Writers share first kisses during SNC literary event

Writers in the Woods Series kicks off


Writer Christian Keifer shares his anthology, The Kiss at SNC’s Writers in the Woods speaker series.

Sierra Nevada College’s annual literary speaker series Writers in the Woods started Sept. 7 with readings from The Kiss: Intimacies from Writers, the book chosen as the college’s common read for 2018-2019.

This semester’s first installment of the ongoing series brought three of SNC’s graduate faculty, MFA Creative Writing director Brian Turner, professor Suzanne Roberts and former professor Christian Kiefer, to read excerpts of their work featured in the book, and to discuss the process behind its formation.

The Kiss is an anthology collection of essays, short stories, poetry and memoirs that brings together the work of a diverse range of more than 40 writers, each exploring the human act of kissing.

The collection was edited by Brian Turner, who invited writers to submit a short piece about a specific, memorable kiss, whether it be romantic, painful, unexpected or memorable. His goal was to create a literary work that would unite rather than divide and close the gap of communication between people.

Turner is a renowned novelist and poet whose work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, National Geographic, Poetry Daily, and the Georgia Review.

In a piece for Guernica magazine, Turner wrote, “Our attempt in this series [was] to focus on kisses that—at least in some sense—attempt to bridge the gulf, to connect us to one another on a deeply human level, and, as closely as possible, to remind us of words like ‘tenderness,’ ‘passion,’ and, if we’re lucky, perhaps, ‘love.’”

The Kiss features the work of writers close to Turner, including his late wife Ilyse Kusnetz, who succumbed to cancer in 2016. Many of the writers also have a connection to SNC, either as current or former professors, mostly in the MFA
creative writing program.

After introducing the collection, Turner passed the microphone to Suzanne Roberts and Christian Keifer, who read from their own works as well as favorite pieces from other writers.

Roberts is the El Dorado County Poet Laureate and was named “The Next Great Travel Writer” by National Geographic Traveler magazine. Keifer received the Pushcart Prize for his short fiction and holds a holds a Ph.D. in American
literature from the University of California, Davis.

Both are passionate about the power of literature in education.

“Programs like Writers in the Woods are essential to introducing students to the community of writers and artists and
connecting them to the cultural debates of our day,” Keifer said.

Writers in the Woods, hosted by SNC’s English department, brings literary minds from across the country to Sierra Nevada College’s alpine campus. The series is free for students, who can earn one unit of credit by attending, and is also available to community members for a fee of $50 dollars.

“Tahoe is a beautiful place to be and live,” Turner said. “Nature nurtures the soul, but our intellect needs to be nurtured as well.”

Participants of the weekend course attend a reading Friday night, followed by a writing workshop on Saturday morning, where they can hone their skills alongside visiting writers.

“Sometimes student think literature is a dead thing on the pages,” Roberts said. “These events help them see that writers are living breathing things.

“And they aren’t just for English majors. What it means to be human crosses all the disciplines.”