Participants are in for a special treat as Sweet Briar College hosts its fifth annual Creative Writing Conference for undergraduate students, March 21-24. The conference coincides with the College’s Julia B. Waxter Environmental Forum, which will host a reading and conversation with bestselling novelist Barbara Kingsolver Thursday night.
Kingsolver isn’t technically part of the writing conference, but students will have the opportunity to attend her event, which is open to the public. As in previous years, the Creative Writing Conference also boasts several other public readings and craft talks by visiting writers, as well as closed workshops for participating undergraduate students from various states.
In an effort to give each writer “a full-length showcase of their own,” morning craft talks are now combined with readings, said John Casteen, who teaches poetry at Sweet Briar and directs the conference. In the past, readings took place at a separate time, which made it more difficult for listeners to connect the two.
“It should be a great opportunity to see fresh young writers discuss the issues in their work while also showing the audience how they resolved those issues,” Casteen said.
This year’s featured presenters are novelist Valerie Sayers, chair of the English program at the University of Notre Dame, and poet Allison Seay, a current National Endowment for the Arts fellow.
“[Seay’s] first book, ‘To See the Queen,’ is one of the most fascinating first books of poetry I’ve seen in years,” Casteen said.
Other highlights include readings and craft talks by Emma Rathbone, a novelist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, as well as Brooklyn-based writer and filmmaker Sierra Bellows, poets Dave Lucas and Leah Green, and fiction writer Aja Gabel. Dave Griffith, who teaches journalism and creative nonfiction at Sweet Briar, will also read and lead workshops, along with Casteen.
While similar conferences take place at other institutions over the summer, Sweet Briar is the only college to offer an event like this for undergraduate students during the semester. To invite students to the conference, Sweet Briar professors work with colleges in the region and across the country to nominate students who show the most promise as writers.
About 60 students are expected this year, among them several participants from Sweet Briar, as well as Hollins University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, the University of Mary Washington, Lewis & Clark College and Central Connecticut State University, all of which have nominated students in the past. Newcomers to the program include Brown, Johns Hopkins, Colgate, Denison and John Carroll universities, Colorado College, and others.
Readings and craft talks are open to the public. For more information about the conference, please visit sbc.edu/creative-writing/creative-writing-conference, call (434) 381-6220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.