The 2016 Winter With the Writers literary festival concluded at the end of last March. Here are a few thoughts from some of the interns and faculty who helped make the whole thing possible:
“Winter With the Writers is now one of my dearest memories. Although it was stressful, I loved every single moment, and I miss everybody so much!” – Lara López Lueje ’16
“The festival totally changed my confidence level. I believe in myself and my writing far more than I could’ve imagined. I know that I’m capable of great things.” – Alicia Delgado ’16
“An unforgettable experience. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to work with such wonderful people (students and authors). I've learned so much and I will carry this experience in my heart ‘till I die.” – Luis Guerrero ’18
"I can't express how much I'm going to miss this program and the people involved in it. If I weren't graduating, I'd apply again in a heartbeat. So, I'll settle with becoming a part of the audience from now on. I can't imagine staying away." – Lindsay Granduke ’16
“Winter With the Writers is one of the premier literary festivals in central Florida. An opportunity to hear writers with national and international reputations read their work, but also to observe them in the master class as they work with student writers at the beginning of their careers.
For me, the highlight of this year’s festival was the reading, by his friends, students, and colleagues, of sections from Phil Deaver’s new novel 'Forty Martyrs.' The room was packed with local readers, writers, and Phil’s students, all of whom had come to hear from a beloved local writer, and all of whom left either with the book in their hand or on their reading list. A true expression of our local literary community.” – Jonathan Miller, Olin Library Director
“I haven’t missed one afternoon workshop or evening reading of the Rollins English Department’s Winter With the Writers festival in the last 20 years, since 1996. That astounds me, but it’s true. They have each been memorable, enjoyable, and rich with guidance and inspiration for writers and lovers of writing. 2016’s WWW was no different. I truly enjoyed each WWW author, but what moved me most, what brought me to non-note-taking emotional engagement was the room-filling, endless line of those wanting their copies of 'Forty Martyrs' signed by the author, honoring of Phil Deaver’s reading.
It was truly wonderful, truly an affirmation of love and respect for an amazing writer and friend and colleague who has moved us deeply by the power of his writing and the gift of his teaching here at Rollins. I can close my eyes and see that auditorium, hear him reading, see him standing at the podium, and feel the respect and caring of all of us attending. Wonderful.” – Professor Bruce Aufhammer, English Department
“My favorite moments of Winter With the Writers are those that blossom with students' awareness of what is possible in contemporary writing -- moments when their responses to author comments in a master class are surprisingly insightful (and the authors marvel afterwards to me), spontaneous moments at lunch with an author who kids around about eating gator tail, moments of kindness to each other when the festival gets intense, and especially the eureka moments -- oh, I get it.
Several of the eureka moments I'm talking about occurred during Ross Gay's dynamic reading from "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude." Closed eyes opened, ears opened, as his voice whispered and soared. They had met the poem, eaten lunch with him, it was near the end of the festival, and they were alive to his words.” – Carol Frost, Winter With the Writers Director and the Theodore Bruce and Barbara Lawrence Alfond Professor of English
Unfortunately, not everyone involved could comment for the purposes of this reflection, but I think it’s safe to say that interns, faculty and all festival-goers would echo the thoughts above. It was truly a special, and dare I say, historic month of festivities. This year’s Winter With the Writers allowed us to celebrate the legacy of one of our own in Dr. Philip Deaver, bringing about a surge in the local literary community that I had personally never experienced. It also served as the inauguration of Rollins’ partnership with the National Book Awards, a relationship that will surely lead to a whole new influx of fantastic writers in the years to come.
Rather than me rambling on about my experience for a few hundred words, I wanted to gather quotes from those who were a part of this tremendous festival. I later decided to let these quotes breathe on their own. I don’t think splicing them up and trying to fit them neatly into an overarching text would’ve been doing them, or the individuals who wrote them, proper justice. Maybe it would’ve been more journalistically appropriate, but I couldn’t have possibly encompassed everything this festival had to offer on my own. It’s just hard to articulate exactly how much this experience has given all of us.
I know that I’ve grown as a person, student and, of course, as a writer. Like Lara, as stressful as the month may have been at points, I seriously miss it, just a few weeks later. Like Alicia, I’ve gained confidence and the belief that if I really work hard at it, I actually do have the ability to accomplish something in the literary world. Like Luis, I feel lucky to have been granted this once in a lifetime opportunity, and know I’ll always remember it. And like Lindsay, I also know I can’t stay away. I’ll be in the audience next year and, hopefully, the years after, as well.
On a final note, I just want to say that while reflecting like this is incredibly fun, the only real way to get a feel for how amazing Winter With the Writers is, and how much can be gained from it, is just to experience it for yourself. To any student who may be interested in participating in next year’s festival, I urge you to apply when applications open this fall. It’s an intensely rewarding experience totally unlike anything else out there.
If you’re passionate about writing, or if you just need to find out if writing even is your passion, then I wouldn’t view this as a mere extracurricular activity. I wholeheartedly believe, after experiencing it first-hand, that it’s an absolutely essential step in our growth and development as young writers. It’s a step wholly unique to Rollins, one which deserves to be appreciated and taken advantage of. So take that step. You will not regret it.