By Paul Amaya
On Thursday, April 7, Washington, D.C., native and award-winning fiction writer Tara Campbell, alongside three Shenandoah student writers, read some of her creative works to a crowd at Alson H. Smith, Jr. Library. Campell has won five awards from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities including the 2016 Larry Neal Writers’ Award for Adult Fiction and the Mayor’s Arts Award in 2016 for Outstanding New Artist.
These bi-yearly on-campus reading events are mainly run by Shenandoah University professor Jon Udelson.“I am very happy with the turnout of this event,” Udelson said of the approximately 40 people who showed up to the poetry reading. “After COVID, there was a major downturn with events. Events like this are a huge part of college and give us an opportunity to communicate and interact outside of class and work.”
2021-2022 is the pilot year for the reading series and Campbell was the special guest at this event. “The goal was for these events to happen once a semester,” Udelson said “going forward to happen twice a semester.”
The readings began when Udelson introduced one of the three student writers to the podium to share their work. The three student writers were juniors Kayla Kim, Regan Yates, and Ever Krikorian. These writers shared poetry and works of fiction with the crowd and left the stage to applause.
After the event had ended, Krikorian shared her thoughts on reading aloud to other writers and students. “It is so personal, you spend so much time and care,” she said.“You are sharing part of your soul with people.”
After the student readers had concluded, Udelson invited Campbell to the stage. Campbell spoke to the audience shortly before diving into some of her works. She read some poetry and talked about her creative process before reading excerpts of her book, “Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection.” This book is her latest work and was released in June 2021. A short description of the book is “Come take a peek inside to find out what really happens when toys go missing, and the stark decision they must make if they ever want to go home again.”
Campbell explained her creative process as she moved from piece to piece and provided some extra context for the creation of her characters and stories. “Humor is a way to get into the hard stuff,” Campbell said, and that “visiting my mom was always an inspiration.”
“Inspiration is all around you, you can find your next story no matter where you are,” Campbell said. “Make sure you always have something on you to write it down.”
After her readings concluded, Campbell opened the conversation to some questions from the crowd.
Within the Q&A, Campbell offered some advice to her fellow writers. “It (writing) is the long game. Be patient with your work, with your craft. It is not a race,” she said. “Writers even edit their work after it is published.”
Once the questions concluded, the event ended with another round of applause for all of the authors who read aloud. As students convened and talked with one another, Campbell sat at a desk with her written works and spoke one on one with anyone who approached her for advice.
“After spending the last few years behind a screen, being here for these moments is really what makes these events special,” she said.