This week, Sian Griffiths, the director of the creative writing program, invited visiting writer Caitlin Horrocks to WSU as part of the department of English’s annual Creative Writing Reading Series.
Though other authors have visited within the past few years as part of events like the National Undergraduate Literature Conference, this course is the first of the series.
“At Weber State we have a lot of students who do not have the financial means to get out to conferences to meet nationally renowned writers, so I am trying to bring the writers to us,” said Griffiths.
Horrocks explained that the benefits of teaching a short class like this include the individual consideration each writer receives. She said workshops are valuable because she can use the students’ stories as the heart of the class and work it into a much larger discussion.
The students in these classes agree that they get a lot out of the style of the course.
“I never feel like writing more than I do after workshop. It helps to have someone like Caitlin, who has been so successful, read my piece and tell me the good and bad that is happening within,” said senior creative writing major Matt Drollette.
A typical workshop is 15 credit hours for three days of the semester, where the visiting author, as well as the classmates, will read over the students’ pieces. Griffiths believes students get a lot of structure from the individual attention.
“It makes sense to me as a way of having more contact with the students,” said Horrocks, “because they have my attention for three full days.”
Griffiths brought the idea of a three-day workshop over from her experiences at other schools.
“Both the University of Idaho and University of Georgia, the schools where I did my undergraduate and graduate work, offered short workshops with nationally-acclaimed visiting writers including Li-Young Lee, John Edgar Wideman, Charles Bernstein and George Saunders. I can’t begin to say how much those experiences meant to me.” said Griffiths.
One aspect these workshops bring to the table is enthusiasm for the craft of writing. The students that participate in this program gain knowledge about the process of publishing, as well as tools for writing.
“I have seen renewed energy and enthusiasm when I come out of every workshop,” said Griffiths. “I see them quote the workshops on Facebook and in classes. Even though it is a small group, it impacts the quality of conversation in other classes.”
Along with the three-day workshop, another benefit of bringing an author to campus is the creative writing reading series. The series this semester consisted of two events. The first was Wednesday night in the Fireplace Lounge where Horrocks read her short fiction piece “At the Zoo.”
Horrocks also did a reading on Thursday in the Wildcat Theater. These events hosted over 50 attendants, both students and faculty. After the readings, audience members had the unique opportunity to ask Horrocks about her techniques and approaches to writing.
Griffiths plans to invite several more writers over the next four years for the creative writing reading series. This semester, Dean Madonne Miner allocated money from the Stewart Education Foundation to support the program.
Griffiths stresses that the program will only continue to grow if it receives more support. “We’re actively seeking out long-term support to continue the program into the future,” she said.
The students that participate in these short workshops would also like to see the program continue.
“I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to learn from such successful authors,” Drollette said, “and I’m so glad to have this opportunity.”