Reaching greater audiences: Visiting Writers Series goes virtual

Tucker Wulff, Associate A&C Editor

The fall 2020 season of the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series will look a bit different than previous semesters: this fall, it’s composed of four pre-recorded virtual events. 

The series’ committee will bring this season to audiences virtually after ending its display early during the spring semester due to the pandemic, said Susan Weinberg, co-director of the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series. 

The committee hoped to host in-person events this semester but there was “just too much uncertainty,” Weinberg said.

“We decided rather than planning one thing and making a big shift, because we all had that experience last spring scrambling to do things differently, we would just plan from the beginning to make it a virtual series,” Weinberg said. 

In the past, the series has drawn an audience of roughly 60 to 80 people in person, Weinberg said. Now, the committee thinks the events will be more accessible, thus drawing an even larger audience. 

After each event is released online, it will be available for access through Dec. 15. 

Not only will more students from a larger variety of courses be accessing the series, Weinberg said, but also people unaffiliated with App State will be able to watch. 

“Our outside audience can expand,” Weinberg said. “We’re not limited geographically.”

Mark Powell, co-director alongside Weingberg, wrote in an email that he hopes the virtual series will “prove to be an even more intimate experience.” 

“To have a writer ‘in’ your living room or dorm room makes a reading particularly memorable,” Powell said. 

Poet Jacinta White will be the first visiting writer in the fall 2020 virtual season of The Visiting Writers Series. (Photo by Kristen Bryant)

Furthermore, the committee thinks the pre-recorded virtual sessions will be a more polished product than that of a live Zoom meeting, Weinberg said. 

“We’re English people, we’re not technical people,” Weinberg said. “So, we just wanted to do something that was pretty controlled.” 

Though the series’ switch to virtual may provide access to more viewers and a polished product, audiences will lose the ability to connect with writers through question and answer as was offered in past events.

Poet Jacinta White, the first visiting writer in the fall 2020 season, said she misses interaction with her readers in a largely virtual world. 

“When you come out with a book, you want to talk about it,” White said. “You want people to ask questions or to say what they thought of when they read something.”

Though White’s reading and craft talk are now pre-recorded, she is grateful for the opportunity and hopes people will still reach out and provide her with feedback, she said. 

“I do consider it an honor,” White said. “I think it’s important to provide for students and community, access to a variety of writers so that they are reminded what the potential is and beyond for their own journey.”

The Visiting Writers Series will release White’s reading and craft talk on their website at 12 p.m. Sept. 17, and the series will culminate with poet Nickole Brown’s virtual event Oct. 22.

A preview of White’s event is available now at https://english.appstate.edu/visiting-writers-series