By: Alex Calvin
Thursday, Sept. 28, author, Kirstin Valdez Quade kicked off Malone’s Writer Series for the new semester. The Writer Series is an event distributed through the English department, or more specifically, the creative writing department, in which 3-4 poets, fiction, or nonfiction writers are invited to come to Malone and read or share their work with the students and staff. These writers also give students the opportunity to ask questions that would not be able to be answered by the work itself. The program is organized and led by assistant professor and director of creative writing, Jaclyn Dwyer-Stephens.“I try to bring in faith-based writers,” said Dwyer-Stephens. “Not every student connects with every author on a personal level.”The first guest of the series, Kirstin Valdez Quade, is a Catholic and Latino writer who is famous for her book, “Night at the Fiestas.” “We look for people who have something new to offer our students,” said Rob Stephens, professor of creative writing. “We will have two poets and one fiction writer [Valdez Quade] come in this semester. We’re trying to look for people who do something different and people who our students will really be able to connect to,” said Stephens.Valdez Quade proved that she fit this description when she stood on stage Thursday night. She read a heartfelt piece called “Nemecia.” This piece demonstrated a diverse background of her own as well as incorporating her faith.“Nemecia” is a short story that can be found in “Night at the Fiestas” or online.Valdez Quade said that though her writing does not have a specific moral or lesson that she wants her readers to take away, she profoundly believes that the greatest challenge that we have in our lives, and the most important thing in our lives, is to acknowledge the humanity of others, even if they don’t share our backgrounds. She believes that fiction, as both a reader and a writer, requires empathy. You can not read a piece of fiction without putting yourself in the shoes of someone else.“The events of ‘Nemecia’ happened to my godmother and my grandmother when she was a child,” said Valdez Quade. “She never spoke about it [throughout] her entire life. I had found out. I was so taken by that story. It stayed with me, it haunted me, it chilled me that this woman I knew and loved had experienced something so hideous and never spoke of it. Her entire life was about leaving that behind.”Many students left the Stewart Room feeling inspired; not just with writing, but also with faith.“I think this was the first time that the subject was brought up of what faith can look like in writing and it doesn’t necessarily have to be affirming of faith,” said Ellie Zumbach, junior creative writing major. “It can be contrasting of faith and it can be questioning faith. I think that’s something that a lot of Christian’s don’t really want to see or think about. We think we can’t question God, but we can. I think that’s good to hear, and I think people need to hear it.”Valdez Quade taught students that stories are important to cultures, societies, and people in general. She said fiction requires empathy, and writing is an empathetic practice. As the human race, any art form is important. To become humans of empathy, caring, and kindness, we need to look at other people’s experiences and stories to do that. This is why the Writer Series is important; because we can hear those voices.We look forward to meeting the other writers in the series.
LXIII Issue No. 3