Undergraduate English society INK! held a campus-wide literary festival April 13, featuring many critical essays and original creative pieces by University of South Carolina students. Awards were given in two categories — literary analysis and creative writing — with four students receiving prizes for their work.
Susan Swavely, a first-year English and theater student and social events coordinator of INK! , won first place in the creative writing category for her short story, "The Birth of Arta Javier-Alvarez." Swavely said she greatly appreciated the recognition from professors who evaluated her work and is excited for her future with INK!.
"I think obviously, just being selected for the conference was an incredible thing in itself and that’s definitely encouraged me to keep writing," Swavely said.
Three other students — Kathleen Blackwood, Rose Steptoe and Hannah Quire — took first, second and third in the literary analysis division. Everyone involved with INK! has been looking forward to this year's conference and the chance to recognize the work of gifted writers.
“It’s the thing we’ve had on our minds since we first sat down together as just a few people who didn’t know what INK! was going to be this year,” said Mikki Antonio, third-year English and studio art student and president of INK!. “We knew that if anything, if all else failed, this conference was going to happen because it’s the one thing INK! does every single year. So I’m looking forward for it to be a celebration of everything we’ve done together this year.”
The main purpose of INK! is to provide writers and lovers of literature with a community in which they can share their passions. All year long, INK! has been hosting events such as Piranha Parlor for creative writing and panels for professional and academic development. These events have helped to foster a community that extends outside of INK!.
“INK! was the first group that I joined and stuck with this year,” Swavely said. “It’s really hard to transition from high school into college and finding a group of people who is this supportive and this awesome from the beginning really helped me with that transition and find my place and be happy.”
English professor Greg Forter serves as the faculty advisor of INK!. His favorite part of the literary conference and INK! as a whole is the interest the students have in sharing their original work outside of class.
“It feels so much like they’re ... doing their thing,” Forter said. “It’s like the thing that you know they can do and that you usually only see them do in class, and here they are doing it in public, sharing their work with each other, having a collective conversation, it’s great.”
The keynote speaker for the INK! conference was Columbia’s Poet Laureate Ed Madden, who is also an English professor and director of the women and gender studies department. Through his Poet Laureate experience over the past four years, he has new insight in sharing literature with the public.
“I’m talking about getting literary arts into public forums so the conference is English majors presenting their work, both creative and critical,” Madden said. “And my presentation is very much about how can we incorporate literary arts into daily life.”
Public expression of literature is one of the driving forces behind INK!. English students write often for class, but many essays don't make it past a professor's desk. INK! pushes for students to share their work not only their professors but their friends and the community.
“English can kind of be a subject you do by yourself like reading and writing are things you do completely on your own, most of the time,” Swavely said. “So I think this is such a wonderful opportunity for people who are usually doing their own craft to come together and share their craft with each other.”