37th Annual Great Plains Writers’ Conference featured diverse writing and performance genres
BROOKINGS, S.D. — Mary Swander, Iowa Poet Laureate and faculty member of Iowa State University’s creative writing department was the keynote presenter at the 2012 Great Plains Writers’ Conference, March 25-26.
Swander’s book of poetry, Girls on the Roof, is a narrative poem about two women stuck on a cafe roof for three days during the 1993 flood. In a unique keynote performance based upon Girls, Swander read while puppeteer Monica Leo of Eulenspiegel Puppets brought the scenes to life using hand, rod, and shadow puppets.
The conference got underway Sunday evening, March 25, with an Ignite SD event featuring faculty and community guests. The http://oldmarketeatery.com/ hosted the fun, thought-provoking event, followed by a reading and launch party for Oakwood, SDSU’s literary and art journal. Free copies of the annual publication were available at the Great Plains Writers Conference.
The second day of the 36th annual writing conference was held in the Lewis and Clark Room of the SDSU Student Union. A panel discussion titled “South Dakota Women: Impact, Action, Voice,” led the day’s schedule. The editors of a book project by the same name–Meredith Redlin, Julie Barst, and Christine Stewart-Nunez–facilitated the discussion.
At 10 a.m., Steven Wingate, creative writing faculty member at SDSU and Chair of the 2012 GPWC, read from his new novel. Wingate’s 2008 short story collection, Wife Shopping, won the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize in Fiction from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In addition to fiction, Wingate also write critical essays and reviews, as well as hybrid genre prose.
At 11 a.m. Steven Wingate faciliatated a panel discussion on writing and activism. The panel included Iowa State Poet Laureate, Mary Swander, who often writes about social issues surrounding the changing rural landscape and about the changes wrought by modern agricultural practices. The panel also included Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan, who writes and speaks about the social injustices committed in the 1800s by early settlers and about the Dakota Commemorative Walk, held annually to honor the 38 men who were hung in the biggest mass execution in U.S. history.
At 1:30 p.m. members of the Oak Lake Writers’ Society, comprised of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota writers read from and discussed their 2011 book, He Sapa Woihanble (Black Hills Dream), edited by Craig Howe, Lanniko Lee and Lydia Whirlwind Soldier. Craig Howe, Director of the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies, led the discussion.
Poet Jeanne Emmons, who teaches writing at Briar Cliff University in Iowa and is poetry editor of The Briar Cliff Review, read at 2:30. Emmons’ poetry collection, Rootbound, won the Minnesota Voices Project Competition in 1996 and was subsequently named for a Pippistrelle Best of the Small Press Award. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals.
Emmons’ reading was followed by readings from the winners of The Paul Witherington and Jerome Norgren Creative Writing Prizes. The Witherington (prose) and Norgren (poetry) prizes are open to middle- and high-school students from South Dakota.
Readers were present throughout the day to sign copies of their books, available for purchase at the conference.
“This 2012 conference brought together diverse writers who speak to our shared human concerns, including perseverance and remembrance. The connection between people and the natural world is also an interesting thread, ” said Dr. Christine Stewart-Nunez, creative writing faculty member at SDSU.
The 7 p.m. keynote performance featuring poetry, puppets, old-time music, and the folklore of the Missouri River Basin, concluded the 37th Annual Great Plains Writers Conference. Mary Swander and Eulenspiegel Puppets, which is known for performances of international folktales and regional historical fiction, are on the performing artists roster for the Iowa Arts Council. Their entertaining show, Girls on the Roof, is for mature audiences only.