Student Feature: Shanley Smith

Photo Credit: Shanley Smith

This summer I had the opportunity to attend Chris Dombrowski’s Bear Grass Writing Retreat at a dude ranch in Montana, where I was able to meet and talk with a number of authors, agents, and publishers.  My time there reminded me of the necessity of connecting writers together for both artistic and emotional encouragement. Within four days, I was engaged with a community of like-minded artists, a group of people I dreaded leaving.

Dombrowski and his good friend and fellow writer, Shann Ray, will be coming to campus on Tuesday, September 19 to give the Tom Andrews Memorial Reading for this year’s first event in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. Both write across genres of prose and poetry, while sustaining a liberal arts mentality, a perspective informed by many academic disciplines that deeply influence their work.  Ray, who holds a PhD in psychology, writes with a poetic rawness about race, gender, and familial ties in books such as American Masculine: Stories and American Copper:  A Novel.  Dombrowski captures the spirit of the terrain from Montana to the Bahamas with his poetry collections By Cold Water and Earth Again and his recent, ravishing non-fiction book, Body of Water:  A Sage, a Seeker, and the World’s Most Elusive Fish.

Dombrowski’s vision to create a retreat where authors and aspiring writers can connect and inspire one another coincides perfectly with the vision of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. The series prides itself on connecting students to accomplished writers, allowing for a deep dive into stories and poems while providing a chance for one-to-one conversations in classrooms, lunches and dinners, and at Q & A sessions and talkbacks.  After spending time with him in Montana, I can assure you that Chris, a Hope alumnus, is a writer not only of great craftsmanship but one who cares about and nurtures this vital connection between writers.

I encourage you all to attend both the reading and Q & A, where you’ll be able to meet both Dombrowski and Ray. I hope to see you all there!

For more information on these events, please visit the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series website.

~ A note from Susanna Childress, director of JRVWS:

It’s that time again! Yes, the start of another academic school year also means the start of another great season for the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. On September 19, we’ll welcome Chris Dombrowski (’98) and Shann Ray for the Tom Andrews Memorial Reading.  Between the two of them, they’ve written more than half a dozen award-winning and best-selling books.

And the fun continues throughout the semester!

Next month, October 19, another multi-genre writer, Paisley Rekdal, will spend three days on campus visiting classes, giving students feedback, and doing a Q&A and a reading; Rekdal has both a nonfiction book and a volume of poetry coming out this year. In November, JRVWS joins forces with The Big Read to welcome Julie Otsuka, whose award-winning books are being read throughout the community—from high school and college classrooms to senior book clubs.

And the spring semester is packed with multi-genre and award-winning writers as well! We’ve got a digital storyteller and an ex-con poet-memoirist, a spoken word champion and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

You won’t want to miss these readings, but with JRVWS, you can do one better than that: you get the chance to ask the writers questions or receive feedback on your own work, have them visit your classes or sit across from you at a table for lunch or dinner—invaluable experiences and exposure to living writers. All for free!

Please do join us for a wonderful season of great writers, great books, and great community. See you next week!

Published by Shanley Smith

Shanley Smith is a Hope student currently pursuing her passions in the fields of creative writing and theatre. You can almost always find her at a local shop, but if you don't see her there you'll likely locate her in her apartment, tucked away with a book. She dreams of someday owning a very large dog while she lives on either coastline of the US.

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