Writer’s Festival teaches the surprising truth about writing

Concordia welcomed three award- winning writers to campus for its 11th annual Writer’s Festival from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

Author Nathan Jorgenson, journalist Bill Ward, and poet Margaret Hasse took part in readings, made guest appearances in classes, taught master classes, and participated in discussions during the three-day event.

The festival began on Sept. 30 with a reading in Frieda Nielsen Lounge. Each of the writers read passages from some of their award-winning works, and audience members had the opportunity to talk with them in person before and after the session.

In addition to their readings, each writer also led a master class in Grose Hall on Oct. 1. Hasse, Jorgenson, and Ward taught attending students and faculty about poetry, fiction, and journalism, respectively.

On Oct. 2, the writers and three student writers took part in a student-moderated discussion panel in Frieda Nielsen Lounge. Topics discussed ranged from real-life inspiration to why poetry isn’t as widely read as other genres. Most of the hour-long discussion focused on the writing process and how it takes shape for each of the authors.

All three writers emphasized the importance of revision and having others read and critique work. Hasse said she still uses a group of other writers to workshop her poetry and goes through as few as five or as many as 20 drafts for each poem she writes, while Jorgenson said his first reader is always his wife.

“I’ve been really fortunate because she’s really good,” he said. “You’re going to get a lot of help, a lot of advice. What you need to know is when the heart and soul of it isn’t yours, it’s someone else’s. That’s the art of it.”

Ward cautioned against becoming too attached to one’s own work. He said that writers are always growing and learning.

“I think you should always feel like you’re getting better, and you should never feel like you’re really, really good,” he said.

The authors also extensively discussed truth as it relates to art. All three writers agreed that art is an expression of the different kinds of experiences that humans have, but their perception of reality can create different kinds of truth.

While Ward said that truth is fundamental in journalism, Hasse commented that truth comes from different peoples’ perceptions. She believes that reality is largely based on personal interpretation and that different versions are equally valid.

“You’re trying to get the truth—the feeling of the truth—and make it genuine, but that doesn’t mean the facts are the same,” she said.

Jorgenson summed up the theme of the panel’s discussion at the end of the session by highlighting the deeply personal and difficult nature of writing.

“Writing is hard work,” he said. “It’s just damn hard work. Everybody’s got a novel in them, but who’s going to do the work?”

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