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The Orion

Students share works on God, widowers, first loves

Martin Salgado jokes with audience members at the Writer's Voice Graduate Writers' Workshop Thursday while reading a piece about his first love in junior high. Photo credit: Ashiah Scharaga

Tomie Bitton is a 35-year-old mother, nervous about returning to college. Daria Booth is a 35-year-old widow, compiling sarcastic shopping lists for widowers.

This fall’s Writer’s Voice Graduate Writers’ Workshop was filled with deeply personal, polished story excerpts, poems and vignettes crafted by students in Rob Davidson’s English 620 writer’s workshop course.

The free readings are hosted at the end of every fall semester. This year, two more rows of chairs were brought into Colusa Hall on Thursday night to accommodate the large audience.

Not one writer was out of place at the reading. Though some were quieter speakers or noticeably not as comfortable in front of a room of potential fans (or critics), it didn’t reflect poorly on the exceptional work they shared.

Bitton’s reflections about getting older are poignant, especially when she compares herself to a younger, chestnut-haired fellow Chico State student on the first day of classes. Or when she wonders if hair buns are still called buns and mentions a pair of old Gap jeans she’s kept for years, a symbol of her youth.

” … boyfriend-like, before jeans were actually labeled as such.” — From Tomie Bitton’s untitled essay

Booth’s biting sarcasm shined in her nonfiction piece about widowhood, where she compared her deceased husband’s ashes to a box of Arm & Hammer baking soda in her fridge.

Jill North’s insightful fictional excerpt from “The Outskirts,” a piece about a man coming to terms with his homosexuality, was thought-provoking and clear-minded. North suggests that tolerance really doesn’t warrant the positive connotation it receives.

Martin Salgado’s vignettes were refreshingly relatable. His shy wittiness was spot-on, in person and in his writing, and had the packed room roaring with laughter as he described his first attempt at love, as a middle school student.

“You know what I’m going to say, so what do you think?” — From Martin Salgado’s untitled vignette

Eric Dunk waxed philosophic, referencing Nietzsche and delving into his beliefs about God. Though studying philosophy, in which he earned his bachelor’s degree, caused him to question his Christian upbringing, the poem’s end suggests a return to God.

“Yes, I am alive. And yes, I have felt his presence.” — From Eric Dunk’s untitled poem.

But whatever Dunk’s personal religious or spiritual beliefs, readers are invited to question their own through reflecting upon Dunk’s philosophical, poetic journey.

Other workshop readers included Sylvia Bowersox, Stephanie Evans, Tim Hayes, Nicholas Monroe and Jennifer Smith.

Though there will not be another Graduate Writers’ Workshop until next fall, students interested in The Writer’s Voice series can look forward to more readings presented in spring.

Ashiah Scharaga can be reached at [email protected] or @AshiahD on Twitter.

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