Reading series presents original works by Baker students

Junior Brianna Lichtenauer has always been drawn to the written word. Through the years she's filled notebook upon notebook with poetry, diary entries, fictional stories and creative nonfiction pieces.

For her work in the latter category, Lichtenauer earned second place at the Sigma Tau Delta international literary conference last March.

"I didn't know what was going on," she said. "Everyone told me 'They called your name. You won,' and I was like 'No I didn't.'"

Lichtenauer's award-winning piece will be shared at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in McKibbin Recital Hall at the Baker Reading Series. The reading series, established by Adjunct Instructor of English Marti Mihalyi last year, consists of two sessions per semester. Mihalyi said the first will feature alumna Corie Dugas followed by five current Baker students, all reading original works.

Mihalyi said she is excited about the reading series because it focuses on creative nonfiction works, a relatively new genre at Baker. Mihalyi triggered the inception of the course when she discovered it wasn't available. She thought that Baker should be one of the first schools in the region to offer the genre, which she said is one of the fastest growing forms of creative writing within the past decade.

"I love the range of subject and style found within the genre," she said. "I also really love helping students to find their own voices on the page, and I try to honor their voices and disparate styles."

The featured pieces started as assignments in Mihalyi's creative nonfiction course.

"Some of the pieces began as simple assignments related to writing about objects," Mihalyi said. "(But) many of these essays became larger in scope and shifted to an entirely different subject during the revision process."

Lichtenauer's piece is a blend of two assignments: one about a place, her grandmother's kitchen, and the other about a fruit or vegetable, a tomato. Her grandfather, who grew the fruit, inspired the tomato idea. The end product incorporates her childhood and her interaction with her grandparents.

Lichtenauer said linking the two pieces was difficult because she had to cut 1,000 words to meet the requirement of the Sigma Tau Delta competition.

"It was really hard to pick and choose because it was all so important to me," she said. "But it really made it a stronger piece."

Junior Ashley Sims will also share her work Thursday.

"(My piece) is about a boy I grew up with that had muscular dystrophy," she said. "It's about how he handled it and how it affected me."

Like Lichtenauer, writing is something Sims passionately clings to. She was in the fifth grade when she realized that she loved to write. Her class had to write a fairytale. Sims produced seven pages, while the rest of the class wrote two. When she graduates, Sims plans to teach writing at the high school level.

Mihalyi said all the pieces are worth listening to.

"These writers were selected for having written some of the strongest works of creative nonfiction in the past year at Baker," she said. "The reading will be under an hour. I think everyone who leaves the reading will have learned more about what an essay can be."

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