Ithaca College New Voices Festival: An Experience Worth Having

For three days, Ithaca College had the amazing opportunity to host seven “new voices” at the college. The seven writers were short story writer and novelist Stephanie Powell Watts, poet Chris Santiago, novelist and journalist Hermione Hoby, poet and memoirist James Allen Hall, novelist Emily Fridlund, novelist Sonya Chung and playwright Sarah DeLappe.

The New Voices Festival was brought together by the English and Writing Departments at Ithaca College with professors Chris Homes and Eleanor Henderson as the co-directors and founders of the festival, which started its life in 2013. Every year, there are a set of students who apply to act as guides for the writers throughout the three days. This was the first year in which there was a one-credit course in which the guides had to take. In the class, the guides were expected to study and read excerpts of each of the writers’ works. The idea of the class was given by the assistant director for the festival and a student at the college: Rose Munsey-Kano.

Every year, the three days start with a reading at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY called a “Short Short” in which the writers are both introduced by the guides as well as given a short amount of time to read some of their work. The next two days are full of panels, conversation and more readings from the writers. The event gives students an opportunity to not only hear about the professional world of writing, get tips and pointers, and be a part of the writing community, but it also allows one on one conversation with the writers about possibly anything. Added to this year’s festival was a music aspect in which students from the college composed songs around James Allen Hall’s and Chris Santiago’s work then played for them. The pieces were done amazingly and left both poets teary-eyed and thankful.

All of the authors were wonderful, funny and just some of the most pleasant people I’ve ever been around. As an aspiring writer, it put my goals more directly into my view. Not only this, but the group of authors this year was diverse; many of them were examples of success in minority groups which is always important to see. These authors instilled into me a “yes, I can” feeling. If you are anywhere near Ithaca, NY in the month of April, I would highly recommend the Ithaca New Voices Festival to you.

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