Written By Carrie Johnson, Writer
On Saturday, March 4th, 3 students represented Austin College’s Creative Writing Department by doing a reading of their works at the Dallas Literary Festival that was hosted by Southern Methodist University.
Dr. Meg Brandl, Assistant Professor of English, and Dr. Sebastián H. Páramo, Visiting Assistant Professor of English, guided the students in selecting their work and how to read in the most impactful way, and also offered the students the opportunity for their work to be recognized by a larger audience.
Dr. Páramo said his favorite part was “hearing the works shared in a packed classroom and hearing praise from the audience, the Dallas Poet Laureate, and the students. I enjoyed the conferences because I view literature as alive and more relevant every day to understanding the stories that affect us,” he said.
Dr. Páramo added that he would have valued opportunities like the one given to our AC students when he was an undergraduate, and he hopes that “connecting with SMU has built a bridge for seeing how literature can happen beyond our immediate communities.”
When asked why she thought it was important for young writers to attend festivals like this, Dr. Brandl told a personal story. “When I was an undergrad interning for a small press run by some of my professors, they got a bunch of us interns together to road trip up from Alabama to Lawrence, Kansas, and read alongside some students from KU. I’d published in our campus literary magazine and volunteered to read on-campus for a couple of events, but there was something totally different about sharing my work in a room that wasn’t just filled with people I already knew and took classes with.”
“If this conference made our students feel like writers, then we did what we were there to do,” she finished.
The students made to feel like writers were Addison Norman ’23, Larry Ramirez ’23, and Carrie Johnson ’24.
Addison Norman is a senior who is majoring in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing with a minor in Psychology. This semester she is finishing up a collection of original short stories for her honors thesis, and she was recently named a Fulbright semi-finalist to study fiction abroad. Addison said that when she’s not writing, she can be found “playing D&D, talking to crows, and wearing a little too much green.” She read her piece “Weathering Storms” at the conference. This specific piece because it acts as an example of how her writing has evolved during her time as a student.
“I used to write almost entirely genre fiction, but I have become more comfortable with literary and experimental fiction as I’ve explored the range of my writing style. There’s a certain kind of vulnerability that I have found in writing stories like “Weathering Storms”, and it’s allowed me to really dig into how I define both fiction and myself as a writer.”
When sharing what her favorite part about the conference was, Addison was enthusiastic about the opportunity for connection and conversation. “Community is such an important thing for writers, and I think we all enjoyed the chance to make those connections and delight in our passion together,” she said. Addison also emphasized, like Dr. Brandl, why she thought young writers being involved in conferences like this is important.“Writers are not solitary creatures, contrary to popular belief, and we need to be engaged in each other’s writing in order to really hone our individual craft,” Addison reflected.
Carrie is a junior double majoring in English and Media Studies. She read her pieces “the cold country,” “my indian ‘stuff,’” and “scattered in the soul, battered to the bone.” She selected these pieces because they connected to her culture and she wanted to share her thoughts through a powerful and impactful reading. Her favorite part about the festival was meeting the other readers from SMU as well as meeting the Dallas Poet Laureate Joaquín Zihuatanejo. She believes it is important for young writers to be involved in conferences like this so as to feel a part of the rising of the next generation.
Larry Ramirez read two pieces that connected to him personally, too, titled “Memories from Home” and “Exile.” Larry is a senior double majoring in English with an Emphasis on Creative Writing and German.
“I feel that they [the pieces] speak to each other. One speaks of the reasons I had to leave Mexico while the second one relates the consequences of having left home,” he said.
These pieces are also part of his Honors Thesis.
Larry said his favorite part of the conference was getting to meet other writers from the same culture as him, and he thinks it is important for writers to attend conferences like this to “meet people and network.”
“You get to share your work with people; you get to see the reception your work is getting and get to experience the joy of sharing it with other authors who get it,” Larry said.
The three students who represented Austin College at the Dallas Literary Festival were prime examples of the Creative Writing Department. The two professors who offered the opportunity are passing the torch to these young students who are continuing the legacy of Austin College.