Feb. 20, 1998
UW-RF Reading Series Showcases Students, Professionals
By Heather Piehl
UW-RF News Bureau
Gathering at UW-River Falls Chalmer Davee Library does not seem like a typical Friday afternoon activity as students leave campus for home, or begin their social activities for the weekend.
Yet, students, faculty, community members, and acclaimed professional writers now routinely gather among the stacks due to the UW-RF student readings series.
The student readings series was started a year and a half ago by English Professor Jennifer Brantley to allow students, staff, and community members to listen to and read writings. The forum is completely open as to who can read and the subject matter. It can be anything from poetry to short stories. "There are no editorial decisions made and we do not ask to see what will be read," Brantley says.
A typical reading series consists of four students or staff reading their works to an audience. When they are finished, there is an open microphone session so any members of the audience can come up and read their works. On occasion there are professionals who are invited to read. At these readings there is no open microphone session.
With the exception of Brantley, the series is completely run by UW-RF students and it is not classroom-oriented. She feels that this method of organization helps get students more involved. They do just about everything, including introducing the speakers, Brantley notes.
Brantley has experience with similar programs at other campuses and thought it would be a good idea to start one at UW-RF.
"I knew there were a lot of writers on this campus and students need some outlet for their work. The readings series gives them a sense that they are not just writing for themselves. Their writings must be understandable for others, too. Also, it gives them a sense of community outside of the classroom," Brantley says.
The reading series also helps the students recognize each other, Brantley notes. It exposes them to how and what others write about. The sessions also allow students to listen to and get ideas from the visiting professional writers.
The professionals who read have their own reasons for participating, and it is not the compensation. "We look around in the community and find people to come for very little money," she said. "Published writers come because they are excited to have a student audience."
There were about 15 people in the audience at the first student reading series evnet. Ever since then, the numbers have been increasing. At the last reading 40-50 people came to listen and some to read, Brantley relates. She feels that people attend because of the enthusiasm the readers convey.
"Every time I go there, I leave feeling rejuvenated. Students have ideas outside the classroom. They think a lot about important ideas and I always leave the readings juiced back up again," Brantley explains.
There will be five more student reading series in the spring 1998 semester. They are:
March 6. University Community Reading with tentatively scheduled speakers Curt LeMay, Davee Library; Richard Burgsteiner, journalism department; Al Larson, facilities management; Terry Brown, English; and Margarita Hendrickson, modern languages.
March 27. Poet Thomas R. Smith, local poet and poetry book reviewer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
April 3 will be a student reading. Students will be scheduled to read closer to the date.
April 24. Fiction writers Amy Knox Brown and John McNally, A past winner of the Henfield/Tansatlantic Reviw Award, Knox-Brown's fiction has appeared in "The Missouri Review," "Witness," "Gallery," "Descant," "Voices West" and many other magazines. McNally is a past recipient of a James Michener Fellowship. He has published fiction in many magazines and is the recent editor of "High Infidelity," a collection of stories by writers such as Russo, Mukherjee, Boyle, Updike, Atwood Ganks and Swick.
May 8. The final is restricted to graduating English majors.
The student readings are held at 3:30 p.m. on the second floor breezeway at UW-River Falls Davee library. For more information contact Brantley at 715/425-3173.