By Alicia Wikner
Gathered in the Alumni House beneath the yellow light for the second annual Senior Capstone Reading, seniors completing their Writing Certificate had the opportunity to read their short stories and poems to an enthusiastic crowd on February 13. The event was organized by the Mountain Goat Literary Journal and the Writing House.
With brownies in hand and the buzz of conversations coming to a quiet, Mary Lynn Wells’ (C’18), Co-Director of the Writing House, introduction marked the beginning of the evening.
“[The event] was pulled together to support the seniors who wrote their capstones,” Wells explained. “It was really great to see different members of the community celebrate the seniors who have worked hard. There was a wide range of genres and students who participated, and I think it is important that they were given the space to share their work.”
Writers walked up to the podium one by one to present the projects they’d been working to perfect over months; the short-stories featured everything from science fiction pieces discussing the grey morality of genetic modification to the sexual excursions of a grandma as she attempts to decode emojis with the help of her grandson.
Laney Wood (C’18) commented on finally being able to share her story: “I’ve been working on this for so long, and all these wonderful people are here. It’s really beautiful because this is something that’s been hidden.”
Wood’s own reading was met with shocked gasps and loud laughter as she smoothly took the listeners through the story of a man trying to impress the children of his fianceé by bringing them to a princess convention along with their nanny, only to later discover that he’s wandered into a neighboring convention featuring BDSM equipment, realizing in horror that he had offered to buy the nanny a bedazzled horse bit for people and not a necklace.
Sewanee has a well-established English department and heavy involvement with writing, and the Creative Writing Certificate allows students to engage further with this aspect of the University. In order to complete the Certificate, a student works with an advisor as they complete their capstone, which can consist of short stories, plays, or poems.
“The creative writing certificate is for anyone who feels passionate about writing and wants to pursue it,” Wells said in regards to the program. “This reading is the culmination of that pursuit.”
There was nothing but support in the alumni house that night. With an ever-changing mood built on quiet commentary, heavy silence, and outbursts of laughter, the one constant throughout the night was the encouragement directed at the presenting writers. Every performance was followed by loud applause, and most people stayed throughout the whole two-hour long event.
Kevin Wilson, associate professor in the English department, coordinator of the Certificate in Creative Writing program, and author of The Family Fang, was also present. “This showed to be an unbelievably talented year, with stylistically different writers, which is a testament to the writers themselves,” Wilson said. “Again and again, what makes Sewanee special is how [people] embrace the work of their peers.”