Student Blog – Writing Festival Recap

By Chris Hall - Media and Public Relations Intern

On Thursday, October 24, I attended the 10th annual Normandale Writing Festival, hosted by the Creative Writing department and co-sponsored by Normandale's international Experience Center. The event featured sessions on screenwriting, fiction, poetry, and more facilitated by guest writers, writing professionals, and Normandale faculty. Being a writer and Normandale student myself, I was very excited for the event and looked forward to learning from professionals in the field.


Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend any of the 10 a.m. sessions, but when I arrived on campus I made a beeline to Lynette Reini-Grandell and Venus DeMars' session. The title of the session, "Trouble: A Glam-Punk Trans-Rock Love Story", was enough to pull me in. I LOVE punk rock, it's been a huge part of my life since I was about 14 and one of the things I often write about.

In the session, I learned that Lynette is an instructor at Normandale and is working on a memoir, as is her spouse Venus who is a member of the trans community and leader of the glam-punk band All The Pretty Horses. They each shared pieces of their own writing, and what I appreciated was how creative they both were while at the same time having seemingly different styles and approaches.

Lynette's writing was very descriptive, recalling a time the band went to a hotel in New York. I felt like I could perfectly visualize the moment from her writing, as if I was transported back in time to that moment. Venus's piece seemed to center more around feelings and emotions. Her powerful words made me feel hope and determination, along with pain and suffering. I left the session feeling excited for the release of their memoirs.


At 12 p.m., a keynote address was given in the Garden Room by author Shannon Gibney. I will admit I did not read any of the descriptions of the sessions beforehand, but the title, "Using Fiction to Write Across Chasms: Imagination as Bridge", was very intriguing to me. What are these chasms that fiction can bridge? Shannon presented the topic of African diaspora, diaspora being the dispersion of people from their homeland. Shannon explained that African stories and perspectives have gone untold or have been lost due to diaspora, specifically those of slaves and Africans who remained in Africa at that time.

She also touched on the history of Liberia and how the country's creation was essentially the product of political motivations from a group called the American Colonization Society, something I was unaware of prior to the session. I was shocked, and honestly felt ignorant but at the same time motivated to learn more. Shannon, using her own book Dream Country, displayed how fiction can be used to fill the gaps in history by recreating stories and perspectives based on actual people and events. Shannon's speech not only taught me different uses for fictional writing, but introduced me to new social issues that I had never before realized. As with Lynette and Venus's upcoming memoirs, I'm excited to read more of her work.  


The last session I attended was "The Comic Vision of James Joyce", which was given by Normandale faculty member Patrick O'Donnell. I was attracted to this session because I've literally never read anything by James Joyce, which is something that I'm embarrassed to admit as someone who considers myself a writer. Patrick gave a detailed lesson explaining Joyce's background and writing influences, all of which combined to create his revolutionary "seriocomic" writing vision. I found the session incredibly interesting and was impressed by how Joyce was able to feed off the influence of other authors while at the same time using his own creative process and life influences to create innovative pieces of writing. Once again, I left the session with additions to my reading list.