By Ashley Geise
Writer’s block was no issue at the 35th annual Wildwood Writers Festival, held on Friday, March 27 at HACC students were able to listen to and experience different styles of writing. With an attendance of around 320 students and local members of the community coming out to support and listen to writers.
“It really is a time to celebrate the written word and have writers read from their work, for me when I think about it, it’s a way to celebrate writers and poets work,” explains Geri Gutwein, a professor at Harrisburg Area Community College and Director of the Wildwood Writers’ Festival.
The writers include Professor Paul Cockeram, Le Hinton, Patrick Rosal, Lynn Levin, Sheila Mulligan, and Professor and Director Geri Gutwein, along with an open reading for students to participate in.
The Wildwood Writers’ Conference in its early years now known as the Wildwood Writers’ Festival was started by Terry Wallace as a two day conference for writers to read their work and have it critiqued. The first day consisted solely of readings while the second focused on critiquing works, with more readings in the afternoon to wrap it up.
Wallace saw it as a celebration of the written word and a way for writers to come together. Professor Gutwein is current director of the festival with Richard Kearns as assistant Director. Gutwein has been a part of the festival committee for roughly 22 years and has been director for only a few years taking over after Terry Wallace retired.
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes “the most challenging part of planning the festival is trying to find good writers who we think will present their work effectively, and it takes some time to find the writers, through researching and thinking about writers we have read or heard read before to participate in the festival,” explained Gutwein.
Each writer brought a different atmosphere to the room while they delivered their works. Individually sessions lasted around 50 minutes with time at the end for and questions students may have.
When asked about the festival student Nikki Fry said “it was my second year attending the writer’s festival, and I loved it. It’s a good experience for anyone who likes to read or to write. Watching poets and authors read their own work is more than fascinating, and it brings a new level of emotion to their work.”
“The workshop allowed students to be exposed to several new writers,” Fry continued. “It gives students a look into the professional writing world.”
The festival allows students a look at different styles of writing and presentation, each writer was different in how they presented their work and the energy they gave off, along with the energy they get from the audience. For the writers this was their first reading at the festival and experiencing the Hacc audience.
“When I looked out at the audience I thought to myself ‘wow this audience feels a lot like the folks I grew up with and I felt like I could really reach people,’” said writer Patrick Rosal.
Writer Lynn Levin explained her experience as the festival, “this was a fantastic audience, I like to hear those little breaths that let me know that people got the jokes. There was a lot of that I could sense and it was a gratifying experience.”
All the writers said that if given the chance they would absolutely read at the festival again.
The writers gave tips for aspiring poets and story writers, the main one between them all was to read as much as you write. Although each had their own specific tips that corresponded with their own writing styles.
Rosal expressed, “to have rhythm in your work try dancing and try to dance with others, try to write things that you enjoy reading out loud for the sound, don’t be afraid of being lost and confused, that’s the beginning of wonder, confusion is often the beginning of wonder.”
Levin stated, “go to your scary place try to engage things that you would be inclined to censor that aren’t really nice observations and topics, they could turn out to be your best, keep revising and raise you language bar, add more to it like metaphors, similes, imagery from history medicine and family. Look at things differently never the same way always, have thought diversity.”
The festival was a success overall, and look forward to what next year’s writes may bring.