It was with a pop art pizazz that the Writers’ Forum advertised its first reading last week with posters featuring Warhol-esque portraits of creative writing majors. The event on Monday, like the posters, had a certain glamour. As with any motley meeting of poets, novelists, essayists and the people who instruct them, the event flowed with sparkling cider, cheese and fine chocolates. Call it an old dog in a new tuxedo, but this year’s Writers’ Forum has class.
Of course, the changes in culinary offerings were only a part of the larger cosmetic changes made to the Writers’ Forum, which requires junior and senior Creative Writing majors to read their work. Rising almost in exact correlation with the amount of cheese offered is the number of majors reading at each forum.
“It used to be once every two weeks,” said sophomore and co-president of the Writers’ Forum Victoria Klimaj, “and three people would read, but there are so many creative writing majors this year that the English Department decided to do four big events with a lot of readers—11 for this forum, and similar amounts for the next three.”
And indeed, the number of Knox Creative Writing majors seems to be on the rise. Professor of English Monica Berlin notes that in 2002 there were 11 Creative Writing majors; this year, there are nearly 40 in the senior class.
“Creative Writing is really hot right now,” Berlin said. She serves as a sort of advisor to the Writing Forum advisors, Professors of English Sean Mills and Nicholas Regiacorte.
“Maybe in our media-driven, instant culture, taking the time to make art, learning to make art, learning craft is something that young people are valuing in a way they weren’t fifteen years ago,” Berlin said.
Criticism surfaced over this simultaneous increase in readers and decrease in readings. Senior Casey Patrick, who read during Monday’s forum, said, “I’m not sure that it was the best choice … I feel like the people [reading] towards the end probably won’t have as many people here to listen to them because people get tired and leave. So that’s kind of unfortunate. But I understand why they have to do it logistically.”
Patrick’s prediction proved true on Monday night. Returning for the forum’s second act after an intermission, the audience had noticeably thinned.
“I understand the criticisms of the set-up,” Kilmaj said, “but because of the number of people, we really needed to change the format a little bit.”
Klimaj also acknowledged criticism over the lack of introductions this year in the forum.
“The main thing I think people have been concerned about is that there are no introductions this year,” she said. “Last year, each person had a partner who would introduce them. It was an informative and sometimes funny bio, and people really liked doing that.”
In an effort to make up for this, Klimaj and her fellow co-president sophomore Berhane Cole decided to print programs in which “people write partner bios for each other.”
“I think with any change there’s criticism that comes with it,” Cole said.
The final change made to the Writers’ Forum is moving the event from the afternoon into the evening.
“I think things always feel more like an event in the evening, when it’s dark and you can sort of dress up if you’d like to,” Berlin said.
Yet despite changes, the Writers’ Forum hopes to maintain, if not enhance, its essential essence, which can be reduced to a simple formula: great writing equals a great time.
“I think we’re better, we push ourselves in new directions when we listen to and when we read what other people are doing,” Berlin said. “We don’t create art in a vacuum.”