Writing conference draws record numbers to Sweet Briar

| March 27, 2014

Sweet Briar will host its sixth annual Creative Writing Conference for undergraduate students April 3-6 in the College’s Elston Inn Conference Center.

As in previous years, the schedule features readings, craft talks and workshops in fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry.

Tess Taylor

This year’s faculty includes poets Dave Lucas and Leah Naomi Green, as well as fiction writer and filmmaker Sierra Bellows, all of whom have taught workshops at the conference before. New to the faculty are poet Sarah Crossland and fiction and nonfiction writer Michael Croley, in addition to featured presenters Tess Taylor and Jesse Dukes. Both will be on campus as part of the College’s 2013-14 Writers Series, along with poet Will Schutt, who will also read during the conference.

Taylor currently reviews poetry for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of many writing fellowships, her chapbook “The Misremembered World” was selected by Irish poet Eavan Boland and published by the Poetry Society of America, and her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, The Times Literary Supplement and The New Yorker. Her essay “The Waste Land App” won a 2013 Pushcart Prize and her book of poems, “The Forage House,” was published in 2013 by Red Hen Press.

Virginia-based writer Jesse Dukes is also a producer of radio and multimedia documentaries. He studied radio at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, worked for the radio programs “With Good Reason” and “Backstory” and is a principal at Big Shed. His multimedia work has won a National Magazine Award (with Elliott Woods) and an Overseas Press Club Award (with Maisie Crow), and his essay “Babu on the Bad Road” was included in the Best American Travel Writing collection of 2013.

Schutt, a graduate of Oberlin College and Hollins University, is the author of “Westerly,” winner of the 2012 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. He is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the James Merrill House, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. His poems and translations have appeared in Agni, Field, The New Republic, The Southern Review and elsewhere, and he was recently named the 2013-14 Tickner Writing Fellow at Gilman School in Baltimore.

John Casteen addresses participants at last year’s conference.

Sweet Briar faculty are also part of the schedule, including conference director and visiting assistant professor of poetry John Casteen, as well as visiting assistant professor of creative writing Nell Boeschenstein, creative writing director John Gregory Brown and Margaret Banister Writer-in-Residence Carrie Brown, who currently teaches at Hollins University.

The timing of Sweet Briar’s writing conference during the academic year distinguishes it from similar residential programs for undergraduates at other institutions, which are typically held during the summer.

Aspiring writers from all over the country are nominated by their professors to participate in the conference, and each year, the competition gets a little bit fiercer.

“We have a substantial wait list,” Casteen said. “This is our largest year ever.”

Seventy-two students from 21 colleges and universities around the country have been enrolled; states represented include Oregon, Michigan, Ohio and Connecticut, among others.

Last year, about 60 students enrolled in the conference.

There are also five new schools sending students for the first time: the University of Michigan, Case Western Reserve University, Hiram College, the University of Mississippi and Kent State.

Readings and craft talks are open to the public. For more information, please visit sbc.edu/creative-writing/creative-writing-conference, call (434) 381-6220 or email jcasteen@sbc.edu. Watch a video of last year’s conference below:

2014 Sweet Briar Creative Writing Conference Schedule (public events):

Thursday, April 3
8 p.m.: Tess Taylor and Jesse Dukes — Boxwood Room, Elston Inn Conference Center

Friday, April 4
10-11 a.m.: Craft Talk, Tess Taylor — Wailes Lounge, Elston Inn Conference Center
11 a.m.-noon: Craft Talk, Jesse Dukes — Wailes Lounge, Elston Inn Conference Center
8 p.m.: Readings, Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown — Boxwood Room, Elston Inn Conference Center

Saturday, April 5
10-11 a.m.: Reading and Craft Talk, Mike Croley — Wailes Lounge, Elston Inn Conference Center
11 a.m.-noon: Reading and Craft Talk, Sierra Bellows — Wailes Lounge, Elston Inn Conference Center
8 p.m.: Readings, Nell Boeschenstein and Will Schutt, Boxwood Room, Elston Inn Conference Center

Sunday, April 6:
10-11 a.m.: Reading and Craft Talk, Sarah Crossland — Wailes Lounge, Elston Inn Conference Center
11 a.m.-noon: Reading and Craft Talk, Dave Lucas — Wailes Lounge, Elston Inn Conference Center

Janika Carey

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Category: Creative Writing, Creative Writing Conference