By Katherine Coble || News Editor
On the evening of March 3, the Writing Center will be hosting an Open Mic night, their second in history and first of the semester. Last semester’s event was themed “food” and featured both original pieces and essays written by other authors. This semester’s is entitled “Alternative Facts and Fiction” and will be held inside the Writing Center’s home in Diagnothian Hall. Junior Caroline Lawrence, a cognitive science major and Writing Center tutor, says that the open mic night fits with the Center’s mission to expose students to a wide variety of ideas and engage with those ideas in a meaningful way.
“It’s a central tenet of our philosophy that you shouldn’t need to bring a paper to a tutor of a certain discipline who is well-versed in that discipline – the idea being that somebody who is an intelligent and attentive reader can interpret anything and understand anything if it’s well-said,” Lawrence explains. She believes that the open mic night can be a way to start conversation on F&M’s campus while bringing together students with a love of words and literature.
Lawrence says the event was in part inspired by her experiences at the “Stoop Storytelling” events in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Stoop Storytelling challenges seven writers to to tell a story about a theme in just seven minutes. “They have these raucous shows, and they’re really fun,” Lawrence says. “People from all over come to listen to them. I’m hoping we can recreate some of that fun-loving spirit.”
Lawrence hopes that the event encourages students to go to the Writing Center for non-academic reasons. “I think there is a sense the students have that the Writing Center is writing much an academic center, and they come there and bring their papers and it’s very formal. But of course, it’s all peer-run. We’re peer tutors! And so we’re trying to think of ways to bring students into the space in a setting that is not necessarily… pertaining directly to their papers.” Lawrence says food will be available at the event.
So far planning the event has been fun for the tutors, according to Lawrence. She says she hopes to bring the community together through writing, something everyone at the Writing Center is passionate about and something that is integral to a liberal arts education.
While last semester’s theme was “food”, intended to bring the F&M community together because of something everyone can enjoy, this semester’s is the slightly more contentious “Alternative Facts and Fiction.” The former is a reference to comments made by Kellyanne Conway, a member of Donald Trump’s administration. Lawrence says that the theme was chosen to reflect a shift in campus conversation following the election of Donald Trump.
“I think everybody wants in on that [conversation], to a certain degree,” Lawrence admits, while also acknowledging that some people are “sick of it” due to a high saturation of politically-themed events and discussions on campus in recent months. “We picked Alternative Facts and Fictions because it’s an open prompt… ‘alternative facts’ is sort of the same thing as saying ‘fiction’, by definition. And fiction has an entirely different connotation. We wanted to include something that could be interpreted as a current events theme, but could also be interpreted as simply… utopia and fantasy and dystopia.”
When asked if the reference to alternative facts could potentially alienate Republicans on campus that might otherwise have participated in the event, Lawrence said that the tutors “have been very worried about that, truthfully… That’s why we included the ‘and Fiction’ part of the title. We wanted to make it clear that it’s not specifically supposed to be an outwardly political gathering.”
Lawrence says that, as per the event’s tagline, all students and all ideas are welcome. She hopes that everyone feels safe enough in the space to share their work or perform someone else’s. “Mostly,” Lawrence concludes, “We want to enjoy a pleasant night together with some sort of theme uniting us.”
First-year Katherine Coble is the News Editor. Her email is email@example.com.