Winter Wheat Festival kicks off

Jason Henry and Jason Henry

Writers of all skill levels are invited to participate in the Mid-American Review’s Festival of Writing, Winter Wheat, which kicked off yesterday at 7:30 p.m.

Winter Wheat, an annual free event in its ninth year, is a series of writing sessions and readings meant to inspire creativity.

‘It is a weekend devoted writers of all ages, all types of writing, all levels of capacity and ability, to come to kind of go to sessions, to go to events, to go to readings,’ said Anne Valente, who is helping coordinate the event.

The Mid-American Review is a local literary journal published twice a year and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

The title of the festival refers to the winter wheat plant, which is planted in the fall, and is one of the first plants to flourish in the spring.

Karen Craigo, co-editor-in-chief for the Mid-American Review, said the festival is a good place for writers to get started on a new work.

‘We give people lots of starts, lots of ideas for writing projects to work on, like the beginnings of novels or poems,’ she said. ‘Then they can work on that all through the year and then they come back to the spring harvest festival in March to share their work.’

Craigo said each session is around 75 minutes and there will be a variety of different topics.

‘Our festival runs from Thursday to Saturday this year, so all day there will be sessions for people to write, start stories or start poems, and then share them eventually at the end at the open mic night which is on Saturday,’ Valente said.?

According to the Winter Wheat Web site, sessions will focus on such topics as Harry Potter fan fiction, sports writing, resources for Midwestern writers, food writing and how to build a career as a writer.

Valente said some sessions are designed specifically for students dealing with topics such as how to find time to write, tips for undergraduate writers and tips for college writers who want to publish their work.

A complete schedule and session listing is available on the Mid-American Review’s Web site.

Valente said while some sessions will allow people to share, it will be voluntary, so writers who are shy about their work need not worry.

‘There is usually not any pressure to share work or talk in a session if you don’t want to,’ she said.

There will be around sixty unique sessions to choose from and participants will be able to attend around six, Craigo said.

She said each session is taught by someone who proposed the topic.

‘Sometimes they’re students here, sometimes they’re faculty here, but sometimes they are people from elsewhere. Former contributors to the magazine, former editors, people from other universities,’ she said. ‘It has kind of become a professional conference in a way. People come from all over and do sessions on the topic of their choosing.’

She said around 300 people attend every year.

The first group of sessions begins on Friday at 1 p.m. Individuals can register on the Mid-American Review’s Web site or on the day of at registration tables set up on the 3rd floor of the Union.

Craigo said people should get involved in events such as this because it is important to be creative.

‘I feel it is an incomplete life if it doesn’t include any creative expression,’ she said. ‘Everybody can afford a pen right? And if they can’t, they can borrow one of mine.’