SWA Gets Crafty

SFUAD’s Student Writers Association (SWA) has recently launched a new series of craft seminars aimed at enterprising students hoping for more opportunities to expand their work. Led by their peers and held during lunch hours so as to accommodate students’ busy schedules, each session individually focuses on an aspect of creative writing, such as character development, dialogue or plot.

“The seminars are meant to reinforce what we’re learning, as well as adding some new ideas on those very topics,” says Jen Hanson of SWA, the mastermind behind the seminars. “I felt that there are some areas of craft that classes cannot delve deep into, as there are a wide range of things which need to be taught and learned. In creating these seminars, my hope, and SWA’s hope, is that students will have an opportunity to really dig deep in specific topics.”

Amaya Hoke, a sophomore Creative Writing major from Texas, took on the task of hosting the first seminar on Oct. 13. Entitled “Split ‘Em Open,” the session focused on character and characterization.

CW student Amaya Hoke. Self portrait.

CW student Amaya Hoke. Self portrait.

“It was definitely a joyful experience, so many people showed up!” enthuses Hoke a few weeks after her seminar. “I gave the attendees an option of two exercises. They could create a schedule for their character, like 8 am – wake up, just to try and show the daily life of a character. Another was to try to portray how their character was by describing the contents on the inside of their car. There were some pretty amazing results!”

Hoke chose to focus her seminar on characterization because “I’ve always been really passionate about characters, I feel like they make the story. I feel like if a writer can’t love and dedicate time to their characters, then who can love their characters?”

With approximately 17 attendees and enthusiastic feedback from students, the first seminar was labeled a success.

“Amaya’s seminar on characterization was fantastic; she showed us many ways to crack open our characters, like a geode, to reveal the beautiful insides,” says Hanson, who is planning on teaching her own seminar about “From Story to Film” on Oct. 28 from 12:30 to 1:30.

Brandon Brown, SWA coordinator and seminar attendee, agrees.

Brandon Brown reads at the SWA/CW Returning Student Reading. Photo by Susanne Miller.

Brandon Brown reads at the  SWA/CW Returning Student Reading. Photo by Susanne Miller.

“I’ve been ecstatic about these craft seminars ever since Jen brought them up over the summer. It’s a really cool way for students in Creative Writing to be passionate about a topic and get other people engaged too.”

Both Hoke and Hanson felt that in addition to positive reactions from their peers, the CW faculty has been supportive of their endeavors.

“They were very ecstatic and excited. It’s a very supportive faculty, and I’m sure they’ll be just as supportive in following seminars,” says Hoke, with Hanson adding “Although none of the CW staff attended the seminar, one professor, Dana Levin, has talked to me about them and seems very much in favor. I have not heard much else, but this is very new.”

Matt Donovan, chairman of the Creative Writing and Literature Department, expressed enthusiasm in an email exchange about the student-led  initiative.

Department chair Matt Donovan addresses students at an SWA/CW event. Photo by Susanne Miller.

Department Chairman Matt Donovan addresses students at an SWA/CW event. Photo by Susanne Miller.

“I was thrilled to hear that students were both teaching and attending craft talks. The whole idea speaks to the seriousness of our writers – this is all happening during the lunch hour! – and their dedication to the craft. It’s also tremendous that this is all fueled by the students themselves. From what I’ve heard, there was a strong attendance at the first talk. I’m really hoping to attend one of the sessions myself!”

In addition to Hanson’s upcoming seminar, CW student Nik Thomas also will host a session on “World-Building” on Nov. 13during the same time slot. Hanson reached out to students, encouraging them to contact her via Facebook if they wish to lead a seminar or have an idea for one.

Everyone involved has high hopes for these seminars, both as a way to explore craft and encourage student participation.

“It was a great atmosphere and an awesome start to what I hope is a lasting tradition in our department,” says Brown.

Hoke agrees. “I realized how important it is to use your peers and your fellow classmates to help bounce around these ideas and concepts. It’s the camaraderie that makes it so interesting.”