Writing Generation

Santa Fe Community College and the Institute of American Indian Arts present a new series of readings and creative sessions with New Mexico writers

A & C Janna Lopez is one of many upcoming readers taking part in online reading and writing events from the Santa Fe Community College and the Insititute of American Indian Arts. (Courtesy Janna Lopez)

It’s all too easy to lose sight of creative projects in favor of doom-scrolling and decision paralysis—but if your New Year’s resolutions had anything to do with building a creative habit to help you process the horrors in a healthier way, you’re in luck. The Santa Fe Community College Library and Creative Writing program and the Institute of American Indian Arts Creative Writing department have partnered to offer free online readings by New Mexico writers, followed by guided creative sessions that allow participants time to write.

The Writing Generation Series launches at 6 pm on Wednesday, Jan. 24 with a reading by Santa Fe Poet Laureate Ambassador Janna Lopez, who will read from her latest poetry collection, such is. It will be Lopez’s first public reading from the book, which explores themes of grief, love and belonging. She plans to choose three poems for recitation, and invites participants to respond to those themes in their own writing after each one.

“I want people to feel welcomed, and all experience levels are encouraged,” Lopez tells SFR. “I want them to ask questions and have the chance to write in response to the work that they’re hearing and to share their own work—it’s interactive and part of a symbiotic conversation.”

For Lopez, the series serves as a chance for people to reawaken to their own creative forces.

“Life has a lot of stress right now; there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world,” she explains. “Giving ourselves these spaces of art, contemplation, reflection and connection to elements outside of ourselves is so inspiring and reinvigorating, and that’s really what I hope to engage with: How do we activate writing and creativity so it’s part of our everyday way of being in the world?”

The series, which aims to cultivate writing as a daily practice, continues with other readings and workshops from SFCC and IAIA alumni and professors throughout the spring, then culminates in an online reading for attendees to share the work they created during its run on May 1. IAIA MFA graduates Serena Rodriguez and Diné poet and storyteller Manny Loley are also among the authors confirmed for the series so far.

“This is a really great combination of readings by people connected with Santa Fe, and an opportunity for people to share and hone their craft,” says SFCC Library Director Valerie Nye.

The program is the brainchild of Nye and SFCC Professor of English and Creative Writing Austin Eichelberger, who brought IAIA in on the series. The two schools’ creative writing programs complement one another: SFCC offers a certificate and associate’s degree in creative writing while IAIA offers a bachelor’s and MFA. SFCC and IAIA already partner on numerous events such as open houses and art fairs, and Nye and Eichelberger hope the new program will pave the way for more collaboration between the schools’ writing programs down the line.

Nye, who has also worked as the library director at IAIA, says both campuses are “really interested in combining efforts to get people to the Southside of town and really understand what kind of higher education opportunities are available over in our area.”

“We were like, why aren’t we working together?” Eichelberger adds. “We don’t need to be in competition, we can actually be supporting each other and trading energy back and forth.”

IAIA Professor and Department Chair of Creative Writing Kim Parko seconds that thought, saying she’s pleased to be building community between the two schools’ programs.

“What I’m most excited about is the opportunity for students to be exposed to all these diverse writers and learn about how they generate work, and have the chance for them to try those processes as well,” Parko adds.

Nye, meanwhile, points out that all SFCC writing programs—including the Writing Generation series—are entirely available online, which means it’s possible for anyone with an internet connection to earn a certificate or associate’s degree from SFCC. It also means the series will be accessible for those who are still COVID-conscious or disabled by the ongoing pandemic or otherwise. Eichelberger sees the online aspect as rife with possibilities.

“We’re trying to draw people in from all over and really connect to the world through this event. It’s so hard to give yourself the time to be creative,” he says, referring to a Zadie Smith quote he has hanging on his office wall: “‘Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.’ That’s great advice, but it’s really hard to do.”

Thus, he hopes the Writing Generation series will make it more possible.

“It’s just the point of making that time, and giving that permission and space to people to show up, have a little fun, and create something, and connect to other people who are doing the same thing,” he says.

In a city that’s art-centric both culturally and economically, there’s a notable dearth of affordable options for artistic education and exploration, which is part of what makes this series so special to Nye.

“I think this unique free opportunity that’s going to be led by experts and professionals is really exciting for so many people in Santa Fe who are interested in creative works,” she says.

The Santa Fe Literary Review, SFCC’s in-print literary journal, for which Eichelberger serves as the fiction editor, already has an international reach and both he and Nye hope the series will build on that platform.

“I really think it’s going to be an exciting opportunity to show New Mexico writing and writers to people from all over the world,” Eichelberger says. “I can’t wait to receive a piece or two at SFLR that were generated in our session—that’s going to be the coolest full circle moment.”

The Writing Generation Series: 6 pm Wednesday, Jan. 24-May 1. Free. Online. Register online at (505) 428-1506

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