Columbia Writers is a series of readings sponsored by the English Department. They bring local, national, and international authors and poets to Clark College to read from their work and answer student questions. There are about 2-3 writers during Fall and Winter quarter, and in the Spring, CWS hosts a week long festival called “Subtext,” which is packed full with readings, panels, student awards, and the Phoenix unveiling. Students can also apply for student employment with Columbia Writers as an intern.
For the Winter quarter, The Columbia Writers series has Debra Gwartney on February 17th and Lidia Yuknavitch on the 23rd. These readings are usually pretty crowded, so I’d advise getting there early so you don’t have to stand for an hour (like I have had to do).
Columbia Writers Series has been beneficial to me as student, as I have gotten to watch writers reading their creations and ask questions of established writers. In the past, we have had names such as Ursula Le Guin, Sherman Alexie, and Jonathan Raymond. Last year, one of the highlights for me was seeing Natalie Diaz, a poet. Her poems are the kind that resonate even more when spoken aloud, and Diaz was wonderful at speaking them.
Another highlight last year was seeing Jess Walters. Most famous for his book Beautiful Ruins. He spoke in Foster Hall, attracting one of the largest crowds. Walters was an engagingly charismatic speaker, who along with reading and answering questions, also spoke candidly about his life and writing experiences.
You can see me in the second row!
Having these authors come here and listening to stories of their journey and process is inspiring to writers like myself. I remember after Jess Walters’ talk, feeling particularly inspired to write. Many of the writers, such as Walters, that visit us are extremely successful but did not necessarily grow up or even currently reside in a city known for literary works, such as New York. Walters was from Spokane and has remained there. Hearing stories of authors with non-traditional backgrounds is important to community college students from the Pacific Northwest. Anyone can be an author–it does not matter where you live, or where you went to school. And as one can see from the opportunities provided by Phoenix and Columbia Writers, Clark College is a great choice for someone hoping to pursue writing.