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Festival provides new insight to the world of writing

The Visiting Writer’s Festival took place Oct. 1-3. This is the 10th year of the festival, and the first event was a public reading by Alicia Conroy, Jude Nutter and Diane Wilson. Each writer represented a different genre of writing to give students a glance at the wide-range of writing styles available.

“I picked the three authors because each had either won or been nominated for the Minnesota Book Award,” said Bill Snyder, English professor and chair of the writing festival. “I read excerpts from their work and I thought it was good. I thought the students would like it.”

English professor Dawn Duncan encouraged attendance at the festival for many reasons.

“Those who attend the festival have much to gain:  they hear three fine, award-winning authors in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction,” she said. “They hear and see a model of how to orally present creative writing and engage with an audience; they have the rare opportunity to discuss with and learn from published writers, focusing on the craft.

Wilson embodied the genre of creative nonfiction for the festival. Her first book, “Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past,” received the Minnesota Book Award in 2007.

“My motivation to write is a desire to explore something in the world,” Wilson said. “I start off with a question and see where it goes. Eventually it leads to the next question, so it’s an exploration.”

Poet Jude Netter provided an interesting take on the world of poetry due to her childhood. She was born in North Yorkshire, England, but she grew up in northern Germany.

“My house was part of Bergen Belsen camp 2,” Netter said. “I used to play on the mass graves. We all grow up around the dead, but for a child, I had so many.”

Being in that house had a profound effect on her as a child.

“The bodies were so still, they were painful to watch,” Nutter said. “I was being haunted by history.”

The third author was fiction writer Alicia Conroy, who is most noted for her story collection “Lives of Mapmakers.” She is a self-proclaimed “writer who has worn many hats.”

“I write to make sense of things,” Conroy said. “When I start, I have no plot or ending in mind, and I work my way towards something.”

Snyder hopes that both the students who attended as well as the writers learned something valuable from the festival.

“I hope, through all the talking, that [the writers] have learned about their own writing and their processes,” he said. “For students, I would hope that through talking to working writers, they gain different perspectives from the writing process to how we make a living.”

Even though sophomore Hope Gust was only able to attend one session, she hopes to go again next year.

“After the feedback they gave me, I feel a new responsibility to write,” Gust said. “We get a hope for the future of writers; that they actually do get published. We also get fresh perspectives outside of our Cobber bubble.”

Netter encourages budding writers not to give up by relating it to a topic most students are aware of.

“The writing process is a learning curve like learning a foreign language,” Netter said. “You’re not fluent right away, but the more you work at it, the better you get.”

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