Thank You for Your Support

We would like to extend our thanks, gratitude, and appreciation of the following people for their help in making the Festival a wonderful success:

The English Department plans and advises the Festival every year; and their advice and creativity make it the wonderful event it is.

This year Professor Nicole Stamant coordinated the state-wide writing contest in four genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and dramatic writing.

Thank you to the judges who selected the finalists for the contest: Crystal Boson for poetry; William Boyle for short fiction; Anya Groner for creative non-fiction; and Jacqueline Goldfinger for one-act plays.

Many thanks also go to Julia Lutgendorf and Nicholyn Hutchinson of the Office of Marketing and Communications for their help with design, social media, and marketing

Special thanks to Professor Alan Grostephan for his stewardship of the Writers’ Festival Practicum. And especially to the students in the practicum: Natalie Martinez, Anastasia McCray, Eva Rosen, Naomi Smith-George, and Jillian Speck who edited the magazine; Maya McKenzie and Anastasia Rogers, the design editors; Abigail Biles, Bailey Cochran, and Brittany Gilliland, the marketing consultants; Ellaree Yeagley who created the cover art.

I would also like to express gratitude to the Center for Writing and Speaking for hosting the reading for Agnes Scott’s contest finalists on Tuesday.

Special thanks to Susan Dougherty  in the Office of Faculty Services.

And Demetrice Williams Senior Director of Special Events and Community Relations, without whom we are nothing. This year she has been ably assisted by Shakeyla Ingram and Kanisha Dennis.

We would also like to extend special thanks the facilities, dining hall, and custodial staffs.

Thank you also to our guest authors Claudia Rankine, Patrick Phillips, and Kayla Miller, who hosted workshops, selected the contest winners, and gave amazing presentations of their work. Additional thanks to Patrick Phillips, who instructed a creative non-fiction course during the week for Agnes Scott students.

Finally, thank you to each student, finalist, and guest in attendance at the events. We appreciate your support and look forward to hosting you again for next year’s Festival.

Contest Winners Announced

The results are in! Our contest winners were announced on Thursday, April 6 prior to Claudia Rankine’s reading. We thank each of our finalists for their submissions, and send many congratulations to our winners! Each winner was awarded a $500 prize, which is made possible by our donors’ generous support.

Drama

Christell Victoria Roach
Emory University

Fiction

Soniah Kamal
Georgia State University

Nonfiction

Anna Lachkaya
Agnes Scott College

Poetry

Terrence Daye
Morehouse College

Another Successful Festival

Thank you to everyone for another successful Writers’ Festival! We had amazing turnouts at each event, great audience questions, and lots of books signed. Thank you to everyone who came out to support the Festival and hear our amazing guests.

Agnes Scott Finalists’ Reading

Tuesday April 5, 2016

Festival Guest Q&A Session

Thursday, April 6

Patrick Phillips’ Reading

Thursday, April 6

Claudia Rankine Reading and Contest Winner Announcement

Thursday, April 6

Kayla Miller Reading

Friday, April 7

writ_fest 155

Finalist Workshop with Guest Writers

Friday, April 7

Finalist Interview: Lauren Godfrey

Lauren Godfrey is a recently graduated student at Agnes Scott College and a finalist in Nonfiction. We caught up with her this week to ask her a few questions about her life and her craft. Her piece, “If You Can Hear Your Neighbor,” will be published in the 46th annual ASC Writers’ Festival magazine.

The Writer

Godfrey, Lauren Picture
Photo Courtesy of Lauren Godfrey

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I am finishing up In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I’ve wanted to read it since I started writing creative nonfiction, and I waver between “How impressive, the amount of detail is insane!” and “No way this is all true. No. What? No. Stop it, Tru.” Next up is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier; my fiction-writing friends have insisted I read it for months.

In what spaces do you like to write?

Once I am focused on a piece, I like to write early in the morning, pretzeled in my blue armchair with a black rollerball pen and a spiral notebook. If I’m looking for inspiration, I frequent busy coffee shops and my favorite breakfast place. In all cases, a huge mug of coffee helps.

Where do you want to go from here? What are your next steps?

I graduated from Agnes Scott in December, and I recently started working at The Hirsch Academy in Decatur as an assistant teacher. I intend to continue writing new pieces and expanding the memoir I started in my senior seminar, and I am very excited to see where teaching may take me!

What’s a source of inspiration for you?

One great thing about creative nonfiction: everything is a potential piece. While I draw inspiration for topics from many places (personal relationships, extra-caffeinated mornings on Facebook), I look to great writers for the actual spark that will get me writing. When the topic is food, I like to read M.F.K. Fisher for fifteen or twenty minutes. When I was writing my memoir a few months ago, I started writing sessions with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah or Jessica Valenti’s Sex Object.

The Work

Why this genre?

I thought I would focus my creative writing major on poetry because I grew up writing poems. Creative nonfiction never crossed my mind until I took an intro class two years ago. The timing couldn’t have been better; poetry had begun to feel inaccessible to me, leading me to doubt my entire existence (but mostly my college career). The transition wasn’t difficult because poetry can be a form of nonfiction, like an essay distilled way down to the base emotions. I found creative nonfiction provided me with great opportunities to process events in my life as well as opportunities to simply learn. For example, I knew a little about shape note singing when I started “If You Can Hear Your Neighbor, You Aren’t Singing Loud Enough”, but by the time I finished the essay, I knew so much more about my attraction to the tradition and the story of shape note singing in America.

What do you want readers to take away from your piece?

I expect a lot of readers will not have heard of shape note singing, so I hope they come away with a basic understanding of how the practice came about and why it stuck around. Mostly, I hope people will look into singing’s and maybe attend one because they are fantastic.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

Deciding how to write about music. I wanted my piece to be accessible to readers with different levels of music knowledge, but I didn’t want to spend the whole time explaining jargon and concepts. I needed to go through a few drafts before striking a balance that I found comfortable.

What are you most proud of in your piece?

My favorite aspect of this piece is the flow between my experience and general information about shape note singing. Singings are about people as much as they are about music, if not more, and this piece wouldn’t get to the heart of the Sacred Harp tradition without a human angle.

Fun Fact:

If you like bread or food blogs or you want to read more of my writing, I recently launched a website called Millennial Loaves! I’m very excited about it, and if you’re interested, check out millennialloavesblog.com

Finalist Interview: Ashlyn Rebel

Ashlyn Rebel is a student at Mercer University and a finalist in Fiction. We caught up with her this week to ask her a few questions about her life and her craft. Her piece, “Vapor Waves,” will be published in the 46th annual ASC Writers’ Festival magazine.

The Writer

ashlynrebel
Photo Courtesy of Ashlyn Rebel

What are you reading right now?

I’m currently in the middle of a collection of English novels, including Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Once I finish those, however, I plan to reread Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, which happens to be my absolute favorite book.

In what spaces do you like to write?

When writing fiction, I typically feel most comfortable simply typing away at my laptop in my room because I know it so well that I don’t have to worry about any distractions and can get the story out much more easily. However, when I’m just working out the details of what I want to include in the story, I like to be out and about, especially in a car or walking around on campus.

Where do you want to go from here? What are your next steps?

Ideally, I would like to keep writing short stories and poetry, but I also want get started on a screenplay and have that completed and revised in a couple years’ time so that I can hopefully begin a career as a screenplay writer. I’m not a highly organized person so all I can say for sure about the future is that I want to keep writing; other than that, I’d just like to keep taking baby steps towards having more short stories published and eventually finishing the screenplays and musical I’ve been wanting to write for years.

What’s a source of inspiration for you?

I like to draw my inspiration from the little artful things in life; I feel that there is so much to be appreciated in the minutiae of life and so much beauty in the way things are, so when I go through life, I try to pay attention and pick up on the beautiful little moments that capture someone so perfectly in half a second and then write about that. There is so much to be noticed in the little things and I love taking those and trying to paint a picture of it all in my writing.

 

The Work

Why this genre?

Typically, when I sit down and write, it just so happens that I end up writing realistic fiction; it isn’t necessarily that I like that genre better, but I think most of my ideas are geared towards capturing life as I see it, and it also seems to come more naturally to me. That being said, I think that for this particular piece, the agonizing and emotional reality of war and the people dragged into it that I wanted to show could only have been properly conveyed in a realistic setting where nothing is exaggerated or distracting, so I had to deliberately keep everything well within the realistic fiction genre from the start.

What do you want readers to take away from your piece?

If I had to choose one thing, it’d probably be the fact that nothing in life is permanent. Youth is not a shelter, love is not a shield, and hope is not a defense. We live in a world and a climate that is constantly changing, and eventually everything that has meaning to us is going to change in some way or another. At the end of the day, all we have are memories, and even those change over time, so all we can do is take in every moment and live with our eyes wide open. Hopefully I’ve captured that appropriately in the short story.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

Honestly, the most difficult part would have to have been writing the postwar scenes and trying to channel the amount of raw emotion that comes with losing someone you love into simple words and sentences for the sake of the story. I feel that pain like that exists almost wholly in the realm without words, and it’s all a writer can really do to try to grab onto the coattails of anything they can get and hope that that will lead the reader where they want them to go, so writing those incredibly emotional scenes in a way that conveyed the emotion the way I wanted to would probably have to be the most challenging part of writing the story.

What are you most proud of in your piece?

I think I’d have to say that I’m most proud of the resolution of the story. I know that sounds like a pretty broad section to be proud of, but after having brought the story to a fairly emotional climax, I really like the way it recedes into a resolution that doesn’t quite resolve anything but instead leaves the story somewhat “open” in a way. In general, I feel like a story isn’t worth much without a powerful ending, so I may be a bit biased; however, I would say I’m fairly proud of the way everything came together in the end.

Finalist Interview: Stachia Natalee Diehl

Stachia Diehl is a student at Young Harris College and a finalist in Fiction. We caught up with her this week to ask her a few questions about her life and her craft. Her fiction piece, “Francis Jones Public Library,” will be published in the 46th annual ASC Writers’ Festival magazine.

The Writer

Diehl Photograph
Photo Courtesy of Stachia Diehl

What are you reading right now?

I started In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders, this week. But I also found a couple of random short fiction anthologies that I have been digging through, so I’m jumping around authors. Also, one of my professors just lent me “To Begin Where I Am,” by Czeslaw Milosz. I’ve only read three or four essays so far, but they’re written so beautifully and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. Prioritizing free reading becomes more difficult as the semester picks up steam—but it’s never impossible.

In what spaces do you like to write?

I wish I had a lovelier answer, but I usually have to be completely alone in my room. I don’t know what it is, but that’s where my best energy is circulated—like an enclosure. I’ve tried writing outside or in coffee shops, but I always end up too distracted and self-conscious. And that applies to the physical act of sitting down to write, not necessarily what gets mentally written.

Because I’m a new creative writer, which is still fun to say, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of writing daily. Even if it sounds dumb or embarrassing. I haven’t met one person who regrets writing every day, whether it’s a journal or just some collection of thought. Not only does this make it easier for words to process, but it’s also relieving to dump everything in a therapeutic way.

Where do you want to go from here? What are your next steps?

I ask myself that question daily, and I still haven’t discovered the correct answer. All I hope is that in my next step contains lots of reading and writing, and people to talk about reading and writing with.

What’s a source of inspiration for you?

Every single person has such an intricate story or piece of their life, and this is very inspirational to me. I don’t like writing about anything too big, because I can barely focus on what’s right in front of me. Being able to study the complexity behind simplicity stretches out infinite possibilities for stories. You can do so much with just one snippet of someone else’s life. Also, I have professors encouraging me to read and write with every second of my free time. Without them I wouldn’t have the confidence to write in the first place, so knowing that there are wonderful people thinking I have something to say is definitely an inspiration.

 

The Work

Why this genre?

I fell in love with fiction only about five months ago. I never even tried writing it until then, I assumed I hated it and that I would have a horrible time adjusting. I also hated the idea of becoming vulnerable, or having people look straight inside your brain. But I took a workshop and fell absolutely in love. Now it’s one of those things that I find myself doing constantly, just asking questions and trying to see a resemblance of an answer. I get excited thinking about challenging myself further and seeing where I’ll be in a year with my writing. Essentially, I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, fiction kind of just slapped me in the face. Lovingly.

What do you want readers to take away from your piece?

I hope readers take away the simplicity of the situation I write about. It’s so much fun to try and squeeze all the life out of boring circumstances and play with people and places. I don’t intend any profoundness or life altering circumstances, but I did intend for a rather dull situation to be described as life changing to the characters. So maybe an outward examination on how people interact and perceive each other.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

Getting it written in the first place. Not that there’s anything terribly difficult to handle in the story, but it’s hard to write anything knowing people are going to pick it apart in some way. I’m still very uncomfortable with the idea of someone reading what I write, because it’s so intimate and bare. But there’s so much energy after improvements are suggested, because you get to realize someone actually cares about something I wrote, and then they helped make it even better! It’s still uncomfortable, but I’m not sure anyone ever adjusts completely.

What are you most proud of in your piece?

I’m proud that it exists. And that it came from my own voice and not what I thought other people wanted to read, which is difficult.

Kamilah Aisha Moon: Former Contest Winner, New Agnes Scott Professor

Kamilah Aisha Moon won the 25th Annual Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival contest in Poetry in 1997. Since then, she’s established herself as a serious and published poet, and now is returning to Agnes Scott this fall as an instructor. Kamilah will join the ASC English Department as an Assistant Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing. She looks forward to “working with amazing young women and contributing to the vibrant intellectual and creative community of the college.” Congratulations, Professor, and we look forward to seeing you in the fall!

What is your history with Agnes Scott?

I did not attend Agnes Scott as a student. I completed my B.A. in English at Paine College in Augusta, GA. I saw an advertisement about the statewide creative writing competition held yearly at Agnes Scott for undergraduate students and sent a poetry application for consideration. I received news that I was a finalist and drove to this beautiful, stately campus for the awards ceremony. It was a wonderful surprise to win! Not only did it bolster my confidence as a young writer, the award money allowed me to attend my first international writing conference at NYU two months later. This formative experience in 1997 gave me permission to pursue my writing fully and explore the ideas of scholarship and teaching literature as a profession. It feels like a full circle moment to return to this campus as a poetry professor exactly 20 years later.

What has been your experience with the Festival? Which piece did you win with? 

The first place win at Agnes Scott was the first major recognition for my writing. I had published a few poems in college and community literary journals, but to receive a cash award and expert advice from judges who were established writers inspired me to seriously continue in the discipline. I won for a set of three poems. “Tough Love” was a poem about two close roommates of different backgrounds having a hard conversation about the phrase ‘I don’t see color.’ “Me and My Friends Circa 1981” was a fond recollection of an inner city neighborhood and the innocence of its children before crime took over. “An Afternoon at the Mall” was about a store clerk profiling shoppers of color as they shopped. These poems were definitely rough around the edges, so I’m grateful that the judges saw through the coal dust and recognized the diamond potential in a young writer.

What parts of the writing process do you most enjoy?

I love when inspiration compels me to stop what I’m doing and write. Over the years, I’ve learned to surrender to play, to write with abandon and turn off the internal editor for the initial draft so that I allow everything to make it to the page uncensored. So many gems are found within those first impulses to articulate experience, to experiment with language in ways that get us closer to meaning and illuminate the ineffable. I am grateful to be seized by an idea—to look up and realize that I haven’t moved for hours, need a meal and day has turned into night.

What parts do you still struggle with?

I think most emerging writers struggle with refining work. But I truly appreciate the revision process now more than ever. I think the key is patience. I will put a poem or an essay away for an extended period of time so that I can return to it with new eyes. Sometimes I have to live more life to know what a piece needs. I will say a line out loud over and over again until the rhythm and meter feel effortless. I will employ syntax in unconventional ways for greater impact; or scale down a diatribe to its essential concern or question unadorned so that a reader can’t turn away from it.

What advice do you have for emerging writers and artists?

Strive to be an endless apprentice and stay open to new ideas, but also trust your instincts and take risks. When someone else’s advice is germane to your project’s vision, deeply consider it. Run toward the projects and opportunities that scare you the most; turn fear into fuel and welcome challenges.

 

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