Azar Nafisi Post-Visit Report – Ashley Alliano
Azar Nafisi’s visit to Rollins College marked the end of a great Winter with the Writers series this 2013. The author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and Things I’ve Been Silent About orchestrated a heartfelt and eye opening master class on Thursday, February 28th. The master class consisted of a series of questions asked by the author, which had to do with the writing process of each and every intern and each individual’s inspiration for wanting to become a writer. This proved to be a powerful and eye opening experience, because the responses revealed similarities shared by many of the interns. Nafisi’s comments bounced off many of these responses, and a common theme emerged: She repeatedly told the interns that emotion is a critical factor within everyone’s writing. Something that stood out to me during this (for me) life-changing experience was her statement made about one’s reasons for writing: She explained that an individual should not write for closure, but for liberation. Azar Nafisi led a fascinating master class that exposed the presence and importance of the framework of human emotions with a literary work.
The reading at Teidtke Auditoruim drew a packed crowd, filling up the main floor and top balcony. She read excerpts from the beginning and end of her book, Reading Lolita In Tehran, commanding each and every word with a forcefulness in delivery, combined with an enchanting and friendly tone. The question and answer portion of the event also revealed Nafisi’s broad intelligence concerning politics of her own country, Iran, and that of the United States. One of the most inspirational answers of the night, however, related to bravery. When she was asked, “What makes you so brave?” she responded by saying that she was not a very brave person, but she was always brave in the situations that required it—a very inspirational answer indeed. In both the master class and reading, Nafisi showcased her strong sense of self, representing an excellent role model not just for writers, but for every human being of any occupation.
Azar Nafisi’s visit marked an excellent end to this year’s Winter with the Writers.
Rollins College Presents Azar Nafisi: The Final Week
With the second to last week of Rollins College’s Annual Winter With the Writers Literary Festival coming to a close, there is a melancholic aura surrounding the group of busy interns who await the arrival of Azar Nafisi: the final writer.
Nafisi, who is known for her bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, will arrive on Tuesday, February 26th, to great excitement. Although the anticipation of the arrival of the Iranian born writer is potent, the disdain of the closing of the festival draws nearer and nearer for the interns.
Nafisi has written two memoirs, one of which is previously mentioned, as well as Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories. As described by the interns, her books are not only “inspirational” but also “intriguing in a world where memoirs are relatively few in significance but many in number.” Nafisi’s books are without doubt amongst the intern’s exceptions to this case.
Azar Nafisi’s memoirs are written so passionately with respect to the real people who compose the cast in her books and with such fervor that when anyone is reading her bestseller, Reading Lolita in Tehran, they will not but feel an inspiration to continue their pursuit of truth and freedom in the worlds of Austen and Nabokov.
With the previous thought kept in mind, the master class she is to lead and instruct on February 28th as well as the reading that follows in Tiedke Hall will be the perfect end to the festival that has been so carefully orchestrated by Director Carol Frost. The interns, who, at the moment have just finished their goodbyes to Pau-Llosa and Santos Febres, now await the arrival of the Iranian Cheetah who will tell her endangered tales of the once glimmering city of Iran and its tumultuous history while instructing us as to how to translate our own ideas thoughtfully and with care to paper.
Mayra Santos-Febres Post-Visit Report by Melvin Thompson
As the third week comes to a close, we interns again are singing praises; however, this time it is for the outstanding poet, fiction writer, and essayist Mayra Santos-Febres. The author of Sirena Silena, Cualquier miércoles soy tuya (Any Wednesday, I'm Yours) and Nuestra Señora de la Noche (Our Lady of the Night). Ms. Santos-Febres held a master class with the Winter with Writers series on Thursday, February 21, 2013. She brought a high energy and a passionate approach to the master class session. Switching between the Spanish and English languages, she work shopped the student interns' fiction submissions with a fervent flair. She also told a tale of the how the sirens of the sea were supposed to protect the people, and when they did not, they were turned into monsters. This, she told us, led to her development of the main character for Sirena Selena. She also gave a little lesson on Salsa dancing and closed the master class with a writing prompt exercise, which included the students as well as the audience. She followed the master class with a shared--alongside Cuban-American poet Ricardo Pau-Llosa--reading, reflecting her passion for writing narrative. Santos-Febres has won many awards including the Letras de Oro prize (USA, 1994) and the UNESCO medal, (2010). She is widely acclaimed in her native Puerto Rico, and has been visiting professor at Harvard University and Cornell University.
Winter with the Writers, week three: Mayra Santos-Febres and Ricardo Pau-Llosa - Cory Caplinger
With the coming of the third week of the Winter with the Writers festival, we look forward to welcoming two acclaimed writers to join us for our next literary events. With two master classes and an evening of shared readings, we are privileged to host both Puerto Rican author, poet, literary critic, and professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico Mayra Santos-Febres, and Cuban-American poet, art critic, and short fiction author Ricardo Pau-Llosa here at Rollins College. Much excitement has taken over both interns and event attendees alike with such dynamic and diverse conversations on literature, art and culture. Intern and Sophomore Sophie Jupillat says: "I'm looking forward to meeting and working with poet Ricardo Pau-Llosa and novelist/short story writer Santos-Febres, as they will no doubt divulge the secrets of their equally vivid, yet different way of writing. Pau-Llosa with his nostalgia, yearning for his home-land, yet hope for the future, or lushness of nature and desire entwined; or Santos-Febres with her provocative, steamy, descriptive outlook on life and family."
In a 2010 Interview, Pau-Llosa tells how his love for art gave way to a love of writing: "I was always modeling with clay and drawing and I loved the visual arts. Suddenly, understanding the way words could be a shelter where you find different possibilities, scenarios within words, completely floored me. So it was really the discovery of the ambiguity of words, and of how something could mean many different things, not at the exclusion of the others, but all of them simultaneously, which clinched it for me." He offers words of wisdom on inspiration here, that as writers we must be open to possibilities various forms of art can provide for our creative process. Santos-Febres, on the importance of reading and analyzing good literature, expands the concept of creative potential in a 2011 interview with the American Library Association. She states: "I have a hunger for greatness, yet in my country people are afraid of books, of intellectual activity. [...] When we read we see through different eyes, reading is like living another life for an instant, accessing the experience of another person." When we read and live in the stories of others with these different eyes, we learn to give new life and individuality to our own work. Reading, analyzing, and experimenting are the foundations of a solid creative process, and it is with these fantastic concepts in mind that we look forward to meeting, sharing, and working with these great authors in the coming week.
Karen Russell Post-Visit Report - Ryan Favata
As the second week of Winter with the Writers came to a close, we interns have been singing the praises of Karen Russell—author of Swamplandia! and the short story collections St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Vampires in the Lemon Grove—for her conversational, approachable, and down-to-earth nature during her visit.One of the unique things about this visiting writer was the stage at which she finds herself. She is on the rise. This is what made the Master Class she conducted so wonderful—she had a wealth of knowledge, but there was also an overwhelming sense of comradery. Karen was right where we were once, and that was not so long ago. Though we all are at different stages, the "togetherness" at the class was palpable. It was an experience I know we all took something away from, both with improving our craft and perception of writers—that a writers journey is meant to be gregarious and giving. Karen reaffirmed the importance of community.
Karen Russell's reading at Knowles Chapel followed the Master Class. It was expected to be a full house and indeed was. She began with the first chapter of
Swamplandia!, "The Beginning of the End." When she began there was a shift in her voice—a subtle child-like tone. The chilling notion came over me, and also the interns when we talked about it afterward, that it was the voice of Ava, the first person protagonist of Swamplandia!. Then came "The Dredgeman's Revelation," the story within the story of how The Dredgeman, Ava's sister's ghostly love interest, came to be, well, ghostly. Again, this was delivered wonderfully with Karen's thoughtful tone on a somewhat surreal Valentine's Day night at Knowles Chapel.
We interns with Winter with the Writer's had a gift this week with Karen Russell. With her priceless critiques of our submissions and genuine approachability, not to mention her beautiful reading, it made for a memorable week for Winter with the Writers.
Rollins College Presents: Karen Russell - Tommi-Ann Pritchett
As the second week of the 2013 of Winter With the Writers quickly approaches, Rollins College prepares to welcome Karen Russell. She is described as prolific by The New Yorker, which recognized her in 2010 on their 20 under 40 list. In an interview with The Daily Beast, an online news blog, she talks about the writing process: “I take so much pleasure in tinkering with sentences that I often have to fight my own impulse to dither and revise in order to keep the momentum of the narrative going.” If you have not yet had the opportunity to marvel at her impeccable prose, you’re really missing out. Every sentence of her fiction—short stories and novel, Swamplandia!, alike—takes the reader deeper into her winding and writhing fantasy.
Intern Tessa Agurcia comments, “Russell's work is deeply rooted in the intertwining of a fantastical and mythological world, and the harsh realities that most readers face on a daily basis. This is why I enjoy her work so much.” It is no surprise that Russell has been recognized as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists and awarded the 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation.
Johnathan Pamplin is gearing up for the Thursday master class and reading. “Given how florid her writing style is, I'm most looking forward to hearing what she sounds like as a speaker,” he says. Jonathan and the rest of the interns wait eagerly for Karen Russell’s arrival and the sound of her own voice bringing life to the characters we’ve all come to know through our reading. We hope the community will join us in welcoming her to Rollins’ Winter With the Writers!
Momaday Post-Visit Report: Kiowa author’s readings raise public awareness of the importance of the oral storytelling tradition - Joseph Pickert
N. Scott Momaday’s visit to Rollins College on February 7th, 2013 marked the beginning of Rollins’ Winter With the Writers series of public readings and craft lectures.
College faculty and program interns greeted Momaday—also known by his Kiowa name, Tsoai-talee—on Wednesday evening at Barker House, where attendees acquainted themselves with the author among refreshments and literary conversation. During the reception, the interns presented Momaday with a pair of wheel-thrown clay sculptures, fashioned after spire-like natural rock formations called “hoodoos” such as are found in Southwestern desert regions in Utah and New Mexico. Their creator, local sculptor Julie Rivkees, described the pieces as “free organic forms, filled with emotion,” and hopes that “these funky, odd-shaped pieces…will inspire people to be free and not to adhere to traditional ways.”
During Momaday’s mid-afternoon craft lecture on Thursday, the author spoke of his impoverished upbringing on reservations at the cross-section of several Native American traditions, his explorations of early Neolithic cave art, and his career accomplishments as a Stanford doctor of poetry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, and a professor of English and American literature at UC Santa Barbara and University of Arizona. In his examinations of the interns’ personal writing, he offered instruction chiefly in terms of the oral component of storytelling. A writer has room, he advised the audience later that evening, to waste words on the page, but a storyteller of the spoken word must speak with such economy as for their message to be understood, appreciated and remembered.
Momaday’s reading and Q&A in the Knowles Chapel that night was met with fanfare and applause. The author read from selections of current poetry, and engaged the audience with a spoken stage-play narrative of a dialogue between Yahweh and Ur-set, the First Bear. Additionally, he offered his personal account of the 1960s and his views on the significance of the changes the tumultuous decade brought to North America’s social and cultural landscape. Momaday also recommended that poets today read Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens and the Psalms—although he also lamented the “sad state” of contemporary poetry, citing the apparent unwillingness of present-day poetry to address issues pertinent to the human condition.
Following the event was a book signing, during which, among other titles, were available The Way to Rainy Mountain, a re-telling and examination of Kiowa mythology and folklore passed down to the author through his parents and grandparents, and In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961-1991, which features, among other passages, a memorable sequence of poems and short prose pieces inspired by Momaday’s childhood fantasies of riding with Billy the Kid in the lands of the Jemez Pueblo.
On Friday and Saturday, Momaday conducted the Bacheller Chair class in Sullivan House, a one-credit workshop called Aspects of the Natural.
Winter With the Writers is grateful to have been party to the enriching visit of this seminal author of Native American literature to our community. We eagerly anticipate Swamplandia! author Karen Russell’s upcoming reading and master class on Thursday, February 14th; Ricardo Pau-Llosa’s and Mayra Santos-Febres’ visits on the 21st; and Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azir Nafisi’s appearance on the 28th.
February 2,2013 - Randi Cruz
After months of hard work and anticipation, Rollins College’s Winter With the Writers celebrates its 75th anniversary and has invited renowned poet, author, and artist, N. Scott Momaday to kick off the festival this Thursday.
For the interns, preparations for Momaday’s visit began last semester as we received our reading assignments including “In The Presence of the Sun” and “The Way to Rainy Mountain.” As the new semester began and word got around campus that Momaday would be conducting a master class and reading from his own work, our professors began making asides in class about the author and how they had taught his works since the eighties!
When I asked my professor Dr. Jill Jones what made Momaday such an important literary figure for all of these years she told me, “N. Scott Momady was a writer who took an oral tradition, the Native American storytelling tradition, and turned it into literature.”
As we began reading his works the interns found Momaday to be accessible to our generation as well. Is Momaday what we expected from a Native American writer?
“Momaday’s contribution to Native American Literature has certainly surpassed my expectations,” Corey Caplinger, fellow intern said. “He, with his great range of unique style and voice, has created a brilliant portrait from the many colors and textures of his culture.”
Brilliant. Whether you’ve followed Momaday since the eighties or you’re discovering him for the first time here at Rollins, we invite you to join the festival and come get lost in the richness of Momaday’s culture and in Momaday, himself.
Let the festival begin!