What has kept me busy?

Southern Literary Festival 2010 PosterAnyone who has visited my blog has noticed that there’s been a hiatus in my writing since February. Hopefully, with the end of the semester drawing near, that is about to change! But it hasn’t just been teaching four classes (two sections of Survey of World Literature, one of Creative Writing, and one of Modern Poetry) that has kept me from blogging. The course prep and the grading has been enough to keep me busy, but I’d still be able to squeeze in some time for this.

I did manage to squeeze in time for a conference paper and moderating the panel at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference in April. Our panel was on assessing creative writing, and to help carry the conversation forward, I created a wiki — my first foray into wikidom — where we all posted our papers and handouts. It can be found at JoyofAssessment.wikidot.com

However, the main thing that has kept me busy this semester (and last) has been the Southern Literary Festival, which was held last weekend at MUW. Despite thunderstorms (no tornadoes in Columbus, thank goodness!) and lots of rain, everything went very well. Of the 20 schools in the association, 12 had students enrolled in workshops and another 3-4 came for the other Festival events, which included three featured readings in the evenings and nine readings and craft talks by our workshop leaders during the day. With 60 students in 12 workshops, there was a lot to coordinate, especially when some students dropped out at the last minute and others had to be helped with getting their files turned in. But all our campus coordinators were great at communicating with their students and sending the ones who needed the most help to me.

To keep track of all those student files and allow them to exchange stories, poems, plays, and essays with each other, I set up another wiki. This one was private, so there’ll be no link, but it had space for each workshop, and several lists of workshop participants to allow a couple of ways for everybody to find where they were supposed to be and when. Setting up the website wasn’t so hard, but keeping up with constantly changing schedules and helping students upload their files took a fair amount of time.

It was all worth it, however, as students and their faculty coordinators have generally given us good marks for the festival we put on. Besides the workshops, we also organized three student panels so the prize winners of the literary contest would have more time to read from their work, and they would get their name on the program. This is the kind of exposure that can really help someone out as they continue on in their education and apply for graduate schools.

But now, rather than basking in the glow of success, I need to pay invoices, request travel money and honoraria for our authors, work on submitting our grant reports (grants from the Mississippi Humanities Council and Mississippi Arts Commission helped us fund the Festival). Oh yes, and turn back to grading and preparing for exams! And as I write, our roofer is over my head, figuring up an estimate to replace shingles damaged in a major hail storm in March. One car is back from the shop, and mine is in getting repaired after the same storm. It’s been a busy spring!

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