Visiting Writers Festival brings a variety of genres to campus

As the three-day Visiting Writers Festival at Concordia College came to a close,
a small but attentive group of students and faculty gathered to hear three authors discuss method, inspiration, and style.

As the coordinator of the annual event, English professor Bill Snyder invited three Midwest-based writers in the areas of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction to Concordia. Denise Lajimodiere was brought on for poetry, Alan Davis was invited for fiction as a short-story novelist, and finally, Michelle Leon was brought on for nonfiction as a memoir writer. Their books, “Dragonfly Dance,” “How Bravely Vegetative,” and “I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland,” respectively, were the focus of the three-day festival.

Senior Ali Froslie, a student in the English department, was one of the students in attendance.

“It is important to hear from new and diverse perspectives in any field,” Froslie said. “Events like [this] provide great opportunities for English students to learn from people who have been successful in our area. Being in the room with authors and hearing them speak about their craft never fails to inspire me.”

Each year, Snyder tries to invite authors from various genres in order to expose the students of Concordia to a variety of different types of literature. Senior Kendra Klein, a student of Snyder’s, said she thinks that this year’s authors were a good first exposure to new topics and genres.

“I hadn’t previously read much Native American poetry or memoirs from rock-and-roll bands, but I will be more inclined to reach for them in the future,” Klein said.

The authors participated in numerous events on campus spanning from Wednesday, Oct. 4, to Friday, Oct. 6.

On Wednesday evening, each of the authors read excerpts from their books to kick off the event. On Thursday, the three visitors held individual masterclasses for students to attend. Finally, on Friday the authors participated in a student-moderated panel that students and faculty could attend to learn more about the writers.

However, these three official events were not the only way that Concordia’s faculty took advantage of their guests. Each writer also spent time visiting classes.

Heidi Goldberg, associate professor of printmaking at Concordia, invited Denise Lajimodiere visit her freshman inquiry seminar, “We Are What We Make: Tradition and Identity in Daily Life.”

“As an artist and poet who also teaches, Dr. Lajimodiere is carrying out the dynamic process of living tradition by handing down knowledge and ways of knowing to keep tradition thriving,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said that Lajimodiere came to the class with examples of traditional birch bark bitings, called mazinibakajige, to show the class, but also had the class try making their own tooth-marked art . As their name suggests, birch bark bitings are pieces of art created by biting patterns into birch bark.

“The entire process is a delightfully tactile and sensory experience, handing the silky light layer of bark and hearing the fibers give way while feeling the pressure of one’s tooth on the bark is a unique and satisfying experience in making,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg’s inquiry students found it to be an interesting experience as well. First-year student Linka Wintersteen not only enjoyed the biting, but also getting to know Lajimodiere.

“It was a great deal of fun to try to imagine in your head how your incisor was hitting the bark and where your other bite marks were. It was a bit like drawing blindfolded; there was an anticipation to the process born from the uncertainty of what your product would look like,” said Wintersteen.

According to Snyder, the festival went very well. In fact, the reading, he says, was one of the best Concordia has had.

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