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Writers in the Woods series brings the literary community into the mountains

Student+Nicole+Ross+with+author+Luis+Alberto+Urrea.
Student Nicole Ross with author Luis Alberto Urrea.

Student Nicole Ross with author Luis Alberto Urrea.

Nicole Ross

Nicole Ross

Student Nicole Ross with author Luis Alberto Urrea.

Carissa Priebusch, Staff Reporter

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On select Friday evenings throughout the year, students, faculty and community members gather in the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences building for intimate readings by acclaimed writers. This is SNC’s Writers in the Woods series, one of the college’s acclaimed annual events.

Writers in the Woods was conceived by June Sylvester Saraceno, English Department Program Chair and director of Writers in the Woods. Starting in 2008, she began arranging literary speakers and events at SNC. In the fall of 2010 she formalized the Writers in the Woods series.

“Writers in the Woods has attracted larger and larger audiences with many regular community members attending,” said Saraceno. “The workshops themselves have more than doubled in size, ranging from 15-25 students.”

Each writer’s event is spread over a weekend. On Friday evening, there is a reading and and a reception, and on Saturday morning the writer teaches a workshop. These workshops are free to SNC students who are able to receive one course credit for attending. The workshops are also open to the community for a cost of $50.

The selection committee for Writers in the Woods aims to pick authors who have a connection to the Common Read at SNC. They look for authors who students will be interested in. Many of the featured writers are critically acclaimed on a national or international level.

Junior Nicole Ross has attended several of the readings. “Seeing accomplished authors talk about their craft enhances my education as an English student. It gives me a place to grow into,” said Ross.

One of Ross’ favorite writers was Luis Alberto Urrea, who visited this fall. “He has so much empathy and love, which he offers so freely,” said Ross. “He is a great writing talent and philanthropist.”

The Saturday workshop gives the writer an opportunity to show his or her past, current or possibly future work to the attendees. At most of the workshops, attendees are able to ask the writers questions about their own work. It gives them a chance to have their work looked at by a professional writer.

Junior Hayden Takahashi agrees with Ross that it enhances her education and that there are many benefits to the Writers in the Woods workshops.

“Published writers give great advice on difficulties like writers block, keeping the flow and thinking of new ideas,” said Takahashi.

The first reading Takahashi ever attended was Rebecca Makkai, an award-winning novelist who spoke at SNC this past February.

“She was incredibly witty and had a wonderful way with the crowd. Her cheeky demeanor made it really fun and easy to get into the reading,” said Takahashi.

“These readings have the power to inspire students who are willing to listen,” said Takahashi. “Anyone with even the slightest curiosity about writing should attend, especially if you love a good laugh.”

An obstacle for the Writers in the Woods program has been just getting the message out. “Even with limited advertising, the series has really grown,” said Saraceno. “Writers in the Woods has enhanced connections between other colleges and universities in the area; many students and professors turn out for these readings and workshops.”

Each year the Distinguished Writer in Residence is also a speaker in the fall Writers in the Woods series. This year students had the opportunity to take Creative Nonfiction Workshop, Poetry Workshop and Freshman Composition with Cathy Linh Che who spoke at Writers in the Woods.

“It’s important for students to be connected with larger intellectual and literary community and to engage in discussions,” said Saraceno. “It really is amazing how many prestigious writers have come to our campus, including Pulitzer Prize finalists.”

This spring, Writers in the Woods will feature Shaun Griffin, Brian Turner, and Peter Makuck, as well as a poetry center celebration with Cedar Sigo, Lara Mimosa Montes and Lauren Levin.

“Not everyone is born with a passion to write,” said Takahashi. “That doesn’t mean anyone has to miss out on the value of learning.”

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