FMU holds fiction, poetry festival

FMU holds fiction, poetry festival

Photo by: Dani Isgett

Four award-winning writers partook in readings, lectures, panel discussions and book signings at the 11th annual Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival on Nov. 5 and 6 in the Cauthen Educational Media Center (CEMC) Lowrimore Auditorium.

The writers were novelist Aaron Hartzler, poet Honorée Jeffers, poet Kay Ryan and novelist Emily St. John Mandel.

The rst panel on Nov. 5 was with Hartzler and Jeffers. The pair examined their writings, including how they think about genre and audience while writing. They also discussed their shared opinion that to be a writer, one needs to have a love of reading.

After the panel session, a colloquium about Aaron Hartzler’s novel “Rapture Practice” took place, in which he read an excerpt from the novel, discussed the novel and how it related to his personal high school memoir, talked about the hardships of writing a memoir and the opposition he felt from some people he is close with. He gave the advice that, “You have to write the thing you are inspired by, even if that means telling the truth about the people you love.”

A second panel session was held with St. John Mandel and Ryan. They each read an excerpt from one of their works and answered questions regarding their writing perspectives and processes. St. John Mandel talked about the slipperiness of time and how she used that to her advantage in her novel “Station Eleven.”

“The more you remember, the more you have lost,” St. John Mandel said. “Nonlinear time is an elegant way to look at the contrast between two things.”

“Something that draws me to poetry is the freedom from time,” added Ryan, “I can control time.”

They also talked about the dif culty of being discovered in the writing world. Both had written and published multiple books before being discovered, and they encouraged aspiring writers by saying that although it is tough, when you come out on the other side, it is worth it.

Hartzler participated in a reading and discussion of his two novels “Rapture Practice” and “What We Saw.” He read excerpts from each novel and spoke on what his inspiration was for each novel.

He also read the rest chapter of a book titled “Twitch,” which he expects will be released in 2016. He had never read from “Twitch” in public before the festival, but he said he wanted FMU students to have “an exclusive sneak preview”.

The day ended with Hartzler and Jeffers signing books and a reception at The Cottage.

On Friday, a panel session was held with Hartzler and St. John Mandel. They were asked whether or not they attempted to impart a message in their works, and if so, what was it?

St. John Mandel stated that she tried to steer clear of imparting a message in her works. She said if there is a message, it is probably related to the obsession people have with technology.

“If there is, I hope it is only there in service to the story,” St. John Mandel said. “At the risk of having a message in my books, I

always start with character.” In the case of “Rapture Practice,” Hartzler said there is a moral.

“My happiness depended on other people,” Hartzler said. “My own happiness didn’t come when other people changed, it came when I changed.”

FMU Writes was a session where students and faculty read works of their own. Jake Pack, freshman history and theater major, Mason Jones, junior English major and Brooke Mogy, senior theater major, were among the students reading the works. Lynn Kostoff, professor of English, read from one of his novels. Beckie Flannagan, English professor and chair of the committee that organizes the event, read some of her poetry.

Jeffers and Ryan participated in the next panel session. They considered the theme of repetition in their poetry.

“I adore poetry,” said Ryan, “I like it in many ways, even in my daily life. You see all the variations and vicissitudes when you repeat the same patterns.”

Jeffers said she thinks the origin of her repetition comes from her roots as a blues poet.

They also talked about the hardships they have faced in their lives as writers. Ryan gave advice on the subject.

“Be prepared for people not to like [your writing],” Ryan said. “You aren’t writing to please people; you’re writing to be free.”

After a colloquium on St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven,” Ryan held a reading and discussion. She read and explained multiple poems from her collections of poetry. She then answered questions and took requests from the audience.

Following this was St. John Mandel’s reading and discussion. St. John Mandel read multiple chapters of “Station Eleven.” She answered questions about her desires for and struggles with the novel.

The evening ended again with a book signing and reception.

A committee from the FMU English faculty coordinates the event each year, choosing the authors and organizing the events.

“The authors are chosen by the committee in consultation with others in the department,” Flannagan said.

“We try to make sure to choose works that our students will want to read in composition, literature, and poetry classes,” said Flannagan.

She said that they usually try to have two ction writers and two poets.

To prepare for the event, some composition professors assigned texts such as “Station Eleven” and “Rapture Practice.” Flannagan’s poetry students have been reading Ryan and Jeffers.

According to Flannagan, the students usually get excited about the event.

“Most students have never met an author of a book they’ve read,” Flannagan said. “We are always thrilled that engagement gets really maxed as we get nearer to the Festival. There’s just something really cool about meeting someone whose book you are studying. Students get that. Our goals are simple—to touch as many people as possible with lively and passionate discussion about reading and writing.”

Hartzler is an author of young adult ction. His first book, titled “Rapture Practice,” is his memoir and is acclaimed by The New York Times.

Jeffers has won the Stan and Tom Wick poetry prize for her first book and is a recipient of honors from multiple foundations. She currently works at the University of Oklahoma teaching creative writing.

Ryan is a poet who has published multiple volumes of poetry. She was the 16th U.S. Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2010. She has also been a MacArthur Fellow and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

St. John Mandel is a Canadian author and has written four novels. Her most recent book, “Station Eleven,” was a nalist for a National Book Award. In 2015, she won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Currently she is also a staff writer for a web blog called “The Millions.”

In previous years, FMU has hosted authors and poets including Megan Abbot, Tom Franklin and Amy Bloom as a part of the Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival. The festival was first held in 2006 and has continued annually since.

For more information about the festival and its guests, visit www. peedee