Reading series presents students’ works, creativity on campus

Lane Riggs

As each reader stands at the front of the room, papers laid out before them, there is laughter or gasps from the crowd. Creative nonfiction and fiction essays took the stage, to which the crowd responds with deafening applause. 

Red River Reading Series was started on campus by Assistant Professor John Schulze because he thought the series was a good opportunity for students to read their works. The event was hosted on March 3, in the Legacy Common Room and featured lecturer Krista Rascoe, English senior Faith Muñoz and English sophomore Kristy Henderson. By featuring a faculty member and two students for each event, Schulze is hoping both students and professors get to see the creative side of each other.

“One of the best aspects of my graduate education was the No Name Reading Series at the University of Nebraska. The series featured graduate students and the tagline was: The best writers you’ve never heard of,” Schulze said. “It was a wonderful opportunity for creative writers to share their work with others in the program and a valuable chance to hone skills needed for reading work to the public.”

Schulze developed a series named the Boiler Room Reading Series, which the Red River Reading Series is based off of while he was teaching at Western Illinois University. This series also included a faculty member and two students. Following the same setup, Schulze brought the series to MSU last fall, with readings in October, November and December.

“I decided to start the series here at MSU because I thought it would be a valuable experience for students to read their work to the public and their peers. Moreover, the inclusion of faculty members gives students the chance to see the creative side of their professors,” he said.

Through the series, Schulze hopes to introduce students to new areas of interest by sharing their work with others.

“I was hired because MSU was looking to grow the creative writing program. Since my hire, I’ve created several new courses in creative writing, was instrumental in the development of the Writing Minor, became the faculty advisor for our literary and arts magazine Voices, and began the series,” Schulze said.

He began the series with the hope that students would share their creative work outside of the classroom. Schulze said college should be about the discovery of new areas of interest, of taking risks, and sharing work with students.

However, not a lot of students will read their pieces to a crowd. Because of this, Schulze said all readers share one trait: courage.

“For students, the prime criteria is courage, which is closely followed by talent. When I come across an individual who seems to have work that’s ready to be shared, and they have the courage to do so, I ask if they’d be interested in reading,” he said.

Schulze said faculty members are harder to find, although every member he has asked has “enthusiastically” agreed.

Lastly, I try to select readers for each event who will offer a good cross section of genres and material,” he said.

This reading featured creative nonfiction and short stories, and the crowd reacted excitedly to the readings.

“I received a positive reaction from many of my professors, classmates and friends, and when I asked which they liked more, some said one and some said the other, so I guess that means it went well overall,” Muñoz said.

Schulze also agreed that the crowd reacted positively.

“Though I was in the front of the room with my back turned to the audience, I could hear gasps of disbelief, chuckles and outright laughter as the readers read their work,” Schulze said. “All of which indicated to me that the audience was engaged in the stories being told. I can’t ask for anything more than that.”

English sophomore Haylee Fowler said she was most excited for her friend’s works, but came to enjoy all of the readings.

“All of their pieces were amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed all of them,” she said.

Although the series was posted around campus, Fowler heard about the event in her creative writing class.

“I heard about the readings in class, and I came for two reasons: I knew one of the speakers and I had an assignment to do for class over the event,” she said. “I hadn’t been to an event like this before, but it is definitely something I will go to again.”

Because of reactions from the student body, Schulze hopes to continue with the series.

“Spring 2017 is only the second semester that RRRS has existed, but I’m already lining up readers for next fall,” he said. “My hope is that the reading series will create momentum and build interest and participation in creative writing here at MSU.”

Muñoz said she would participate in later events, if Schulze were to ask her again.

“I had never done anything like this before, so I was a little nervous. I had never read my work to other students and faculty outside of the classroom, but it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be,” she said. “As long as I have something to read, I would do it again, but I would really like to see more students share their work as well.”