On Jan. 19, two Widener students shined among other literary stars from neighboring Villanova University, Swarthmore University, and Cabrini College at the State Street Reading Series’ College Night. Kelsey Styles ’17, senior English and communications double major, and Evan Kramer ’17, senior English and creative writing dual major, presented excerpts of their senior creative writing portfolios to a roomful of students, educators, and art enthusiasts at the bi-monthly series.
The State Street Reading Series is a celebration of the written word co-sponsored by Widener and the Media Arts Council in Media, PA. Normally, the series features two local authors every other month, but this month, local students were given the floor to share their work. Guests were able to socialize with one another and the student writers before, during a brief intermission, and after the readings.
Styles was pleased with the response she got from the audience. “The feedback I received after was really nice—everyone said I did a good job—but I’ve never really read my own work to an audience, so it was pretty intimidating,” she said. “I liked that I was able to go first, because I didn’t have to hear the competition. I think if I had heard how great everyone else was, I would have been even more nervous. But I was so nervous going into it! Hopefully nobody could see, but my hands were shaking up there.”
This was the first time the series held a night dedicated to undergraduate writers. Two students were selected from each of the four colleges and read their poetry, spoken word, fiction, or non-fiction. Among the readers were Margaret Hughes and Alessandra Occhiolini of Swarthmore, Lily Weber and Jaylen Pearson of Cabrini, and Kamrin Pester and Colin Lubner of Villanova. Every presenter had a unique writing voice, and their individual personalities shone through their work, which ranged from prose on depression to slam poetry about feminism, from an excerpt of a novel-in-progress to a surprisingly dark tale about the beloved cartoon characters Tom and Jerry.
Styles’ favorite presentation was a novel excerpt by Occhiolini from Swarthmore, who was recently awarded the Potter-Morrell Summer Stipend in Creative Writing to research her book. “[Alessandra] wrote so beautifully. I was blown away! She has a scholarship now to visit California and study her subject matter, so her story is brilliant on a scholarly level. Presenting alongside someone who is working on what feels like another level is really humbling,” said Styles.
The next event in the series will be on March 16, featuring writers Carla Spataro and Rahul Mehta, at 7 p.m. at the Media Arts Council Gallery, located at 609 W. State Street, Media, PA. Spataro is the MFA program director at Rosemont College, the editorial director of Philadelphia Stories and PS Books, and is also a fiction writer. Mehta works at the University of the Arts and is a novelist and short story writer. If you’d like more information on the series, you can find it on Facebook @statestreetreadingseries or call 484-550-5959. For Widener students interested in attending or learning more, you can contact Dr. Michael Cocchiarale at email@example.com.