A capstone event for the Department of English this summer was the 2014 Ocean State Summer Writing Conference, hosted from June 19-21. Regional and national writers, both novice and seasoned, gathered at URI to study writing and to share their own works with fellow scholars.
On the morning of the first day, attendees found themselves in two-hour-long, rigorous workshop sessions. From beginning fiction to advanced poetry, memoir writing to screen writing, OSSWC offered workshops in various genres, giving participants the chance to work closely with experienced workshop leaders and fellow writers. In the afternoon, conference-goers attended a welcome reception in Green Hall. After remarks by URI creative writing faculty Professor Peter Covino and URI English alumnus, Thomas Barkman, participants enjoyed readings by brilliant writers.
This year’s conference featured a number of prize-winning writers, namely Charles Bernstein, Percival Everett, and Alison Bechdel. Charles Bernstein, a poet, theorist, and scholar, delivered the initial keynote address on Friday, June 20. Professor Covino, a former student of Bernstein, introduced the keynote, reading an excerpt from one of Bernstein’s enigmatic poems. Professor Covino could not speak enthusiastically enough about his mentor, expressing admiration shared by many participants.
In addition to being well-known, prominent writers, the featured speakers of OSSWC maintain close ties with a number of URI faculty, as with Covino and Bernstein. Ayad Akhtar, whose play Disgraced won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is a former student of Professor Mary Cappello, who is also creative writing faculty at URI. Ayad Akhtar and novel writer Amity Gaige rejoined us this year after their wonderful experience at last year’s conference. Their master classes on play writing and fiction, respectively, were among the most highly-attended sessions of the second day. At the end of the day, writers, readers, URI faculty and graduate students mingled in the elegant atmosphere of the URI Alumni Center and listened to readings accompanied by delicious food.
The great thing about OSSWC is that every great session is followed by another, equally exciting one. On the very same day, there was another keynote address by Percival Everett. Everett, who is the author of more than twenty novels, three collections of short fiction, and two volumes of poetry, read his short story titled “Tesseract.” He was introduced by one of URI’s creative writing faculty, Josie Sigler Sibara; Everett is a former mentor and a close friend to Sibara.
On the last day of the conference, the keynote address by Alison Bechdel attracted, without doubt, the largest crowd. Bechdel’s speech was a beautiful medley of readings, family anecdotes, and insights into her own craft and the genre of memoir writing.
We are proud that this year’s conference was a huge success! All aspects, from workshops to food to accommodations, were meticulously planned and executed. URI English faculty, staff, majors, graduate students, alumni, and many more put lots of energy and time into this wonderful event. We hosted a diverse group of participants from various levels, ages, and backgrounds. Attendees were supported and challenged in every session, enjoying three days full of conversation, networking, book-signing, and much more.
For writers looking for an exceptional and affordable writing conference, there is no need to look further. As are many others, I am already looking forward to OSSWC 2015. You can find the conference website here.
Pictures from the event are available here.