By Sophie Foster
The Rose O’Neill Literary House’s annual First-Year Reading took place on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. on the Literary House’s enclosed porch.
This was the first time since 2019 that the reading, emceed by Associate Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Assistant Professor of English Roy Kesey, was able to be held in person.
This year’s featured writers were freshmen Jaya Basu, Vincent Carroll, Faye Dorman, Jove Gleason, Nyss Fairchild, Seth Horan, Ava MacKinnon, Teddy Nies, Luisa Pellettieri, Karlis Povilis, Mikayla Silcox, Andraya Sudler, Sheri Swayne, Mel Tuerk, and Jenna Walton.
Some of these writers were sharing their work publicly for the first time. According to freshman Sheri Swayne, the moments leading up to the reading were anxiety-inducing and full of nerves, but the reading itself was a positive, reassuring, and interesting experience.
“As I listened to everyone read their work, I was fascinated by the different writing styles and genres that were explored by my peers,” Swayne said. “We truly have some geniuses in our midst.”
According to Swayne, the experience permanently shifted her perception of the Literary House.
“It’s now the first place I shared [my] writing with people I hardly know and the first time I read it out loud. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once,” Swayne said.
It was also freshman Ava MacKinnon’s first time participating in a public literary event.
“I loved it,” MacKinnon said. “There was a sense of community I experienced upon hearing fellow freshmen read and reading my own work. The Lit House felt especially vibrant. I felt quite vulnerable reading my writing but was comforted by the feeling that everyone’s art was confessional in its own way.”
MacKinnon’s favorite part of the reading was hearing new voices and gaining new perspectives on prose and poetry.
“Writing can be as specific as possible or as abstract [as] possible and it still has immense ability to resonate,” MacKinnon said.
For others, this was not their first experience sharing their work in a public sphere.
Freshman Mel Tuerk, who said they had partaken in readings before, said that this reading differed from others they had been involved in because it centered first-year students and created a comforting environment.
“For me the highlight was hearing the work of my peers,” Tuerk said. “I was really impressed by the writing I heard and it made me feel connected to my fellow students.”
According to Tuerk, they look forward to remaining involved in similar literary events on campus in the future, and they thoroughly enjoyed their time at the reading.
“While I was familiar with literary spaces at [Washington College] before reading, it definitely made me feel more comfortable in these literary spaces,” Tuerk said. “Knowing that everyone that finds themselves in these environments actively wants to be there makes it a very safe space that is open and available to everyone.”
For freshman Vincent Carroll, who has been participating in readings since his freshman year of high school, readings held at the Literary House are positive experiences because of the community of passionate writers they welcome.
“The Lit House is a space that inspires me, and I feel honored to be able to read my work in a space where so many writers that I admire have read their work over the years. Definitely one of my favorite spaces I’ve ever read in,” Carroll said.
According to Carroll, the best part of the night was hearing what his peers were writing, and it was good to see how many people attended the reading to support and listen, since at some readings it can be rare to have many attendees who aren’t reading themselves.
“There’s nothing that makes me feel more inspired to write than the work of others and knowing that I am a member of such a supportive and wonderful community of writers,” Carroll said. “Even though I’m not majoring in English, creative writing is still something that’s incredibly important to me, and events like this make me feel like I’m a member of the community.”
This event also served as the conclusion to the Literary House Series for the fall 2022 semester. The next event in this series, “The Lit House Celebrates 50 Years of the Articulated Word: An Alumni Extravaganza Reading!” will take place in the spring 2023 semester and will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 25 from 8 to 10 p.m. via Zoom.
All future Literary House events and relevant registration details can be found on events page of the Literary House’s segment of the WC website at https://www.washcoll.edu/learn-by-doing/lit-house/events.php.
Photo by Ava MacKinnon
Photo Caption: Freshman Vincent Carroll was among the students who shared writing on Wednesday, Nov. 30.