Writers in the Woods transitions to Zoom, attendance rises along with inclusivity

Miranda Jacobson, Editor

Gailmarie Pahmeier has been staying creative through working with her “absolutely wonderful students” at UNR. She has been teaching a poetry workshop and grad seminar this term.
Suzanne Roberts keeps up her creativity through reading, writing, and spending time outside, although the recent fires have made it hard for her as of late. (Courtesy photo)

Sierra Nevada University’s popular Writers in the Woods series transitioned to the online meeting site Zoom and the opening weekend brought the largest turnout the series has ever seen.

A program which usually consists of a Friday night reading followed by a Saturday morning workshop – both hosted by a guest writer invited to the school – is now basically the same. The only exception is now it is hosted online. Humanities and English Chair, and director of the Writers in the Woods Program, June Saraceno was pleasantly surprised with attendance at the first event.

“A very positive aspect of hosting these events on Zoom has been the increased inclusivity,” Saraceno said. “We host attendees from as far away as Paris and Australia.”

The total number of attendees at the first workshop was 43 people, and the participation was just as high as the attendance.

“The workshop was still very participatory with a number of SNU students reading their work aloud for comments,” Saraceno said in an e-mail interview. “Community members also contributed.”

The workshop portion of the program offers time throughout the two hours for participants to share work and writing tips. For community members, this used to cost $50, but it was made free for anyone who chooses to attend.

Junior Sam Michael, who has attended both an in-person reading as well as the updated event online, however, had difficulty adjusting to the change.

“I think [being online] makes it a lot more difficult to get the inspiration going for me,” Michael said. “I prefer to not be at home when I write, so it’s difficult.”

Nonetheless, in a time of innovation, Michael, as well as many others involved in the program, have been able to navigate their way through for the sake of creativity and inspiration.

“I believe humans have a fundamental need to create,” Saraceno said. “Some folks create in the kitchen, some with words, or clay, or cameras, or clothes, or dance, or computers, but I believe we all have a creative drive that needs to be nourished and given an outlet.”

Next up in the series will be writer Dr. Susanne Roberts and Gailmarie Pahmeier, English professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. Saraceno is excited about their focus on travel that participants can expect in the upcoming event on Oct. 9-10.

“Since we can’t travel right now, we might as well hear stories about it, right?” Saraceno said.

Roberts and Pahmeier look forward to their reading, even in a time of change and uncertainty. Both have participated in online readings before, and while there is a general agreement between them that the community that comes with the reading and workshop will be missed, there is still an opportunity to connect and create a great experience.
“I love the community feel of it, though I am hoping we can create some kind of that atmosphere online,” Roberts said. “I miss being with people in person, but I am grateful to connect to readers any way I can.”

Pahmeier says she has had some Zoom meeting kinks that’s she’s still trying to work out. But other than that, there was one word that described how she felt.

“Eager,” she said. “I’m eager to share some work, I’m eager to try another Zoom reading, and I’m especially eager to share some time with the SNU audience and with the incredible Suzanne Roberts.”

For more information on the Writers in the Woods series, visit sierranevada.edu.