Annual writers’ conference viewed as success

Claudia Mcintosh

Claudia Mcintosh

SDSU students were given the chance to learn about writing in the Midwest.

The 29th Annual Great Plains Writers’ Conference was held March 21 in the Lincoln Music Hall on the SDSU campus.

This year’s theme was “With a Smile in Our Voice: Humor in Midwestern Writing and Storytelling.” The conference featured many diverse speakers who spoke about anything from the humor of our regional dialect to the Native American oral tradition. Some SDSU students participated in readings of their own works and a discussion about modern poetry. A screening of the film “Fargo” concluded the conference.

Although some students enjoyed experiencing the humorous side of Midwest literature, they were somewhat offended.

“I really liked the Lakota humor session; I thought that it was extremely interesting and I wish it would have lasted longer,” said Stephanie Malecha, a freshman biology major. “I wasn’t impressed with the session about how to talk Minnesotan. I don’t think some things were as accurate as the speaker made them seem.”

Even though people had mixed reactions about some of the sessions, at the end of the day, the conference was still a success, especially considering the student turnout.

“The response was excellent. It was one of the first years that we literally ran out of seats. We were delighted with the student turnout. No session had less than 100 audience members,” said Mary Ryder, conference coordinator.

The purpose of the conference was to identify humor in our culture and learn to laugh at it.

“If we are not able to appreciate and laugh at ourselves, I don’t think we really understand who we are. The purpose of the conference was to acknowledge that people find our region comical, but it is grounded in reality. We are comical, and our very specific regional traits define who we are,” Ryder said.

One of the more popular sessions featured George Frein, a renowned Mark Twain impersonator. He spoke wearing the characteristic white Twain suit. He relayed Mark Twain’s style of humor to the audience using irony and examples from Twain’s works and life. Audience members learned a lot about Twain’s character and American humor in general.

Professor Jerome Kills Small spoke about the legacy of humor in the Native American culture in another session. He discussed the humor that can arise from racial misunderstandings and the traditions of the Lakota nation. Kills Small stressed that we shouldn’t speak in a racist or sexist manner, but we should see the humor in the inevitable misunderstandings that may occur between different races. Because we don’t fully understand other cultures, we are bound to make mistakes. That is part of what makes us human, he said.

The conference was sponsored by the South Dakota Humanities Council and the South Dakota Center for the Book; the SDSU College of Arts and Science; the Department of English; Brookings Friends of the Arts; and private contributors Zeno and Roxanne Wicks and Kathleen Donovan.