Windhover Writers’ Festival provides opportunities for aspiring writers

The third floor of Bawcom Student Union took on a new look as UMHB hosted the annual Windhover Writers’ Festival from Feb. 13 to Feb. 15. Attendees lined up at the registration table to claim their spots and purchase the featured speakers’ books. All attendees had the chance to improve their writing at workshops led by keynote speakers. UMHB students also had the opportunity to attend free workshops exclusively for students.

The Writers’ Festival featured four keynote speakers including D.S. Martin, Daniel Taylor, Sarah M. Wells and Still on the Hill. The different speakers provided insight on a wide variety of writing including poetry, novel writing, essay writing and songwriting.

The event began with a Black History Month creative writing panel and creative writing showcase featuring works by UMHB students. The festival also included an open mic night on the first day of the festival.

The Writers’ Festival also included panels with various writers including Kim Bond, Christine Boldt, Bill Stadick, R.W. Haynes, Patricia Hamilton, Chris Haven, Janet McCann, Joe Christopher and Mark Bennion. The event included workshops such as “Mining Memory: Digging Deeper to Enrich Your Writing” with Sarah M. Wells, “Flash Fiction: Seeing a World in a Grain of Sand” with Daniel Taylor, “Becoming a Poet (With or Without an MFA)” with D.S. Martin and a songwriting workshop with Still on the Hill. Additionally, attendees were able to attend readings with Sarah M. Wells and D.S. Martin as well as the George Nixon Memorial Lecture with Daniel Taylor. The festival also included a concert performed by Still on the Hill.

Miracle Gant, a junior English major, attended workshops led by poet D.S. Martin and author Daniel Taylor.

“I think the workshops are very beneficial because you get to learn a new skill, but you also get to see how someone teaches that skill,” Gant said. “Watching someone break something down that you might be generally familiar with, like prose or poetry, reminds you of the basics and the many ways there are to do the basics.”

Gant has participated in the Writers’ Festival for two years and believes it is beneficial for new writers who are working to network with published writers.

“Honestly, it really helps newer writers build contacts,” Gant said. “You meet some of your heroes, discover new work you like and find journals and magazines you can submit [works] to. It kind of works as a giant networking/ reading list building event.”

The festival also offered a unique question and answer session with the keynote speakers as part of a partnership with the UMHB Career Services office. The session was free and open to the public.

“We approached the English department two summers ago to see if there was a place that we could merge into the Writers’ Festival to have a session that students who are aspiring to be writers could quiz published writers about how they got into the field,” Don Owens, director of Career Services at UMHB, said. “We feel like the event will grow. The authors and writers are really gracious to stay and answer questions during the little window we had. We think that the Q&A session has the potential to grow.”

Dr. Nathaniel Hansen, associate professor of English at UMHB and editor of The Windhover, UMHB’s national literary journal, has organized the festival for six years.

“I start thinking about the next festival as this one is going on,” Hansen said. “I think about what kind of writers I want to have and what kind of schedule I want to have. Most of the work happens in the couple of months right before the festival. When I choose writers for the festival, I look for people who are experts in their craft and I want people who have some sort of faith connection in their work.”

Among the events during the Writers’ Festival was a concert led by Still on the Hill. The concert featured songs from the group’s most recent album,
“Cane Hill.” Still on the Hill has performed at the Writers’ Festival for the past six years. Donna Mullholan, a member of the group, discussed her excitement about presenting at the festival.

“We have been coming to the festival for about five or six years,” Mullholan said. “We love things that are traditions for us because we get to know people as the festival grows. It’s nice to have this kind of anchor that we get to come back to.”

The Writers’ Festival is held annually at UMHB. If you would like to learn more about how you can participate in the festival next year, visit The Windhover’s Facebook page.

Author: Bri Bullion

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