By Jessa Chadwick, Assistant Arts Editor
Every now and then, it’s important to come out of the shell and discover
what’s going on in the real world. Batteries need to re-charge, and tribulations or successes need to be shared with other like-minded creative souls. There’s no better place for this than at a writing festival,” writer Louis Mango said in, “The Benefits of Literary Festivals.”
Creating is a hard, long, and sometimes even an excruciating process. Yet having a community of fellow creators helps to relieve the lonely writer; this enables them to continue to create. A community also provides experiences that inspire writers to create.
For many local writers, Scissortail Creative Writing Festival is one of these communities.
“The Scissortail Creative Writing Festival is an event held every spring at East Central University,” Dr. Newsom, assistant professor of English said.
“There are writers from lots of different places who come to read their poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction and to hear other writers read their work. It’s a really unique event among creative writing festivals because it tends to mingle writers in different
genres on the same panel and they all have equal time. Generally, there is a key note, or two, speaker in the evening who may be a bigger name writer that they’ve brought in. But among the other readers it’s a very egalitarian sort of conference.”
What makes this festival so different from others is that focus on community. Writers need others writers input to know when to keep revising and when a piece is finally good; sometimes, even to know when to trash a piece or to let it simmer for a while before coming back to it. This festival creates a space where that can happen.
“I would commend Ken Hada who is the founder and director of the festival,”
Newsom said. “He does such a good job orchestrating the event. I’ve been to lots
of other writing events as well and sometimes they’re a little less friendly, and more competitive. And Scissortail is not like that at all and that’s largely because Ken sets the tone for this event; [it’s] about the writing, it’s about sharing the writing and our love
of writing, not about comparing our stats or whatever. He deserves a lot of credit for putting together a great event.”
However, this space is not just for experienced poets and fiction/nonfiction writers. Many budding writers need the mentorship and comradery of others to continue the task of sitting down to put words on the page or to get back up after a disheartening
“It’s a really beneficial educational experience for students for a couple of reasons,” Newsom said. “One, our young writers can see what it’s like to be a part of the creative writing community and what sharing your work within that context could look like, one form that takes. Secondly, the Scissortail Festival has an undergraduate competition that’s associated with it and we’ve had students submit their work to that and that is another good early experience of sharing your best work and putting it out there for someone to read and judge and respond to. While the act of creating is hard, sharing the created work can be even harder. Writers will ask themselves constantly if their piece is good or worth reading. Ultimately, criticism, even rejection, can help the writer grow to create even better work.
“Part of being a writer is doing that, sending your work out again and again. Often having it rejected, but learning to accept the rejection and move on. Send it out again. Revise it again. Keep trying. That’s how you become a published writer. You’re already a writer if you’re writing but to become a published writer just takes a lot of persistence; of sharing that work and finding the right place, the right audience.”
The festival creates a space for writers to share work and gain feedback from others who get the process of creating. Newsom expands on some hopes he has for the students that attend the festival this year and in the future.
“For one thing, I hope [the students] enjoy it,” Newsom said. “To commit yourself to writing poetry or fiction, typically is a very solitary endeavor. We write alone. We’re in our own world, our own thoughts, or with the page, and a festival like this gives us a chance to interact with others and to socialize with other people who care about words and care about poetry or fiction and have been brave enough to commit themselves to the task as well. So, I hope that students enjoy that kind of interaction and see that there is a sort of balance to that part of writing, a social aspect to it that’s beneficial.”
Most writers have a goal to write a book which is usually broken down into shorter goals; writing so many words in a week or in a month, then editing those.
Other writers may not know yet what goals they have other than to create. A community such as Scissortail will help exhibit the different goals available to writers.
“Outside of that,” Newsom said, “I hope they would come away from an experience like Scissortail with a clearer vision of what kind of future they want to have as a writer. So maybe they’ll see this and go, yes that’s what I want to be doing ten years from now. Students don’t often know yet what they can do with writing so this is one way of giving them a picture, not of the only way they can use writing or do writing, succeed as a writer, but one model. And they can move towards or away from that as they would like to.”
Visit the Scissortail Creative Writing website at http://ecuscissortail.blogspot.com/2018/ for more information.