Weber State University is currently hosting the 28th annual National Undergraduate Literature Conference from Thursday to Saturday.
The conference, which allowed undergraduate students to present work to fellow students and educators from around the United States, featured three prominent speakers: Jay Parini, the acclaimed author of “Benjamin’s Crossing,” “The Passage of H.M.” and “The Last Station,” as well as the Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College in Vermont; Phyllis Barber, author of seven books, including “How I Got Cultured: A Nevada Memoir,” as well as a former Vermont College of Fine Arts instructor in the MFA of writing program for almost 20 years, and an inductee to the Nevada Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2005; and Mario Chard, a WSU alumnus who went on to receive his MFA in creative writing from Purdue University and win numerous awards, and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University.
The conference, following closely on the heels of the National Debate Tournament, has inspired students to travel all over the country — and, in the cases of several students attending from Brigham Young University-Hawaii, from across an ocean — to visit WSU’s campus, where most events will be held in Elizabeth Hall, the Shepherd Union Building and the Browning Center. The events consist of seven breakout sessions that allow students whose work has been selected to present their writings, Q-and-A sessions with the featured authors, and an opening banquet at Timbermine Steak House.
Approximately 38 WSU students were selected to present this year, including Amy Pittman, an English major, who will present “Innocence,” a piece she wrote for an advanced fiction class she took as an elective last fall.
“I really enjoy writing because it helps me clear my head and gets my crazy out and onto the paper,” Pittman said. “Even right before I submitted my piece, I still had a lot of doubts about submitting. It took a lot for me to press the submit button on the NULC website.”
Pittman said that when she first found out she’d been selected to read, “I read and reread the e-mail probably at least six times to make sure it was real . . . Then I screamed and jumped up and down then called my mother. Also, (I’m) pretty sure there was a Facebook post about it . . .”
Jayrod Garrett, managing editor of “Epiphany,” WSU’s nontraditional student literary journal, said he feels the National Undergraduate Literature Conference will be a good experience for students who might have previously seen writing as trivial.
“The National Undergraduate Literary Conference is a wonderful opportunity for students to recognize that, if they really are persistent, they can make careers out of this hobby we call writing. I’m really looking forward to attending a few panels on Friday, because this will be the first time I will be able to attend, due to military obligation that coincides each year with this conference. I know several of the students who published from Weber, and I am really happy to see our students succeeding in proving we can make a future as writers.”
Garrett emphasized that, along with the regularly scheduled readings, there will also be an open-mic poetry night on Friday in the Shepherd Union Fireplace Lounge for any and all writers who want to read submissions that might not have been accepted into the conference.
“The most important thing for these writers is to have their pieces be heard.”