By Jack Despeaux
Student Life Editor
Every fall, bright-eyed freshman creative writers go to the Rose O’Neill Literary House and read their original poems, fiction, and nonfiction as a way of introducing themselves to the English Department. Their dreams are set with hopes of winning the Sophie Kerr Prize and making a name for themselves as young writers.
Every spring, the seniors do the same thing. Their hopes of winning the Sophie Kerr Prize are much more pressing, and they are in a place of transition and reflection on their college careers.
This year’s Senior Reading was on Tuesday April 17. It included Rosie Alger, Abby Guise, Caroline Harvey, Micaela Hoffman, Olivia Libowitz, Brooke Schultz, Mallory Smith, Hope Watland, Roswell Wells, and Casey Williams.
For Hoffman, her journey through creative writing at Washington College was one of building confidence in her writing.
“I actually didn’t read in the first-year reading,” Hoffman said. “I think I was too shy and nervous to share my writing with everyone at the time. But I did participate in this year’s reading which was definitely nerve-wracking, but it felt really good to share something I have worked hard on in front of others who are equally as passionate about writing as me. I’m glad I did it.”
Hoffman, an English major, said that WC expanded her interest in the creative writing and literary world.
“I’ve always enjoyed reading and my past English classes, but over the past four years here I have developed a much greater appreciation for literature and its various forms,” she said.
For Watland, the Senior Reading was a time of satisfaction and accomplishment, but performing a reading never really gets easy.
“Reading as a senior was a bit more laid back, knowing that I managed to get through the first one, but I was still really nervous,” she said. “Even though I was more prepared, I feel like there was more pressure the second time. The first-year reading was sort of a practice run, but everyone wants to leave with a good impression and the Senior Reading provides an opportunity for that.”
The Rose O’Neill Literary House has given students many opportunities to immerse themselves in the literary world, which helps those students maintain a passion for writing and reading literature.
“I learned a lot about the scope of the industry, and after taking a few workshops I feel like I’ve really figured out what I’m interested in and what my niche is,” Watland said.
Hoffman and Watland had similar advice to give to freshmen creative writers: don’t be afraid.
Hoffman advised freshmen to “not worry about what others think. Writing is so subjective and its impossible to please everyone, so don’t. Write about what you love or what you hate, what makes you happy or sad. You’ll never enjoy writing if you try to cater to everyone else.”
“Don’t be afraid to workshop the pieces and concepts you find yourself going back to,” Watland said. “I know I have an arsenal of nostalgic characters that I hold dear to my heart, and I tend to be equal parts embarrassed and defensive about them, but I’m really glad I wrote about some of that stuff. Trying the same kind of thing until it works is a really streamlined process if you’re in a workshop class getting concentrated feedback and working on the revision process.”
Senior creative writers can agree on this as well: the Literary House wants the best for their writers, and freshmen should embrace their opportunity.
“I’m really glad our school is home to such a wide variety of writers,” Watland said. “It was a treat to read alongside so many talented people with interesting, surprising art.”