Writer's Festival Inspires NSU Students

by Jordan Lewis Kelly -

four students smiling and standing at the writers festivalThe month of April kicked off with the 8th annual William Carroll Writers’ Festival. Hosted by Assistant Professor Dr. Jocelyn Heath, the English and Foreign Language departments hold thethree-day event, along with the university, to commemorate the legacy of the late Dr. William Carroll, a Norfolk State alumnus and faculty member of the English department. Poets, authorsand writers all across the Norfolk State campus and across the globe came together to share their work and gain knowledge from the various workshops.

The festivities began Tuesday, April 5, as NSU faculty and staff members read poems and short stories. Poems of black excellence and black love; stories of shared experiences, or an author inviting you into their world. Remica Bingham-Risher read a few selections from her most recent book “Starlight and Error.” In between the book excerpts, she answered questions from audience members. It was an intimate evening as Bingham-Risher shared moments in her life and how they translated to her artistry.

During the festival’s second day, writers Traci O’Dea, Richard Georges, Andre Bagoo and Ran Walker discussed editing and publishing. The panelists discussed how they started and their backgrounds’ influence on their writing. The biggest takeaways from the session included:

  1. Stay true to yourself and your work;
  2. Know your worth as a writer;
  3. The “No’s” that you get will help you grow;
  4. Set aside a time and space to really dig into your craft; and
  5. Put yourself out there because you are your biggest advocate.

Writer's Fest ArticleWednesday evening’s event, co-sponsored by the NSU Dean of Students, offered participants the chance to explore language as both a craft and a coping mechanism. “Writing in Hard Times,” a workshop led by Keela Boose and Dr. Uzzie Cannon, introduced students to some of the ways we can use journaling or creative writing as a means of managing the truly difficult things we’re dealing with in 2022—a pandemic and a war among them. Participants had the opportunity to write and share their thoughts in a supportive environment while also learning about support that exists on our campus.

The festival’s final day began with the voices of those for whom the festival exists: NSU’s own students. A small, but lively, open mic event treated attendees to the original poetry and prose of Norfolk State student writers, a highly promising group. Closing out the festival Thursday evening, Darlene Scott and Porsha Allen recited a variety of their works for audience members. These excerpts carried a heavy weight to them as the two women voiced stories of trauma- especially relating to black women through their work.

The two soon sat down for an open dialogue moderated by Dr. Uzzie Cannon. Aspiring writers learned why a sense of community is important. Cultivating a creative writing community is imperative to any writer - or any artist in general. Mentorship helps writers grow by receiving feedback from others who have years of experience while also getting a pair of fresh eyes on your work. Porsha Allen explained that different people have different experiences which give them different perspectives. When people’s individual life experiences are brought together, the creative blend brings out some of the best work.