Senior English major and creative writing minor Haley Stokes was one of four students performing with faculty on Sept. 30 in Contemporary California Writers at ULV, Voices in Action series. Stokes read her poem “Dusk” and a short story, “Local Mythology.” Professor of English William Cook and Assistant Professors of English Kristen Ogden and Stephen Westbrook performed with the students, showcasing their literary talent.
Creative writing students, faculty and active listeners attended the first reading for “Voices in Action” Sept. 20 in the Harris Gallery. The event included a wide variety of speakers reading their original works of short stories, poetry, psalms and book excerpts.
Professor of English Bill Cook and Assistant Professors of English Steven Westbrook and Kristen Ogden were the featured readers of the night. Westbrook’s reading from his work “Spasmodic Ornament” was featured on a broadside, a poster-sized creative writing sample.
ULV student readers included senior English major and creative writing minor Haley Stokes, sophomore creative writing major Megan Gjerde, senior creative writing major Sara Lesniak and junior creative writing major Adrianna Gardner.
“This program has a major impact on creative writers as far as trying to get a good, diverse foundation for different areas of writing, approaches to writing and I am hoping it will attract a lot of interest,” Lesniak said.
“Voices in Action,” started by Ogden, was developed to showcase the literary landscape of Southern California through writers and performers. Each month the University of La Verne will host a reading and master class by a featured reader.
Writers who come to ULV will not only read from their work, but also offer a lecture, question and answer session or lead a writing workshop open to ULV students and faculty and the Inland Empire community. Also, the “Voices in Action” series sponsors a collection of books by contemporary California writers housed in the ULV library.
The Campus Diversity Initiative Fund and the College of Arts and Sciences have partially funded “Voices in Action” in response to a calling for programs linking to the University’s mission statement.
“This event is a representative in a sense that we really want to focus on creating a diverse community of writers, giving them opportunities to come and talk with each other, and generate ideas to focus on their own goals for their writing on campus and socially,” Westbrook said.
As the English Department builds and revises the creative writing program, they hope to encourage students to experience writing in a different, more positive light.
“We hope to expand the creative writing program and we would like to get as many students as possible to see that creative writing can be paired nicely with any major,” Ogden said. “There is always a place for writing in life.”
“Sometimes the joy and pleasure of writing isn’t totally apparent in some classrooms, but we would like to get a combination of the pleasure of writing and the cultural work it performs to show students that writing is not a chore and something enjoyable to do,” Westbrook said.
“Everybody can write, and you do not have to be born with a talent; everybody as something to say, everybody has a voice and something special to share. You loved writing as a child, why did you stop? Just because you are growing up, does not mean it has to be serious, writing can be fun,” Ogden said.
The second reading for the “Voices in Action” series will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 in the Harris Gallery and will feature Sherilyn Lee, an essayist of creative nonfiction. After the reading, Lee will sign her books and limited edition broadside, and then lead a free master class at 7:45 p.m. in the library.
Nicole Knight can be reached at email@example.com.