Writers of UW Bothell come together

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By N.L. Sweeney
Two graduate students and one alumna from the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences have created a quarterly reading event that aims to connect current and past students of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing & Poetics program. 

The Gamut Literary Series is led by alumna Woogee Bae and current second-year students Ashley Noelle and Matt Porter. The event normally takes place at Open Books: A Poetry Emporium, which serves as a community bookstore and literary hub. 

This quarter, however, the event will take place via teleconference on May 15. 

“We are excited about the idea of bringing people together and creating a ‘space’ for community,” said Noelle. 

Fostering community 

Gamut founders

Ashley Noelle, Woogee Bae and Matt Porter

Whether held at Open Books or online, Gamut gives readers a chance to present their work and create connections between current and previous MFA cohorts. 

The event also provides opportunities for students, alumni and faculty within the MFA community to share their work with the public and help connect UW Bothell to the greater Puget Sound region. 

“It is nice to be able to give people the opportunity to share their creative work in a public space,” said Noelle. “This has created great chances to network with people outside of the university. I’ve even had the pleasure of speaking with prospective students at Gamut readings.” 

The literary series was first conceptualized in spring 2018 when Bae brought the idea to IAS faculty members Ted Hiebert, associate professor and director of the Creative Writing & Poetics program, and Amaranth Borsuk, associate professor and program associate director. She then approached current MFA students Porter and Noelle about helping to create the quarterly event. 

Idea to action 

“Ted and Amaranth were both very supportive of the idea and allowed us to take creative reign over it,” said Noelle. “Since then, they have been present at the events and available for our questions. We’ve even been able to feature a number of faculty — including Ted and Amaranth — at the readings.” 

Miriam Bartha, director of graduate programs in the School of IAS, also helped the Gamut team apply for funds to provide refreshments at the events. The grant, known as the Community Engagement Funds, aims to support professional development and student organizations for graduate students in the school.  

“Unique to this series,” said Bartha, “is that it has been conceived by multiple leaders from current and graduated students.” 

With this financial support, Bae, Noelle and Porter could then turn their attention to curating the readers and getting the word out. 

“There are a lot of roles to fill in bringing Gamut together,” said Noelle. “The events require much communication: with readers, Open Books, current students, faculty and the three of us.” 

Professional development 

Throughout all this work together, the Gamut team has learned a lot about community organization. For Noelle, this project has been integral to her professional development. 

“One day, I would like to be involved in creating community-centered projects and bringing people together. I have learned a lot about that while helping with Gamut,” said Noelle. “One of the most important things I’ve discovered while working on this project has been knowing when to lean on my co-organizers and ask for help.” 

Having to deal with the unexpected was also part of the learning curve over the past several months. Like many events, Gamut’s plans were impacted by the state’s stay-at-home order — but Bae, Noelle and Porter decided not to cancel the spring reading. 

In fact, the Gamut team is optimistic that the shift to virtual might mean more members of the community will “attend” the event. 

Set for Friday, May 15, at 7 p.m., the online reading will feature Cliff Watson and Sanika Nalgirkar from the 2019 MFA cohort; Reed Lowell from the 2017 cohort; Diana Khoi Nguyen, a guest professor in the Creative Writing & Poetics program; and Jeanne Heuving, professor and founding director of the program. 

Looking ahead, Bartha and the Gamut team also want to work on shifting leadership of the event to students. 

“We will have a conversation after the event,” said Noelle, “but we are hoping to continue to offer this reading series for students, alumni and faculty to come together.” 

 


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