The Words, March 2014

ACTC English Majors Conference Gets Writers Talking

BY Juliet Wilhelmi '14

Alex Morrall '15 described a struggle that many writers can identify with. "It's difficult to share your writing with others," he said, "especially if it feels personal to you, which I think most well-written literary pieces should."

At the ACTC English Majors conference, Morrall had the chance to present his academic writing to professors, English students, and friends of the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities.

Every year, English students from across the Associated Colleges of the Midwest convene to present their work, ranging from literary and cultural studies to creative writing and performance pieces. This year's half-day conference was held at St. Catherine University on February 28.

Morrall, presenting a paper about Chicano identity in American Literature, was joined at the conference by Claire Laine ‘14 in British Literature, Kim Goodnight ‘14 in World & Multicultural Literature, and Scott Gannis ‘14 in Creative Writing.

This year's student panelists and faculty advisors at the conference. From left: Professor Lesley Goodman, Scott Gannis ('14), Claire Laine ('14), Kim Goodnight ('14), Alex Morrall ('15), and Professor Theresa Krier.The Macalester speakers agreed that the conference presented them with a unique set of challenges and learning experiences as English majors. For Goodnight, turning her paper into a 12-minute talk was "a herculean task in terms of self-control." She explained that she "[tried] to practice ‘precision of language' by streamlining [her] writing without sacrificing any of its original meaning or craft."

Laine appreciated the public speaking element of stepping into the role of a panelist. "When you hear your own writing, you become much more aware of how and if it's working," she said.

As a participant in the 2012 ACTC English Majors' conference, I most remember the unique process of refining my favorite academic work. I had written a paper on Elizabeth Bishop’s poems in Professor Krier’s Temporality and Poetry seminar that was imaginative and precise. Preparing for the conference helped me further solidify my ideas. Professor Krier assisted me in selecting and polishing my words, while Professor Chudgar gave me a crash course in public speaking.

At the conference that year, I was surprised to find that I had something of intrigue to add to the literary conversation. During the Q&A section of my panel, I spoke about nature poets I had read since high school. I never guessed those poets would eventually help me formulate my own academic voice.

Professor Krier, who has been a part of the ACTC conference since she came to Macalester, reflected that the conference "lets students know there is a community of people who have friendly yet formal conversations about literary ideas, which is a worthy and even noble thing to do."

Perhaps above all, a space like the ACTC conference can inspire courage in young writers. "I would say that I'm learning to share my piece with others with confidence," said Morrall. "I am learning that I do have a unique voice with something important to say, so speaking with confidence is vital."