On October 5, senior creative writing majors Seiya Asada-Johnson, Martin Cain, Anna Paikert and Cecelie Pikus traveled to New York City to attend the 13th annual New Yorker Festival with Professors of Creative Writing Doran Larson and Jane Springer. The Festival brought together authors, artists, musicians, filmmakers and more in panel discussions and screenings. Hamilton participants were able to attend three lectures each by renowned and influential writers.
The festival began late on Friday evening and concluded on Sunday morning and showcased writers and poets such as Alison Bechdel, Margaret Atwood, Junot Diaz, Joyce Carol Oates and Julian Barnes.
Attendees agreed that it was great to venture away from the Hill for a weekend, especially to experience something so relevant to what they are doing as creative writing majors. “I liked having the chance to see some writers I enjoy in person, and it was generally just exciting to be at an event that was organized by The New Yorker – the most well-known publication that publishes contemporary literature in America,” Cain stated.
Participants also enjoyed seeing writers in discussion with their peers. At the lectures, especially those centered on themes in fiction writing, the students heard dialogue between authors with both similarities and differences bouncing ideas and beliefs off of one another. Topics of the fiction discussion panels included overarching themes of love and marriage, crisis and money.
Other lectures were geared more toward remembering deceased writers that have left lasting impressions, such as esteemed author David Foster Wallace.
Asada-Johnson, who attended the Foster Wallace rereading, explained, “This talk was very interesting because the panel was made up of people, such as an ex-girlfriend, roommate from college and best friend, who were close to him in his life and gave insight that was otherwise impossible to get.” Asada-Johnson added that the facilitator of the discussion interacted with the audience well and kept the conversation lively.
Attendees also discussed details that surprised them. “When I envisioned the festival, I imagined that there’d be lots of serious lit-theory related discussions, but in many cases, they were less sophisticated than discussions in classes I’ve had at Hamilton,” Cain admitted. He said that this was most likely due to the wide variety of audience members present at the various lectures, and that at Hamilton, most classes are much more in-depth and directed at a specific audience.
Students also felt that in some of the larger group discourses, authors were not able to get too detailed and comprehensively analyze their recent works or the works of others simply because there was so much material and so little time. Asada-Johnson said “Despite this mere scanning of the surface, it was nice to get a glimpse into upcoming works from these well-established authors.” It is safe to say that Hamilton prepared these creative writing majors for an extremely high level of conversation and literary analysis.
Overall, the students who attended the festival agreed that it was an experience Hamilton should continue to offer to creative writing majors. Everyone concurred that the experience was exciting and fresh, and took them all out of the comfort zone of Hamilton College.