“Writing is like an apprenticeship,” said Anthony Varallo, winner of the 2005 John Simmons Short Fiction Award and author of the new short story collection “Out Loud.” Varallo was one of four writers that came to USF last Wednesday and Thursday as part of the annual Emerging Writers Festival sponsored by the English department and the African American studies minor.
Writing can be a solitary activity, leaving only the writer and his or her muse, whittling away hours in front of a blank computer screen. However the Emerging Writers Festival sought to bridge the gap between writers by exposing students to new, emerging writers. Anthony Varallo and Camille Dungy read from their work and spoke to a packed, eager audience on Wed., April 15 with Caille Millner and John Casteen following on Thursday evening. In addition, a lunch was held on Thursday afternoon to provide students with the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the emerging writers.
Varallo began by reading the first story in his collection, “In the Age of Automobiles.” He prefaced this by explaining that he attended an all-boys Catholic school. Varallo often employs the muse of an isolated preadolescent boy without a father figure in his stories.
“In the Age of Automobiles” relies on a car ride in which Cody, a lonely adolescent, asks his unpopular teacher Mr. Tercel to give him a ride home. The story highlights many familiar junior high embarrassments and insecurities which prompted poet Camille Dungy to say, “I am trying to recover from the terror of junior high” in Varallo’s story. Dungy, a Bay Area resident and alumnus of Stanford University, read several poems from her collection entitled “What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison.” She read “Long Time Gone, Long Time Yet to Come”, “Requiem”, “Black Spoon” and “The Preachers Eat Out.” Dungy tackles racism and failed relationships in her poetry. “The Preachers Eat Out” describes unequal treatment of black preachers in a restaurant. It ends strongly with one of the preachers saying to the waitress, “Lady, my one regret/ is that we don’t have appetite enough/ to make you break every damned plate inside this room.”
Dungy read her poetry with confidence, and made eye contact with the audience often, showing that she had many portions of her poems memorized. She has received multiple fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Virginia Commission for the Arts, amongst other awards. In addition, Dungy is an assistant editor of “Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade.”
Michael Fortes, a senior English major said of the readers on Wednesday night, “I thought it was a great contrast between a narrative and poetry.”