By Kim Uslin
Elm Staff Writer

This past weekend, the English department’s Sophie Kerr Committee and the Rose O’Neill Literary House collaborated to host Sophie Kerr Weekend, a celebration of writing at Washington College. This year’s guest of honor was Nick Flynn, a well-known poet and memoirist. Flynn was the author of this year’s required first-year reading, “The Ticking is the Bomb.”

Sophie Kerr Weekend is an annual event in which prospective students are able to get a sense of the writing life at WC.

The prospectives who attend the weekend are accepted students who have shown an interest in creative writing.

“Sophie Kerr Weekend is a time for prospective students to get to spend time with current students and to attend a literary event,” said Literary House Director Jehanne Dubrow. “ [The students] get to have intimate contact with an author, which is very common at WC.”

This year’s chosen speaker is the author of several poetry collections and the renowned memoir “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.” A film version of the memior, “Being Flynn,” is coming out in April, starring Robert DeNiro and Julianne Moore.

“I thought that Flynn was very down to earth,” said Dubrow. “He made it clear that you don’t have to be high on Mount Olympus or completely separate to produce really beautiful, important writing. I thought the way he answered student questions was respectful and humorous. When writers can make students laugh, that’s a great, important thing.”

Flynn’s lecture was an entertaining and insightful exploration of himself and his works. During the reading, held Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Decker Theatre, the author used a multimedia presentation which featured the movie trailer and a slideshow of paintings concerning the Abu Ghraib testimonies in “The Ticking is the Bomb.” Flynn read from his enthralling collections and memoirs, incorporating personal stories and humor into the lecture.

“I always love attending the formal readings,” said Dubrow. “Each Sophie Kerr reading I attend has been so different. I think it’s interesting to see how a writer speaks to high school and undergraduate students, how they adjust to that. It’s one thing to read a book, and another to see the way a book is brought to life by an author.”

After he finished reading, Flynn welcomed questions from the audience. He discussed his personal writing style and philosophy and engaged the audience in thoughtful discussion. His lecture was followed by a book signing in the Underwood Lobby, where attendees could speak briefly with him about his work or buy a book to have signed.

After the book signing, the prospective students and their hosts were shuttled to the Hynson-Ringold House for a dinner and discussion with Flynn.
After a meal and a chance to mingle with current students and faculty, everyone gathered on the back lawn to speak with Flynn about his writing and to ask any questions they had about his writing process or personal experiences.

The rest of the weekend was spent giving prospective students a view of academic life at WC. On Saturday, they experienced both a mini-workshop and short lecture hosted by English department professors. They also were shown a letterpress demonstration in the Lit House.

“It’s a unique opportunity for students to meet with writers, other students, and chat with the professors without ever getting a grade attached,” said junior Lit House worker Katie Sykes. “I still see some of the prospies my friends or I have had, and I’m good friends with some of the prospies or hosts I met when I was a prospective.”

Sophie Kerr weekend is one of the most stressful yet rewarding events for the Lit House staff to plan.

“It’s pure madness the week prior as we try to get everything ready for prospective students,” Sykes said. “But all the insanity is worth it. I love hosting these kids. It’s a different experience than any college tour.”

Overall, Dubrow was pleased with Sophie Kerr weekend.

“I think that Sophie Kerr Weekend is representative of the kinds of events that happen here all year round. That’s what’s so important about it. We often have really great, important authors visiting the College. I think the weekend is a perfect reflection of the cultural life we have here any day of the week.”

The Elm

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