Structure of writing festival remains unchanged

Jon Stinchcomb and Jon Stinchcomb

To the organizers of Winter Wheat, the name means so much more than just a seasonal play on words describing the Mid-American Review’s annual festival of writing, which began last night and continues throughout the weekend.

Abigail Cloud, the current editor-in-chief for Mid-American Review and festival co-coordinator, said she remembers helping kick off the first Winter Wheat event

in 2001.

As a first-year graduate student in the University’s Master of Fine Arts program for poetry, Cloud helped finish an issue of MAR that year before beginning work on launching what would become the ever-growing writing festival and celebration of readers,

she said.

To this day, Cloud can still recall very clearly a long discussion coordinators had about the name.

“This festival was to be more about creating new written work,” Cloud said. “We used ‘Winter Wheat’ as a metaphor for planting seeds that would germinate over the long winter into new work to be harvested in the spring.”

Now, in its fourteenth year, the “basic structure” of the festival remains unchanged, she said.

Its wide-variety of activities this weekend include: evening guest readers, a roundtable with MAR editors, workshops on creative writing subjects, a bookfair featuring content from this region and an “open mic” closing celebration, where readers have the opportunity to share what they’ve written at Winter Wheat’s

workshops.

The concluding event will be off-campus for the first time this year, taking place this Saturday night at Grumpy Dave’s in downtown Bowling Green.

Laura Maylene Walter, fiction editor for MAR and festival co-coordinator, became involved in much the same way as Cloud. Walter entered the Master of Fine Arts program here last year.

Mid-American Review is an international literary journal, she said, dedicated to publishing contemporary fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and translations.

But there’s also a sense of community and family among the contributors and staff of MAR, Cloud added.

“MAR is like that,” she said. “It’s a family that grows and never diminishes.”

“We like to say that we often publish ‘work with a quirk,’” Walter said.

The Winter Wheat festival was and continues to be a culmination of those things, expanding the MAR community and helping to inspire writers, she said.

Those humble beginnings from over a decade ago, which they said only played host to about 40 attendees, have since ballooned to well-over 200.

“This year’s conference is going to be the biggest and best yet,” Walter said. “We have more workshops and more attendees than ever before.”

The festival opened to a packed house on Thursday night with a reading by Sharona Muir, professor and director of the University’s Creative Writing program.

Last night’s event served both as the kickoff for Winter Wheat and also part of the Creative Writing program’s Prout Chapel Reading Series.

Muir read selections from her new novel, Invisible Beasts: Tales of the Animals that Go Unseen Among Us. She describes the book as her “tribute to the bestiary, a beautiful form that helped—and still helps—to create poetic, meaningful connections between the image of an animal and the concerns of

human life.”

Muir said she hopes students and listeners will find the reading and her book represent the “interdisciplinary scope” and “innovative approach” of the Creative Writing program.

She said that other faculty members, too, have similarly written work that pushes “the limits of prose and poetry in innovative ways.”

Muir will also be speaking to alumni about the program this weekend.

“I think the festival offers a true autumn cornucopia of literary delights,” she said.