By Mary Sprague
In the half-hour before listeners arrived, the sophomores and juniors of Writer’s Union were feeling the pre-reading jitters.
“I am feeling nervous, but excited,” said sophomore Teddy Friedline.
“I feel good—I’m eating chips,” sophomore Emma Campbell said. “I feel apprehensive, I feel excited. I feel supported, I feel held.”
This is not the first time the Rose O’Neill Literary House has hosted the event. The Sophomore/Junior Reading, which originated in the ’90s, was re-implemented last year, after juniors President Mackenzie Brady and Vice President Justin Nash noticed a gap in the normal reading coverage.
“The Sophomore/Junior reading was something that had happened historically, but not in recent years,” said Nash. “But because the posters on the walls at the Lit House exist as sort of an archive, we saw that there had previously been a Sophomore/Junior Reading.”
Nash said the reading fills a gap between the First-Year Reading and the Senior Reading.
“There were about twenty people in attendance,” Nash said. “Which is about standard for what happens at our regular events.”
Brady and Nash have been working hard their entire Writer’s Union career to rebuild the club, which has experienced troubles in the recent past. The quality of writing at Washington College, however, has never wavered.
Nash said, “The pieces that were read, and the people who read, just did amazing. That’s also something we always count as a success.”
Of the 12 students that read last Wednesday, five were sophomores and seven were juniors. Eight read mainly poetry, one read fiction, and three read mainly creative nonfiction.
After the reading, snacks—Oreos, Chips Ahoy!, and ACME doughnuts—were free for the taking, compliments of Writer’s Union. The doughnuts were particularly good after being microwaved for 10 seconds.
“It went okay,” Friedline said, after the reading. “I continued to be nervous, but I did it and it was fun and everyone did a really good job and I’m really proud of everybody.”
“I was nervous even though it’s my third year doing this,” junior Megan Walsh said, “I didn’t die, so yes, [the reading] did [go well].”
“It was very supportive! All the clapping felt very confident, when I was leaving the podium,” Tamia Williams, junior, said. “It’s great experience to get public speaking down and learn how to control your voice.”
The reading — and the research Brady and Nash put into its excavation — also inspired their newest branding technique: permanent poster board Writer’s Union typewriters scattered around campus. The idea came from a 1997 Sophomore/Junior Reading advertisement, which specifies the event was “Brought to you by the letter ‘E’ for Ellen ‘Yup, I’m Gay’ DeGenerous.”
“We saw that and were like, ‘That is amazing,’” said Nash. “We could revive old posters, too.”
The problem was money to spend — Writer’s Union now had funds and wanted to use them towards making posters beyond just printer paper. Brady and Nash began spitballing ideas about having more permanent placards in which to place advertisements and announcements.
“It started with one of us saying, ‘We could buy a bunch of old typewriters, and put them around campus,’” Nash said. “So, we were like, ‘What if we mash these ideas together?’ And we have a little marquee thing that is shaped like a typewriter, that we put our posters in. And so Kenzie and I stayed up until 4 a.m. that night designing the typewriter.”
Posters, in this marquee, stick out the top of the typewriter, like a freshly written sheet of paper. The typewriters themselves can be found hanging up in Hodson Hall, the library, and most academic buildings.
“That’s also why all of our events are now sponsored by a letter,” Nash said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever matched ‘Ellen “Yup, I’m Gay” DeGenerous,’ as our letter-phrase combo, but we like to think we do pretty well.”