By Clarissa Grunwald, Staff Writer ||

The Philadelphia Alumni Writers House hosted its annual Emerging Writers Festival (EWF), which invites five writers to campus who are on their way to achieving national recognition, last week. This year, the writers are science writer Amy Leach, short story writer Christopher Merkner, poet Caryl Pagel, short story writer Claire Vaye Watkins, and poet Greg Wrenn.

EWF began on Wednesday with a reading in the Green Room Theatre. On Thursday, Merkner, Wrenn, and Leach presented craft talks in the Writers House followed by a second reading in the Green Room Theatre. On Friday, Pagel and Watkins presented craft talks in the Writer’s House, followed by a panel discussion.

Visiting writers were able to design their craft talks in whatever way suited them best, lecturing, answering questions, and directing simple writing exercises.

Caryl Pagel, who has published two books, Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death, and Twice Told, spoke on the importance of research in her poetry. As a young writer, Pagel had always struggled with the concept of poetry as introspection, which seemed to work for many of her favorite poets but never for herself. For her, research was a means of inspiration, a means of allowing herself to be surprised. Pagel also read and talked about the work of some of her own favorite poets.

Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Battleborn, also spoke on the importance of research in her work; although as a writer of short stories, including the period piece “The Diggings,” research serves a practical purpose as well as an inspirational purpose in her work. As a writing exercise, she instructed attendees of her talk to write two fun facts on a note card and pass them to the person to the left. The person that received the card then wrote a flash fiction piece about a character that knows those facts.

Amy Leach, whose book Things that Are is full of observations about nature, talked about her struggle against clichéd thinking, a problem that she sees in even the most experimental pieces.

“It’s like someone who dyes her hair pink, but her soul is boring,” Leach said. Leach was in concurrence with Pagel and Watkins on the subject of research, which is one important component of her writing as well — sad music being another.

EWF Krissy
Professors, writers, and students gathered at the Writers House for the Emerging Writers Festival. Photo by Krissy Montville ’14

In order to plan for the festival, the Writer’s House establishes a committee of professors and F&M students, usually seniors. This year, the committee consists of students Sara Blank ’14, Rebecca Bolstein ’14, Nina Chiappetta ’14, Brennan Gillis ’15, Annie Kreutz ’14, Eric Lewis ’14, Jacob Miller ’14, Dabney Rice ’14, Darshan Shakya ’14, and Maeve Shanahan ’15, and professors Katie Ford, Erik Anderson, Amy Moreno, Brian Silberman, and Jeff Steinbrink.

For students on the committee, weeks prior to EWF are a busy time. Beginning in January, student committee members read visiting authors’ works and decide on an author to shadow. It is then their job to get to know the author, and to help introduce the author at events.

The EWF is sponsored by Richard and Edna Hausman, parents of an F&M alumnus. This is the
festival’s 13th year on campus.


First-year Clarissa Grunwald is a staff writer. Her email is