Writers in the Woods series returns with acclaimed author

Miranda Jacobson, Editor

Rebecca Makkai opening with a section from her novel, “The Great Believers” that follows the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s.
| Photo credit: Terra Breeden

Every year, Sierra Nevada College hosts the speaker series, Writers in the Woods, which features an array of accredited and successful writers who host readings on Friday nights, and a workshop on Saturday morning during select months in the fall and spring semesters. This semester, the lineup features writers such as Rebecca Makkai, Lacy Johnson, and Mike Branch.
The program is unique because it gives students, as well as faculty, staff, and local residents of Lake Tahoe, the ability to interact with writers in a way most people can’t.
“Because of our size, because we’re so small, these gatherings are really intimate, and everyone who wants to is able to talk to the writer,” English Program Chair June Saraceno said. “I think that’s a golden opportunity.”
Saraceno, who has been building the series since it began, is incredibly proud of where the program is now.
Before it was called Writers in the Woods, the series was an unfunded program that Saraceno began simply by asking her writer friends to come and read for the students and community.
In 2010, after gaining funding through the growth of the program, Saraceno was given the advice through an institutional advancement collaboration to begin branding the series in order to gain funding. Once the name was picked, the series was able to become a fully funded program, after an anonymous person donated the funds.
To this day, Writers in the Woods is funded by that anonymous donor, along with grants from the Nevada Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Nevada Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
This year, the first writer in the series was Rebecca Makkai. She read from her most recent novel released in 2018, “The Great Believers.” Makkai was able to entrance listeners with her witty humor, and captivating passages from her novel. While readings are fun for Makkai, the act of reading is sacred to writers.
“Of course everyone knows it, but it’s different to actually experience the fact that there are people behind these books, behind these words,” Makkai said. “I still remember so many of the readings that I went to as an undergrad, and whether or not I really knew their work, it was an experience to meet someone, to see how they read.”
The readings are followed by a workshop the following day, which also allows students an inside perspective on an element of craft the writer is passionate about. Each workshop is completely different, and can go in any direction the writer chooses to take.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students, faculty and staff to hear and interact with, and have personal conversations with these writers who are highly acclaimed and influential,” Saraceno said.
Senior Katherine Ward has been attending Writers in the Woods events on campus since she began at SNC, and still finds that every series is different.
“It’s different to read a book compared to listening to an author perform their story,” she said. “Being able to learn from them the next day is also exciting, because how often can you say you learned a new writing technique from the author you inspired you to begin with?”