Two local writers featured as part of New Voices Showcase on Oct. 21

by University Communications,

Corvallis writers Jennifer Richter and Elena Passarello will talk about the joys and challenges of writing their first books at the New Voices Showcase on Oct. 21.

The free event begins at 5 p.m. in the Hatfield Room of the Hatfield Library.

The showcase is an annual event of the Hallie Ford Literary Series. Audience members will have the chance to ask questions about the writing process and ask how Richter and Passarello feel about having their work out in the world.

For Hallie Ford Chairman Scott Nadelson, the showcase frames the writing lifestyle as an extensive yet rewarding process.

“I particularly like the New Voices event because it shows student writers what might be out there for them in the not-too-distant future,” Nadelson says. “I hope they’ll be moved to tears and laughter by the work of these fine writers living just down the road from us and to see contemporary literature as a vibrant art form being produced in our midst.”

Jennifer Richter

Richter, a writing instructor at Oregon State University, says she’s learned how to overcome rejection during her career. Her collection of poems, “Threshold,” was published as part of the Crab Orchard Series of Poetry competition in 2010 — 10 years after she first submitted her work. She was a finalist for the competition 25 times before winning.

“I’m glad it didn’t get published before,” Richter says. “Now, it’s the book I want out there in the world.”

In “Threshold,” Richter explores themes of mothering and illness, which she experienced when her two children, now 13 and 15, were infants.

“I’m interested in that middle ground or minimal spaces — living between health and illness, the world of poet and mother, solitude and society,” she says.

Richter is now working on her collection of poems titled, “Pleasant, Healthy-Appearing, Adult, White Female in No Acute Distress.” These poems explore illness as well, but are based instead on doctors’ chart notes of her and Richter’s understanding of how she’s perceived by medical professionals.

During her visit at Willamette, Richter will also speak to Stephanie Lenox’s class geared toward prose poetry. She says she’s looking forward to sharing her poetry, hearing Passarello’s performance and interacting with students.

“Something is lost just having the poem on the page; it really comes to life when read by the poet,” she says.

Elena Passarello

Passarello, an assistant professor of English at OSU, will read from her book, “Let Me Clear My Throat,” a collection of 15 essays published in 2012. The book explores moments in history when humans used their voices and the world kept talking about it.

Passarello says she submerges herself into the history of real events and people to help her write.

“I think a lot of our job is finding things in the world and figuring out why we are interested in them, why we want to talk about them,” she says.

To write about Marlon Brando’s scream, “Stella!” in “A Streetcar Names Desire,” Passarello traveled to New Orleans to compete in a “Stella!” yelling competition. She says all this added work doesn’t always end up in the book, but it’s important in the process.

During the showcase, Passarello says she may be brave enough to read material from her second book, a collection of essays on infamous animals throughout history. The book is scheduled for publication in 2016.

“It’s so nice to connect with people who are passionate about books,” she says. “It’s just a bonus in the experience of reading to know others are reading around you.”

• Article by Natalie Pate ’15, politics and French/Francophone studies major