Writers, readers and fans of the written word gathered in Oxford last week to celebrate Miami’s seventh annual Oxford Writing Festival.
The festival, hosted by Students for the Promotion of Writing (SPW), a campus group that works to bolster interest in writing of all kinds here at Miami, consisted of a flurry of events held between Wednesday, April 11 and Saturday, April 14.
Talks and book signings from professional authors, upbeat concerts from local bands and flash fiction contests were highlights of the festival’s run, which encouraged students to come out and join in the literary fun.
Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief and The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, kicked the festival off last week by giving talks in the Shriver Center on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
During her event, Tinti talked about her writing process, what it’s like to be both a publisher and an author and how to overcome hardships while continuing to write.
“Almost all of your endeavors will begin with failure,” Tinti said to the audience. “But it’s so important that you fail, because that’s what helps you know what works and what doesn’t.”
Toward the end of the discussion, Tinti broke out her ukulele, an instrument she taught herself to play by watching YouTube videos, and led the audience in an enthusiastic rendition of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” She said that since her book, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, was ultimately a love story, she wanted to end every one of her talks about the book with a love song.
The musical writing process was also celebrated when RedHawk Radio hosted a panel on a myriad of musical topics on Thursday. And, the following afternoon local band, The Wrong Crowd, performed a “Pretty Large Desk Concert,” an homage to NPR’s tiny desk concerts, in the office of The Miami Student.
After they’d dazzled the audience with original tunes and a few covers, the band incorporated the gathered listeners into the songwriting process. They took suggestions about which chords should structure the song they wrote with the audience. The resulting chord progression was C, D, A, D and the song was appropriately titled, Triton: Dad of the Sea.
Those who wished to embark on literary endeavors of their own were encouraged to participate in Friday’s flash fiction contest, where participants were given a single hour to craft a short story centered around the theme of the hero’s journey.
The hero’s journey is a common template in storytelling that involves a protagonist embarking on an adventure and ultimately returning home a better version of themselves.
The festival ended on Saturday with a general showcase and celebration of writing, held in a large auditorium in 322 McGuffey Hall.
Students gathered to chat, hang out, play a round or two of cornhole and celebrate another year of writing in McGuffey. Various campus print organizations were on-hand, including Inklings magazine, Happy Captive magazine and The Miami Student. They handed out samples of their work and encouraged visitors to continue their interest in the written word.
“Getting everything organized and put together is a big undertaking,” said SPW President Celia Monroe. “You never really know whether people will come out or not, but this year’s festival has been a huge success.”
Monroe went on to say that she felt that SPW has improved upon the festival every year, and that she was glad to see that students continue to show an interest in the event.
SPW hopes to continue to expand and improve upon the festival for years to come.