by Raquel Corona and Susan Lago
On May 13, 2021, Raquel Corona and Susan Lago will host a live interactive literary event on Zoom, featuring Queensborough Community College English Department faculty, including Irvin Weathersby Jr. and Manny Martinez, along with three QCC students nominated to read by the English Department Creative Writing Committee. Attendees will actively participate by collaborating on a group poem, posing questions, and meeting with the writers for intimate break-out room sessions. The event will conclude with an open mic where attendees have the opportunity to volunteer to share their own creative work with the audience. In this way, attendees will have the experience of participating in a live literary event that invites the audience to engage directly with writers of various levels of experience to ask questions about their process or what inspires their creative work. Attendees will gather an understanding of the interactive nature between literature and audience in a venue that takes literature out of the classroom and places it in a collaborative virtual space.
In May 2019, the Queensborough Community College English Department Creative Writing Committee held its first annual QCC Writers’ Showcase. Faculty writers from across the disciplines were invited to read from their published creative work, including poetry, fiction, memoir, drama, hybrid, cross-genre, or graphic novels. The purpose of the event was to provide an opportunity for writers to share their writing experiences with students and the QCC community. The event featured three faculty members and two students who were recommended by the Creative Writing Committee. The first hour was devoted to writers reading from their work and was followed by a 45-minute Q&A. Having students and faculty read together at a live literary performance was a unique way for the QCC community to engage directly with writers and helped to facilitate the understanding that writing is an active process of creative expression and communication that also happens outside of the classroom.
In May 2020, the live event was canceled due to COVID-19. Faculty and student readers, however, created videos of themselves reading their works, which were shared with the QCC campus community. Showcasing creative works virtually thus became a way to demonstrate the power of creative expression even in times of crisis. While faculty read from previously published works, students contributed spoken word and poetry having to do with the pandemic.
This year, we wanted to make the program more interactive on a virtual platform. When we heard about the Transformative Learning in the Humanities Grant, we came up with a proposal to utilize the functions of Zoom to create a unique collaborative, interactive space that celebrates spoken and written creative expression. We thought it would be wonderful if we could use the digital platform to give the audience that intimate experience with the writers so they could feel more comfortable engaging in conversation with them about their work. Our goal is to split the audience in two separate break-out rooms and then facilitate discussion within that space so the audience feels comfortable commenting on or asking any questions they may have of the writers.
We also wanted the audience to have the opportunity to engage in writing and perform as well. What better way to truly showcase creativity than to have the audience exercise their own? We plan to start the entire event with a poetry writing exercise where participants are given a prompt, and they reply in the chat feature of Zoom. We will compile what everyone puts in the chat and read it out loud at the end so they can see how we all came together to construct a poem virtually. Finally, we will invite attendees to perform their own poetry or creative work for a few minutes at the end. We have been working with our colleagues on the Creative Writing Committee to see if we can have a few of their students attend and perform in case participants are initially too shy. We hope being able to see one or two other people volunteer will provide others some courage to read their work.
Because our event has not yet occurred we cannot discuss in more detail or provide images of anything that happens at the event. However, we wanted to make sure to include in this blog post the line-up of the writers showcased in our event. They are truly a diverse set of individuals who we are so excited to bring together. Below you will find a photo and brief description of who they are and what they intend to read at the event.
Susan Lago is a Lecturer in the English Department at CUNY / Queensborough Community College. Her creative work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as Noctua Review, Adelaide Magazine, Pank Magazine, The Smart Set, Monkeybicycle and Prime Number. She is currently at work on a collection of connected short stories. Visit her website at http://SusanLago.wix.com/susanlago or follow her on Twitter: @SusanLago).
Raquel Corona is a Lecturer in the English Department at Queensborough Community College (CUNY) and has just recently completed her Ph.D. in English from St. John’s University (yay for Class of 2021). Her dissertation is a rhetorical exploration of how transnationalism affects the circulation of stories about the Latinx woman’s body and sex. It examines various texts and the digital realm to consider the ways Latinx women are resisting against the dominant and oppressive forces in their lives to cull an alternative way of expressing and exploring their sexuality and sexual desire.