Last week, the School for New Learning hosted its second annual Writing Showcase Live! event. The exclamation point follows the word “live” for good reason—the event was filled with vivacious readers, captivated audience members, and the electric energy that comes from shared creativity.
Writing Showcase Live! was dreamed up last year by SNL writing faculty member Kamilah Cummings as a way to recognize students who submit their work to the Writing Showcase—a yearly call for quality compositions ranging from Capstone Projects to Digication ePortfolios. This year, the number of Writing Showcase submissions more than tripled the amount from 2015. Over twenty individual instructors, advisors, and mentors were represented by the work collected, and many were able to support their students in person at the Writing Showcase Live! event.
The event itself included readings from papers, digital stories, and ePortfolios covering topics like speech-to-text technology, Cap and Trade policy, and e-waste. There were first person narratives and third person analyses, stories of crime and stories of healing. Each student had ten minutes to share from his or her Writing Showcase submission, and the audience was attentive and supportive throughout. They devoured every word that had been carefully crafted for such a time as this—for communal consumption.
In her essay “Writing Within a Community,” poet and professor Kim Bridgford addresses the need for writing to be a shared experience despite the solitude often associated with it. “Some people tell me that they write only for themselves, but in no other art do people really believe this. Whether or not people want to become professional writers or dancers, singers or musicians, if they are serious about their craft, they do not want to do the equivalent of singing in the shower.”
There seemed to be genuine delight and affirmation following each Writing Showcase Live! presentation, not to mention copious applause. Questions for the authors bubbled up without prompting, leading to thoughtful discussions about parenting, pollution, and the writing process. Unsurprisingly, much of the conversation made its way back to writing: Where did an idea come from? How was it developed? Would work be published elsewhere? What were the real-life implications of a piece?
Some writers attempted to self-deprecate or downplay their work in relation to others, only to discover that their subject or style or passion was more universal than they expected. The audience frequently honed in on these relatable elements within pieces and helped writers place their work within the context of a genre, a career, or even the School for New Learning.
One audience member there to support a friend spoke of feeling encouraged to tell her own stories after hearing others’, and the group almost collectively urged her to pick up a journal (on her way home, if she could) and put pen to paper. People left Writing Showcase Live! not only wanting to write, but wanting to share what they’d written—even thinking about submissions for next year’s event! Bridgford explains some of the power behind an “exchange” like WSL:
In addition to the one-on-one relationship, a larger class community is important in sharing writing, ideas, and support. I'm not a touchy-feely kind of person, although I see the therapeutic benefits of some genres of writing, like memoir or confessional poetry. What I'm talking about is a forum for the exchange of everything from simple information, like literary terms or books to read, to the interplay of various opinions about a text. This stage of community does two things: it preserves a sense of intimacy, while it starts to give each writer a sense of a larger community, a group of readers, out there in the real world, who will ultimately have conversations with the text.There is deep value in voicing the work many writers do in solitude. There is value in discussing that work, applying it, and discovering even more creativity within it. Writing Showcase Live! is an annual opportunity for the SNL community to share and support the work students are doing as they tap into the interests, experiences, and ideas that drive them forward as lifelong learners.