2016 Agnes Scott College Writers’ Festival Guests

The forty-fifth annual Agnes Scott College Writers’ Festival will be held April 7-8, 2016. This year we will have three distinguished guest writers on campus to speak to the public: Richard Blanco, Dani Shapiro, and Charleen McClure.

blanco_pressimage1Richard Blanco is the fifth inaugural poet in US history—the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban-exiled parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work. He is the author of three poetry collections: Looking for the Gulf MotelDirections to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; and two memoirs: The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey.

shapiro_author11-200x270An acclaimed literary novelist and nonfiction writer, Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of three memoirs, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life (2013); Devotion; and Slow Motion: A Memoir of a Life Rescued by Tragedy. Her five acclaimed novels include Family History and Black & White, both of which are in development as feature films.


charleen mcclureCharleen McClure is a young poet currently residing in New York City. She was born to Jamaican parents in London, England and later immigrated to Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from Agnes Scott College with a Bachelor’s in English-Literature, she moved abroad to teach in Spain on a Fulbright scholarship. Since moving to New York City, she’s become part of the Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon and has participated in various Cave Canem workshops. Her work has been published in African Voices magazine.

Please join Richard Blanco, Dani Shapiro, and Charleen McClure for the following events:

Q & A with Richard Blanco, Dani Shapiro, and Charleen McClure ’10
Thursday, April 7, 1 p.m.
Luchsinger Lounge, Alston Student Center

Reading by Dani Shapiro
Reception and booksigning to follow
Thursday, April 7, 4 p.m.
Winter Theater, Dana Fine Arts

Reading by Richard Blanco
Reception and booksigning to follow
Thursday, April 7, 8 p.m.
Winter Theater, Dana Fine Arts

Reading by Charleen McClure ’10
Reception and booksigning to follow
Friday, April 8, 2 p.m.
Winter Theater, Dana Fine Arts

All of these events are free and open to the public. We hope to see you there.

Interview with Guest Writer, Jennifer Bartell ’05

The 44th Annual Writers’ Festivals is finally here! Now that our guest writers are here, let us welcome back alumna writer, Jennifer Bartell ’05.

Jennifer Bartell graduated from Agnes Scott with a degree in English-Literature & Creative Writing, focusing in poetry and nonfiction. She initially left Agnes thinking she wanted to be a nurse; however, she quickly found herself going back to what she knew best–writing. Landing various jobs in newspaper reporting and teaching, it wasn’t until several years later that Bartell went back to school. Last year, in 2014, Bartell graduated from University of South Carolina in Columbia with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. She currently teaches at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

Jennifer Bartell ’05: I’ve always been attracted to words and reading, but I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was thirteen years old and started writing poetry.

One year I told my mom I wanted a typewriter for Christmas, a little electric type writer. And at that point she knew that I was doing a lot of writing. Horrible horrible writing, but I was writing. You have to start somewhere!

Writers’ Festival: When was your first work published, and what was that experience like?

Bartell: I guess it was one those young American poetry anthologies in middle school or high school. I remember feeling very proud of my work and had this desire to want to get published again. But I didn’t really take publishing seriously until I got into a MFA program. I don’t know why it took me so long to take poetry seriously.

Before I went into the MFA program, I was working on a poetry project (that I have since abandoned) and getting a manuscript together for publication.  But I wasn’t actively sending work out to be published. And I think that just came from being a novice and not knowing a lot about the field.

Writers’ Festival: Would you suggest that students try to start getting published while they’re in college?

Bartell: I would say that young writers need to focus on the craft and focus on the process more than the product and publication. Of course, publication is what you ideally want to be working toward. But I think a lot of young writers get caught up in writing what is publishable without really exploring who they are as an individual and a writer. Focus on developing the craft, read as much as you can, read as widely as you can, and all of the other stuff will fall into place.

Sending stuff out to publishing companies or presses, depending on where you’re sending it, can get really pricey. There’s nothing wrong with supporting presses, but you really need to be sure in your work before you send it out. A lot of people, including myself, send work out prematurely. It’s not where it needs to be. And of course it doesn’t get published! It’s not really good. Not yet.

Who are you as a writer? What are the topics you typically write about?

Bartell: I’m still growing and evolving as a woman and a writer. Writing poetry is a journey, and I say that because of the experiences I’ve been through in the past ten years. I graduated from Agnes Scott in 2005 and then, the next year my mother died. I worked and had various jobs, and when I went back to school, my dad died. So, a lot of that influences my writing. I write a lot about my parents, grief, and loneliness.

And so, I don’t want to say that I use poetry as catharsis, because poetry has to be more than that, but I would say that writing about these experiences is how I have maintained some sanity. Reading poetry, writing poetry, and revising, revising, revising poetry has helped me to figure out a lot of things that would otherwise be very difficult to process.

If you have more questions you’d like to ask, there will be a Q & A session with guest writers, Chris Abani, Tracy K. Smith, and Jennifer Bartell ’05 on Thursday, March 26th at 1pm in Luchsinger Lounge.