, transition to the public life portion?
Connecting to readers across the lifespan of a work—from rough drafts to public readings—is just one of the topics to be covered this weekend at the one-day literary festival, "Stepping Into Each Other's Shoes." Sponsored by the Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts program at Oregon State University-Cascades, the Deschutes Library and the Echo Fund, the event is part of the Library's Write Here program, a series "designed to feed and nourish the writing community of Central Oregon," according to the Write Here web page.
Judging by the fact that the Stepping Into Each Other's Shoes festival is sold out, it seems the community welcomes the nourishment.
The Write Here series has three components: the "Writers Writing" program, offering workshops that give writers a chance to practice their craft; a "Writers Working" component, covering the "nuts and bolts of being a working writer;" and the "Writers Reading" component, giving writers an opportunity to connect with contemporary writers.
With readings, a panel discussion and a workshop, Stepping Into Each Other's Shoes meets the Write Here objectives of both the "working" and "reading" components.
"We designed each of the three parts–the reading, the workshops and the reception–to introduce folks in Central Oregon to really exciting and contemporary creative writing," Dr. Emily Carr, OSU-Cascades' MFA Program Director, told the Source Weekly. "Our ambition with the festival is really just to help folks grow their notion of the role of creativity in today's world so they can make that happen in their own lives."
The day begins with a program titled "Inhabiting Your Body: The Art of Public Reading," and includes readings from novelist and poet Jennifer Tseng, local poet (and OSU-Cascades MFA alumna) Laura Winberry—whose book of poems about cyclocross, "bell lap," was recently released—and MFA faculty from OSU-Cascades. Following the readings is the panel discussion, allowing each author to share their insights about living the writing life, how to present in front of an audience and how those skills can benefit even everyday people's lives.
"Folks are going to learn really practical ways that the skills we have or techniques we use as storytellers, how those translate off the page, outside the workshop, and into what we consider the real world," Carr said.
Later in the day, participants will take part in the Words in Action workshop, featuring novelist and OSU-Cascades MFA faculty member, Ru Freeman.
If you've paid much attention to the polarization of politics, prevalent long before November 2016, then perhaps you might be able to relate to the workshop's aim to "learn to think and feel deeply about people and conditions that are unfamiliar to our own experience." That's quoted directly from the description of the workshop.
"At the heart of what we do, we want to communicate—so it is our responsibility to grow literary citizens," Carr said. "And I would say in this particularly bizarre social moment, that we are needed more than ever, because language is being misused and abused everywhere. So we, as creative writers, as literary citizens, it's our responsibility to start to shift that dynamic and really help people to understand that there are more generative ways that we can use language to connect with each other and to come across those fissures that have developed recently."
Ultimately, Carr, herself a published poet, sees the one-day festival as part of an effort to grow the writing community in Central Oregon—not just for consumers of the written word and for budding writers, but for professionals, too.
"Personally, I would like more writing related events that challenge me and that ask me to really step up as a writer," Carr said.
"I'm thinking of using this festival as a platform to get people who are interested in this kind of thing to come and then generate conversation around the same thing – here's the resources we have, and how can we pool those together to do something even just once or twice a year that is really stellar and brings top-notch authors into Central Oregon? And I should say, of course, the Library is great with Author! Author! in bringing in four top-notch authors a year... but what I'm thinking is, I want a different experience with those authors, one that's more interactive, instructional for actual writers."