Writing festival holding workshops, readings

BY LU SHEN | JUNE 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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Participants in the 2012 Iowa Summer Writing Festival gathered at Beadology Iowa on Wednesday night, kicking off this year's Iowa Summer Writing Festival weekly reading event.

The weekly reading offers participants the chance to share their stories developed in various workshops.

The reading was the first of a summer-long series running through July. The readings will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesdays at Beadology, 220 E. Washington St.

Karen Kubby, the Beadology owner, said the readings give writers a chance to learn from their peers.

"A lot of times, people bring things they've been working on and want to explore further. They'll read three minutes or less," she said. "Sometimes, people want to support their classmates in the workshops and come to listen, because that's instructive, too."

Amy Margolis, the director of the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, said the event aids authors.

"It's beneficial to participants," she said. "They read their works in progress among peers, and they also share writing experiences."

Festival officials wanted to hold the readings at Beadology because they wanted to collaborate with local business and engage with the community, Margolis said.

Because she runs an arts-oriented store, Kubby said, she is delighted to provide a space for the authors. She believes it is a win-win situation.

"This is a great way for artistic and diversity at the university to interface with artistic endeavors in the community partner," she said. "And it's great for us. We have people who come through the store to get to the reading, and then they can see what we have."

Usually 20 to 50 people attend each readings, she said. It is a voluntary activity — no one knows who will show up at the weekly reading, she noted.

"If no one comes, no one comes," she said. "[Although] we've never had that happen. I don't think that's a problem, because people want to read, they want hear what their work sounds like out loud. And it helps them decide if that's the way they want or if they want to restructure their writing a little bit. And they get reaction from people; they want to hear reaction."

Christopher Merrill, the director of the International Writing Program, said Iowa City is a special place for writers.

"The university has a long tradition of teaching writers to become writers," he said. "A lot of writers live in town. We have great bookstores, and when you go into coffee shops, you will see people writing."

He said he thinks the readings can be beneficial for writers.

"Sharing works with peers is a good way to figure out what's worth writing and what's not," he said. "That might make them better writers."

Kubby said she has heard many readings by authors in the Summer Writing Festival and noted she thought reading a work in progress can be scary and risky. Participants not only show their artistic selves but their personal lives through their writing and readings.

"You're putting yourself out there," she said. "A lot of the writing that I hear is very intimate, personal stories. Once in a while, writers are kind of introverted people, and then they come here and have to put it out there. It's hard. We try to create a comfortable and intimate atmosphere so that people will feel comfortable to take that risk."

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