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February 13, 2009
Vol. 50 No. 15

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Students, authors to share works at conference

Lawrence Buell
Bob Shacochis
Students from colleges and universities across the region will join together on Monday, Feb. 16 for the Fifth Annual Undergraduate Literature and Creative Writing Conference, hosted by the Department of English and Creative Writing. The conference is intended to give students the opportunity to present their work in a public forum.

This year's conference focuses on the theme "Environments of Imagination," said Drew Hubbell, associate professor of English, who was responsible for organizing the day-long event.

Throughout the day, students from Susquehanna as well as other colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Connecticut and Virginia will present both literary research and creative works covering a variety of topics related to the theme, Hubbell said.

Fourteen panels will be held in the Degenstein Meeting Rooms and Shearer Dining Rooms throughout the day, the first starting at 8:30 a.m. and the last ending at 4:30 p.m. with three to four students in each. Each panel will be approximately an hour and a half long. Panels of student readers are grouped by connecting themes, with a mix of both literary and creative papers, Hubbell added.

Panels are moderated mostly by Susquehanna professors, who will introduce the students and facilitate discussions following the readings in order to encourage feedback for revision, Hubbell said.

"As a sophomore who attended the conference as only an audience member last year, I am very excited to be participating in this year's conference and presenting my work," said junior creative writing major Elizabeth Morris, who will be reading from her collection of poetry titled "Girls from the River School."

"The conference builds a broader sense of community beyond the Susquehanna campus," said junior creative writing major Nadia Waggener, who will be participating in the conference for the second time, reading from her collection of poetry, "Dictionary Games." "It is both humbling and energizing to go to panels and hear these creative and critical presentations," Waggener said. "It is a great opportunity for aspiring writers to learn from one another, to trade ideas and to begin conversations about the arts we care about."

In addition to the student panels, visiting authors Lawrence Buell and Bob Shacochis will attend the conference to give their perspectives as both writers and scholars.

Buell, the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University, was selected to be the keynote speaker for the event. His address, "Environmental Crisis and Artistic Imagination," will begin at 12:15 p.m. in the Degenstein Theater.

According to the Harvard University Web site, Buell published his first major book in 1973 and is now considered one of the leading figures in the ecocritical movement, which started in the U.S. and has spread globally. In his most recent work, "The Future of Environmental Criticism," Buell follows the history of ecocriticism.

In addition to his role as a writer, Buell has served on the editorial boards of several literary journals, including American Literature, American Quarterly, American Literary History and Environmental History. He is a former Guggenheim Fellow and has been nominated three times for a Pulitzer Prize. In 2008, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, according to the Harvard University Web site.

As a prominent figure in the field of ecocriticism, Buell will be able to address the ways in which literature helps us to imagine what the environment is, Hubbell said.

The conference will conclude with a reading by fiction writer and essayist Bob Shacochis at 4:30 p.m. in Stretansky Concert Hall in the Cunningham Center. His reading is sponsored by the Writers' Institute as part of its 2008-09 Visiting Writers Series.

According to the Florida State University Web site, Shacochis' first collection of stories, "Easy in the Islands," won the National Book Award for First Fiction, and his second collection, "The Next New World," was awarded the Prix de Rome. His novel, "Swimming in the Volcano," was a National Book Award finalist.

"I've been reading Bob Shacochis' book, 'Easy in the Islands,' and I am excited to meet him in person," Morris said.

"'Easy in the Islands' is still one of the best collections of short stories I've ever read," said Tom Bailey, professor of English and creative writing, who was a student at the Iowa Writers' Workshop when Shacochis taught there. "His prose is rich, the sense of place deep and provocative, and the characters profound," Bailey said.

Books by Buell and Shacochis will be available for purchase and signing. There will be a reception following the reading by Shacochis in the hallway outside Stretansky Concert Hall at 5:45 p.m.

For more information about the conference, visit


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