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New Writing Series kicks off in IMRC

The New Writing Series hosted its first reading for this semester on Sept. 24. The English department booked two guest writers, Stacy Szymaszek and Magdalena Zurawski, for the first reading. The readers read to a group of almost 50 students and faculty members that filled the Allen and Sally Fernald APPE Space in Stewart Commons.

Szymasek and Zurawski read their work for about 20 minutes each. Szymasek, whose reading was her first on campus, read pieces that were more of a prose style, while Zurawski, who was reading on campus for the second time, read pieces that were short and more poetic.

Both writers said college students were, “their preferred audience.” They both said that they read often in front of college students.

English faculty member, Steve Evans, who is one of the coordinators of the New Writing Series, talked about the growth of the series since it began in 1999 and what it has come to now.

“Myself, Ben Friedlander, Carla Billitteri, and Jennifer Moxley all got hired in 1999, and one thing we wanted to bring to campus, as new people on campus, was a lively literary scene and we wanted Orono to stay up to date in terms of what was going on in contemporary writing. So we just got busy,” Evans said.

The New Writing Series has brought writers like Rae Armantrout, who actually read at the university before she was recognized and won many awards for her poetry.

“We really try to get writers a little ahead of the curve, rather than once they hit a certain level that becomes very expensive to bring to campus and they also become more perfunctory of what they do. We like to get them when they are working hard,” Evans said.

Evans also discussed the importance of the series’ strong focus on bringing new writers to campus.

“We call it The New Writing Series because we are interested in hearing new work, and that could be by somebody who has just written one book, somebody who hasn’t even gotten a book yet, all the way up to somebody that has new work but from a long career,” Evans said.

The New Writing Series always has a Q&A session following the readings.

“There’s an opportunity in real time to kind of talk with the person about what you’ve just heard. Not all series do that, and it’s partly to make sure there’s kind of an educational component to it,” Evans said. “But it’s also sometimes the things people say after the reading that are the most memorable things about the event. These are people whose whole life is writing, and that shows when they talk.”

Evans encourages students to give The New Writing Series a try. Some of the other readers that will be part of the series this semester include Lee Ann Roripaugh, Sarah Gerard, Andrew Ervin and Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi.

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