Players of Scrabble manipulate words to take many forms and shapes, so the student organizers of Franklin & Marshall College's Emerging Writers Festival found the board game an appropriate theme for a gathering where words and genres will meld and shift.
The 14th annual Emerging Writers Festival (EWF) starts Wednesday, April 15, and continues through Friday, April 17. The festival features five rising guest writers: Kristin Dombek, Ansel Elkins, Arna Bontemps Hemenway, Chisa Hutchinson and Sampson Starkweather. Over the course of the festival, the authors will give readings of their works and host craft talks during which they will discuss their respective techniques and interests.
"The main thing for me is always that I want students to be actively discovering new emotional or intellectual territory," said Hemenway, whose short story collection "Elegy on Kinderklavier" was recently awarded the PEN/Hemingway Award for fiction. "Usually, for me, the way to do this is to escape traditional narrative in any way possible. That can be a really subtle escape, too. The important thing is to be trying to make that leap. I hope that students will take that big idea from the specific techniques I try to talk about."
A small group of students started EWF in 2002. Over the years it has grown to become an integral part of the writing community at F&M and is now one of the College's most important literary traditions. EWF's sponsors are Richard '50 & Edna Hausman P'85, the Office of the Provost, the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House, the Department of English, and the Department of Theatre, Dance and Film. The event's wide-ranging support is reflected in the variety of writing genres that will be presented -- fiction, playwriting, nonfiction and poetry.
The readings are always well attended, and are among the writers' favorite parts of the three-day event.
"When you attend a live reading, you're able to experience first-hand the writer's voice, the rhythms and sense of music in the poems, which means you can gain more of an understanding of the poem's meaning," said Elkins, who received the 2014 Yale Younger Poets Prize. "You're able to pick up more on a writer's sense of humor, say, or the playfulness or coyness that might otherwise be missed. It's the difference between reading alone in silence and watching a writer perform her work. Performance is a one-of-a-kind experience -- you can't repeat it."
The festival has been carefully planned over the semester by a coalition of faculty and students. Several students will shadow the writers during their stay on campus.
"This is a time for students who are interested in promoting new writers, writers who aren't too far from where we are now," said Livia Meneghin '15, a creative writing major who will shadow Elkins. "When people come together to share stories and art, everyone can benefit. That's still a truth even if it's about fiction."
EWF is free and open to the public. Check out the complete schedule of events.