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Plains Writers Series and Poetry Slam showing great attendance

Courtney Upah

Courtney Upah

Erika Schwartz, Staff Writer

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The Language and Literature Department, WSC Press and this semester’s editing and publishing class worked together to host the Plains Writer’s Series (PWS) and Poetry Slam 37 on March 2.

The PWS has been an event four times each year since 1977 and was started by retired WSC English Professor JV Brummels. It was designed to invite and showcase Great Plains authors and give them a platform to share their work with the students of WSC.

“The goal is to give writers, usually regional, but not always, an outlet to share their most recent work as well as giving the college and local community an opportunity to see and hear a living writer,” said WSC Press managing editor Chad Christensen. “Especially regional writers who tend to be overlooked. Writing students also get the chance to engage with visiting writers, which can be beneficial in helping them become better writers.”

When writers are chosen in preparation for the Plains Writer’s Series, there are a few things taken into consideration. Regional writers who have recently published a book are usually given priority. Opportunities to share work at the PWS are given to new writers as well.

The PWS also gives Great Plains authors a chance to share their work with a variety of Nebraska readers.

This year, the PWS featured four different authors: Micheal Catherwood, Jeff Alessandrelli, Zach Drees and Emily Borgmann. Drees and Borgmann are both new writers, and Catherwood recently published a book and is an editor at Blackwater Press. Alessandrelli has published several books and recently began teaching at Peru State College.

The writers read and promoted their work, interacted with the students and other listeners and were able to sell some of their work as well.

Additionally, the writers were invited to judge the 37th Poetry Slam that followed the PWS at the Max Bar and Grill.

“The judges for the slams have traditionally been the visiting writers who read during the day at the PWS. This gives students, or anyone who wants to participate, an opportunity to read their work in front of a published writer,” Christensen said.

The slam, which is held twice each year, is an event at which poets can share their work in front of a crowd. Participants pay $5 to enter the contest and bring four different poems to share. The judges score each contestant, and the scores determine who is able to move on to the second, third and fourth rounds of competition.

Four winners receive prizes that are donated from local businesses and other supporters. Each winner also receives a portion of the money collected from each entry.
Slam 37, which had 25 participants, featured the following winners (from first to fourth): Stephanie Hempel, Jared Shultz, Derek Pufahl and Andrew Clegg.

“The slam has grown immensely over the last few years, and I think students really enjoy the chance to share their voice,” Christensen said. “I feel extremely lucky and proud to have seen so many students up on the stage sweating it out and giving power to their words.”

WSC’s editing and publishing class declares a “slam master” or group of “slam masters” to organize the event each time it is held. This year’s master was sophomore Sean Dunn. Along with the honor of being the slam master comes many responsibilities.

“It was mostly talking to people and confirming time and dates. I had to find an emcee, which Eddie Elfers did a great job doing, and some pre-slam entertainment provided by Vito Cole and Eddie Elfers,” Dunn said. “Along with that, collecting donations was another big part. It’s the part of the slam that you want to keep the most on top of and not wait until the last minute to do.”

Additionally, Dunn and the rest of the class had to work to promote the slam. They made posters to hang up around campus, and they encouraged people to participate and attend through the official WSC Slam Facebook page and Twitter profile. The promotional posters were also a tool to help the members of the class learn about design programs and creativity.

The WSC Press, along with Dunn and the other editing and publishing students, are also hosting the fiction edition of the PWS and the Lucky 13 Fiction Slam on April 27.

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Plains Writers Series and Poetry Slam showing great attendance