The Brauer Museum of Art buzzed with voices among the walls of newly installed art as people found seats to listen to the first Wordfest reading of the year.
Each year, Wordfest gives opportunities for the public to listen to an acclaimed author or poet present his or her work.
Associate Professor of English Allison Schuette introduced the event and thanked the partnership between the English Department and the Cultural-Arts Committee for making this possible. Graduate student Jessica Martinovic introduced author Sharon Solwitz to the audience.
Martinovic highlighted the many prizes Solwitz has won including a Pushcart Prize, the Dan Curley Award and the Nelsen Algren Prize, among many other awards and honors.
Solwitz’s friendly demeanor and easy going nature showed as she read through the first chapters of her book, to be published in summer 2017.
Set in an imaginary town in Michigan called Lordes in 1968, it centers around four high school students named Saint, Vera, Kay and C.J. These characters create a suicide-pact.
“Each character develops in terms of each other,” Solwitz said. “I write characters that are a mixture of happy and tormented—I want listeners to understand these complexities.”
Listeners were immediately intrigued by her authenticity and rhythmic writing style, including sophomore Rachel Kennedy.
“It reminded me of high school and some of the experiences I have gone through,” Kennedy said. “Her writing felt real.”
Junior Allison Granat also appreciated the authenticity of Solwitz’s writing style.
“I was a little hesitant at first, coming to this reading,” Granat said. “Yet, after the reading, I really appreciate her writing because she is able to talk about such a personal subject, and it is nice to see people write about it in such an authentic way. I cannot wait for her book to come out so I can read more.”
Solwitz’s authenticity comes from experience and the need to communicate with others.
“I think the world is intolerant and I think it comes from a fear of people acknowledging one’s own foibles,” Solwitz said. “I write a lot of imperfect characters. I like character and people with facade. I hope that in my writing people can begin to understand themselves and accept themselves more—to strip away the facade and see the lack of need for it.”
Solwitz believes story has a large role in overcoming intolerance.
“Story is able to bridge that gap between differences,” Solwitz said. “You enter the world of characters in stories and are able to experience (it).”
After the reading, the audience gathered outside of the museum to buy and have Solwitz sign a copy of her novel, “Bloody Mary,” published in 2003.
Solwitz said a story changes and we can share and connect over it.
“We keep telling ourselves this story—who we are in terms of the world—but as we get older the story changes and that is fascinating,” Solwitz said.