Readers present stories and poems at ‘Writers Unplugged’
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
On Thursday, November 17, the Douglas College Creative Writing Department held its annual fall Writers Unplugged event, where students presented their original work in front of an audience of peers and faculty. The event featured readings from all Creative Writing courses, across the disciplines of fiction, speculative fiction, personal narrative, poetry, and playwriting.
The evening began with an introduction by department chair Elizabeth Bachinsky, followed by a guest presentation by local poet and writer Kevin Spenst. Spenst started by sharing a poem about being from Surrey and countering the negative connotations about the city. He then gave advice on writing and getting published, and shared a few more of his poems, including some from his books Jabbering with Bing Bong and Ignite. Some of his poems were sung aloud, and others like his “preacher poems” involved very energetic shouting and running across the room, to the great amusement of the audience.
It was an invigorating beginning to a night full of emotion and excitement. Twenty students from various classes taken at both the New Westminster and Coquitlam campuses shared their writing. Some of the pieces were incredibly personal recountings of intimate experiences, others were abstract and explorative works of fiction, a few were hilarious exposés and poems that left the audience in uproarious laughter, and many of the pieces achieved all of the above.
Kristen Bortignon, who is taking Personal Narrative at the Coquitlam campus, shared an excerpt from Covering, a story about her struggle with acne in high school. It was her first time reading her own writing in front of a larger audience, and even though she has a diploma in Musical Theatre from Capilano University, presenting her own work felt like a very different kind of performance.
Others shared their experiences in prose or poetic form on topics like relationships, jobs, and noteworthy moments in life. Blake Raiment read an excerpt from his personal narrative Stoned, which was about having kidney stones when he was a kid—and the very unfortunate, uncomfortable misdiagnoses that preceded the correct one. It was one of the most hilarious readings of the night. Raiment said that he had never shared this personal story before writing it for class, but that he really enjoys working through painful memories using humour.
Some of the readings were quite active, in particular the two pieces of playwriting that were shared. Hannah Ewing presented a wryly comedic monologue that took place on the SkyTrain, and the familiar setting made it even funnier. She said she was inspired to write this play because she’s often “people-watching” and made up scenarios in her head.
Andy Field, who shared three rousing and quirky poems, said that he wrote these poems with no intention of reading them aloud, and hadn’t considered it before this event. Being able to present to an audience changed the way he thought about his work and how to make it more entertaining. He also wanted to note that “Liz Bachinsky is an awesome poetry teacher.”
Ewing said that the turnout at this year’s Writers Unplugged seemed even higher than last year’s attendance. The event was an excellent opportunity for students to present their original writing, and for many others to listen to the work of their peers, to interact with fellow students from a variety of courses, and to experience the best of the Creative Writing Department.