This year’s Emerging Writers Festival (EWF) at Franklin & Marshall College brings together five visiting writers, dozens of students and faculty members, and 15 F&M alumni. The event’s most significant number, however, is 10.
The Department of English and Philadelphia Alumni Writers House are hosting the 10th annual EWF this week, celebrating a tradition that has become an annual “write” of spring at F&M. The festival, which runs through Friday afternoon, kicked off Wednesday evening with a dinner in the Druker Humanities Commons of the Barshinger Life Sciences & Philosophy Building, followed by opening-night readings in Miller Recital Hall. The complete slate of events is available on the EWF website.
The festival showcases talented and promising American writers each year. This year’s group includes Jason Fagone, Elyse Fenton, Grace Krilanovich, Alex Taylor and Henry Wolfe. A group of 10 F&M students and seven faculty members organized the event, led by co-chairs Jeff Steinbrink, Alumni Professor of English Literature and Belles Lettres, and Kerry Sherin Wright, director of the Writers House and adjunct assistant professor of English.
“This is an exciting moment,” Steinbrink says of the festival’s anniversary. “The best thing for me has been the way EWF gets students involved with each other and with the writers. A lot of students catch fire at EWF.”
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the festival, the College invited a series of former emerging writers to speak in separate events earlier this spring. The writers—Brock Clarke, Meghan Daum and Major Jackson—each presented readings at the Writers House.
“If this were a football pool, we’d have a really good record,” Wright says. “The festival has invited people who have gone on to become very successful. But the festival proper recognizes these same writers when they're still relatively new to their careers. The students get to work with writers with whom they can identify, and the writers find the same is true about the students.”
The 10 students on the EWF planning committee shadow the writers during their stay in Lancaster, answering questions, taking them to Central Market and learning more about the paths they could take in their future careers.
“I’m excited to meet the writer I’m shadowing, Elyse Fenton,” says Constance Renfrow ’12, a student on this year’s committee. “I’ll get to understand how she lives the life of a poet, with a family and a career, and then apply that to my own future.”
Steinbrink notes that EWF has evolved as creative writing has evolved at F&M. The first festival took place in April 2002, before the Writers House even existed. “There was no creative writing track in the English major then,” Steinbrink says.
The EWF is supported by Richard '50 and Edna Hausman, P'85, generous patrons of the arts at Franklin & Marshall.Â This year, with funding from the Office of the Provost, the Office of Alumni Relations and Great Teaching, Great Learning, 15 alumni of committees past have returned for the festivities. The alumni include Kelly Kleinfelter ’04, Becky Brown ’05, Ryan Corbalis ’06, Adam Cogbill ’07, Kristen Evans ’07, Alissa Butterworth ’08, Kevin Boyle ’08, Sam Price ’09, Adam Gould ’10, Matthew Oakes ’10, Margarita Delcheva ’07, Alexander Till ’09, Meagan Cooney ’10, Julia Mitchell ’10 and Cassie Lees ’10.
There have been numerous memorable moments at EWF over the past decade, from one writer coming in from a rainstorm and barely making his reading on time, to a local poet who stepped in for a last-minute cancellation. “But the moments that stand out are usually near the end of an evening, or at the barbeque at the end of the week, when you exchange a handshake or a look with someone that says, â€˜We did it,’” Steinbrink says.
In addition to co-chairs Steinbrink and Wright, members of the EWF planning committee include Sands Hall, visiting assistant professor of English; Katie Ford, assistant professor of English; Nick Montemarano, associate professor of English; Amy Moreno, associate dean and house prefect; and Brian Silberman, associate professor of theater.
Joining Renfrow as student volunteers are Bri Altieri ’11, Greg Brennan ’11, Oleg Kozachenko ’11, Nicole Morano ’11, Matt Shannon ’11, Lilah Thompson ’11, Christine Valzavano ’11, Molly Mae Wall ’12 and Ariel Zinn ’11.