The National Day on Writing celebration at Washington College is coming up next Wednesday. Sponsored by the Writing Center, the Student Government Association, and Student publications, we’ll offer a day of celebratory writing.
WHAT? NATIONAL DAY ON WRITING (NDOW) (visit the NCTE site for details on the national initiative)
WHEN? WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20TH
WHERE? MILLER LIBRARY TERRACE
WHAT TIME? 10AM TO 4PM, WITH A READING FROM 1-2PM
WILL THERE BE FOOD? Yes! We’ll have coffee and cookies to warm you up!
HOW CAN WE GET INVOLVED?
CONTRIBUTE WRITING TO OUR LIVE GALLERY
We will be working to build a LIVING gallery on the library terrace. There will be clotheslines and poster presentation boards purely for the purpose of exhibiting student, staff, and faculty writing and written work you admire. We would love to have an exhibit that is truly representative of the kinds of writing we are all engaged with in our every day lives, from letters to lab reports, from poems to academic essays, from ethnographic case studies to email exchanges!
If you would like to reserve a space to exhibit your students’ work, please contact us in advance. Otherwise you and/or your students can stop by and contribute writing throughout the day. * Please keep contributions to 1 page each *
GIVE A READING OF WRITING THAT MATTERS TO YOU
You and/or your students are welcome to participate in a reading (from 1-2pm). Readers should be encouraged to bring 1-2 pages (roughly 2-3 minutes worth of material) to share. This can be anything from something you or your students have written to a piece of writing that is valuable to you.
Have your students written something they are particularly proud of? Is there a singular work that was been inspirational to you as you entered your scholarly field? Share it all! Students, faculty, and staff are all welcomed to read.
Contact us in advance to get on the list or sign up on the day!
PARTICIPATE IN THE WRITING FAIR
Sponsored by the Writing Center and Student Publications (The Elm, Pegasus, Writer’s Union & The Colophon, and The Washington College Review), a variety of writing-related activities will be set up throughout the day.
Events include a yearbook photo caption contest, on-the-fly writing prompts, Washington College MAD LIBS, and writing POST-SECRET, and more! This is an opportunity for your students to have some fun with writing and also learn more about the student publications on campus.
There will also be contests and a raffle for gift certificate prizes!
DESIGN ANOTHER EVENT
You might also consider posting writing to the National Gallery of Writing.
Other participants are sending students to journal across campus, students are visiting local schools to give workshops, and I will even be tweeting/micro-blogging throughout the day (follow the writing center to see it unfold!)
If you decide on an activity of your own, let us know what you’re up to!
This Saturday is the opening of the Call and Response exhibit at the Hamiltonion gallery at 1353 U Street NW, Washington DC. The project paired 16 writers with 16 visual artists – or, rather, 16 visual artists chose to pair themselves with the writings from 16 writers – in a somewhat blind collaboration. The result is bound to be fascinating. See a good set up of the exhibit over at BrightestYoungThings.com
Several friends and friends of friends are featured in the exhibit, and I’m so thrilled to see how it all turns out. Please join me on Saturday to find out for yourselves, too.
Like many people this holiday season, I went to see James Cameron’s film Avatar. I even went to see it at midnight the week before Christmas, after a long evening in DC at Cheryl’s Gone (which featured Sally Keith, Karen Anderson, Casey Smith, and musician Maureen Andary, and was AMAZING!) Afterwards we went to have drinks with Sally and friends at Nellie’s, and then I ran into traffic and turned myself around in DC (big surprise), and I STILL managed to make it back to Fairfax for the film. Although the reading was wonderful, I’d had a bit of a tough day personally (lots of things going on and logistical nightmares trying to plan for holiday traveling, etc. etc. I won’t bore you with details) and had definitely reached many different limits… so even though most of myself was recommending I just go home and sleep it off, I was feeling as though seeing a beautiful Cameron film with good friends might just do the trick to release it all.
So there I was, exhausted, 3D glasses on, ready to be thrilled… and thrilled I was, visually… and in the escapist sense.
As a reader and writer, I always enjoy being gifted other worlds to occupy for a time. My poems, for now, are so deeply rooted in this world, but I so often appreciate reading texts and experiencing films that offer a world unto themselves where we are offered a language that operates on its own unique system, and which offers a slightly different spin on things. I enjoy being taught how to experience the world I’m offered, how to live inside it, how to feel free from the constraints of my own world’s limitations. Inevitably, if done well, I emerge more aware of the world I understand as my own. Think Gabriel Garcia Marquez, George Orwell, Don Delillo, or poetry by William Blake… we witness our world anew because of what these writers offer as an alternative, even if it’s only turned around only slightly from the reality we recognize as our own. The revised world order is either an offering of what we might subscribe to, or what we should be weary of (most often the latter).
Utopias and dystopias as offered through the exaggerated realms of fantasy and science fiction are often presented as warnings… take Gulliver’s Travels and the plight of colonialism, Orwell’s 1984 with Big Brother, Mary Shelley’s monster in Frankenstein, or films like Metropolis, and Blade Runner where technological advances threaten our very humanity… I could go on with numerous other beloved examples.
While visually stunning, Avatar falls short of the great science fiction or fantasy texts in that we’re offered a world we’re not trusted to inhabit because it is pure artifice… our world is not at all recognizable in Pandora, exept perhaps a previous version we will never be able to revert to. We’re offered “natives” whose spiritual connection with the earth requires a more “primitive” lifestyle of sleeping in tree limbs and wearing sparse clothing. The biggest question I’ve been turning around in my mind since the film is why the “natives” had to be shown as the “noble savage”? Why not offer us a society which is technologically advanced AND environmentally conscious and connected? As Ross Douthat offers in his op-ed in the New York Times, “Pantheism offers a different sort of solution: a downward exit, an abandonment of our tragic self-consciousness, a re-merger with the natural world our ancestors half-escaped millennia ago. /But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back.”
Lately, with the threat of global warming and depletion of our world’s resources, the sci fi and fantasy texts which refer to environmental concerns are particularly resonant. The resurgence of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and Peter Jackson’s treatment of them in their film counterparts are apt examples. Tolkien’s books and Jackson’s films do not hit us over the head with the ruling philosophy that our treatment of each other and our natural world is destructive. We are trusted to come to this conclusion without (extreme) cheesy dialogue or didactic platitudes… the preference is always to be visually stimulated as an audience member, but also to be trusted to make inferences and arrive at conclusions through contemplation of what we are offered. I, personally, do not want the complete package where we enter a viewing experience and exit with the prime lesson stamped securely on our foreheads, the end.
The staying power of Avatar is in the visual spectacle, which is something I’ll happily admire in and of itself. Cameron did so completely imagine Pandora, and it’s a pleasure to escape to and inhabit and be visually stimulated for a time… but the visceral pleasure of this is fleeting. What residue is meant to linger in Cameron’s film is instead slippage, and doesn’t stick. I was hopeful Cameron might offer a sense of the avatar separate from the digital alter egos the digital age has inspired, a more human self we could imagine ourselves into… but, alas, Cameron’s alternative is reversion, not revision, and is thus (sadly) impossible outside of the digital realm.