By Nadia Caldwell and Chelsea Vitone
For the first time since the Writing Studies Department stood up in Winter 2011, seniors were invited to participate in a Senior Writing Studies Showcase. During a brainstorming session, in summer of 2014, Assistant Professor and UWT literary magazine Tahoma West (TW) faculty advisor, Michael Kula, and TW editor and senior Nicole McCarthy, planned out a year’s worth of events for Tahoma West, one of which was a showcase to feature seniors. McCarthy explains that the Writing Studies program has “grown so much in the past few years that a showcase finally became a necessity for us.”
After months of planning and discussion, the two worked in collaboration with part-time lecturer, Janie Miller, to organize the event on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, that highlighted the standout pieces seniors have created in their time at UWT. Families, friends, and faculty gathered together in the black-box theater in Cherry Parks 007 to celebrate the soon-to-be matriculated. McCarthy, an ambitious leader has led TW into uncharted territory with the outreach into collaborating with Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) and increasing the presence of the magazine on campus. McCarthy said, “Tahoma West wanted to spearhead it because we felt that our annual journal wasn’t enough to recognize the outstanding writers we have here at UWT.”
Writing studies majors are exposed to a variety of fiction, nonfiction and poetry classes in their time at UWT, in which they hone their creative writing skills. The positive response from seniors is encouraging, and McCarthy said, “we hope that launching this event will encourage up-and-coming Writing Studies majors to aspire to present their work for their peers, and to see this as a significant milestone on their path towards becoming a writer (or getting their bachelor’s degree),” which is the end goal for many writers.
McCarthy, who also read selections of her poetry at the event explained how important support from staff and faculty is since, “We are all here presenting our work because they helped us get here and watched us evolve as writers throughout the process.”
The theme of the night seemed to be poetry with six out of eight in the showcase reading some, if not all, poems. The readings kicked off with senior and Ledger’s own Chelsea Vitone. When describing Vitone’s work Kula said, “The word that comes to mind is risk…it’s always an interesting surprise.” And so it was, kicking off the showcase with short horor story called “Pigs in a Barn.” Vitone opened her reading with a content warning and upon completion of her reading mouths hung open. Following Chelsea came Tien who read her poetry ending with the impactful poem entitled “Testing Testing Hello.”
Kula and Miller took turns introducing students, speaking to the type of writers the presenters were, and the type of writing that they do. Crystal Reeves was introduced by Kula, who said when he thinks of Crystal he thinks of detail, “say it once, say it right.” Reeves read her first short story entitled “Motel Six.” Kyle came on next, saying of himself, “I eat poems and I sleep poems and I meet them in strange places.” Kyle delivered an assortment of his work, including his poems “The Last Leap of the Wingless Dragon” and “Behind Enemy Lines.”
After Kyle came a short interlude; picking back up with McCarthy whose work was described by Kula in one word as “elegance.” Jillian came next reading a mix of poetry and a short story, leading to Kari who came on next, and read one piece that she referred to as her “ode to poetry.” “In every line there’s sort of an embodiment of the human experience,” said Miller of Kari’s work. The night ended with Nick, who recently graduated and came back to participate in the inaugural event. The night was a showcase of the writing talent that is on UWT’s campus. “You guys are our rockstars,” Miller said, closing the night.