Writers gather to discuss work

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

In the middle of a day full of fear and anxiety about the proposed war with Iraq, a group of authors gathered to talk about writing in general and the writing of books for children specifically.

The Great Plains Writers’ Conference was held on Monday. The conference focused on reflecting the peoples of the plains and prairies in literature for children. Speakers included authors such as Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and Pamela Smith Hill.

“(A conference like this) gives us a chance to see contemporary writers in action and a chance to hear their ideas and understand their approaches to writing,” said Dr. Karen Zagrodnik, one of the three co-coordinators for the Great Plains Writers’ Conference.

“I think for many people writing seems to be this practice that goes on in a room and all of a sudden a book comes out of it.”

The conference also offered an opportunity for SDSU students to share their writing in the annual session where pieces in the SDSU literary journal the “Oakwood” are read before an audience.

“(The ‘Oakwood’) is a way for all students to get stuff out and have stuff published,” said senior English major Katie Pavel, one of the co-editors of the “Oakwood.”

Pavel said that the journal allows SDSU faculty and the community of Brookings to see what SDSU students are capable of doing.

Dr. Mary O’Connor, another of the co-coordinators, headed up one session, where she and Joyzelle Godfrey talked about traditions in Irish and Lakota storytelling.

“She has such a great presence that I was able to forget about audience and I was just able to be there talking with her,” O’Connor said of Godfrey. “She bathes other people-myself included-in that aura of the storyteller. I felt I could be there with her telling stories.”

Another unique feature of this year’s conference was a session where area children read from works for children and young adults about the plains and prairie.

“It was a great addition to the day. It was something different but it had that idea of communicating the beauty of the language and the powers of the children’s languages in the literature,” Zagrodnik said.

The event, which is held annually and sponsored by the English department, was organized throughout the school year. Planning will begin in earnest for the 2004 conference at the start of the next school year.

#1.887221:1174901825.jpg:kd.jpg:(From left) K.D. Danker, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, Nancy Veglahn and Pamela Smith Hill discuss ?Who Tells the Tale? A Discussion of Writer and Artist Approaches to Plains Cultures for the Juvenile Audience.? The panel was part of the Great Plains Writers Conference held on the SDSU campus on March 17, 2003.: