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Clarion University students and faculty who attended the 2011 Chautauqua Writers Festival were: (back row, from left) Dr. Phil Terman, Kristin Schlueter and Dr. Deborah Burghardt; (front row, from left) Dr. Iris Dunkle, Jamie Wyatt, Hilah Panichelle, Stacey Gross, Hannah Mitchell and Jayna Fox.

Since 2003, at least four Clarion University students per year have had the opportunity to work with established professional writers at the four-day Chautauqua Writers' Festival at The Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, N.Y.

Nine years ago Dr. Philip Terman, Clarion professor of English, was teaching a summer class at Chautauqua, and the director of The Writing Center at the institution took the class. Through conversations between them, Terman developed an idea to start a writers' festival. Chautauqua gave Terman seed money, and he worked with a faculty member from Penn State-Behrend to get the festival under way. Thus began a partnership between Clarion University and Chautauqua. Terman is one of three co-directors of the festival, which is under the umbrella of Chautauqua's Writers' Center.

The festival, held annually in June and co-sponsored by Clarion University, Penn State-Behrend and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, brings six major, award-winning writers per festival. They work with festival attendees on fiction, nonfiction and poetry.
Terman said those who attend the festival are experienced writers, from age 18 through senior citizens, and they're from anywhere in the country. The festival is capped at 72 participants, which allows the six writers to provide meaningful advice and feedback.

Jamie Wyatt, a senior English major from Clarion, was selected to attend last year. Terman said students are chosen from writing samples they submit. Clarion University provides four $550 scholarships for students to attend the festival.

"My professor told me it would be a good idea to go to a workshop by professional poets," Wyatt said. "I walked in and I was like, ‘These are my people!'"

The professional poet read Wyatt's poems and gave her personal advice, not only about her writing, but about choosing a Master of Fine Arts program.

"It was nice to be able to work with people of different ages and from different places," Wyatt said. "It's a really cool experience that you don't get in the classroom."

Clarion English professor Dr. Juanita Smart made her third trip to Chautauqua Writers' Festival last summer, because she wanted to "eat, sleep and breathe writing."

"I would recommend the festival to anyone who is on fire about writing, or to anyone who wants to be on fire about writing," Smart said.

In addition to the lovely setting and camaraderie among writers, Smart said the experience was productive and meaningful.

"We have a one-on-one conference with a nationally or internationally known writer in the genre of our choice. My genre is nonfiction prose," she said. "I learned to eschew all editorial comments in my writing and to rely completely on detail, description, action and dialogue. I have also learned to think more about form and how form and content are related in nonfiction prose, and how they serve each other."

The Chautauqua Institution began as a gathering place for ministers. It grew and became a retreat, where religion, as well as the arts, education and recreation are the focus.

Clarion University is the high-achieving, nationally recognized, comprehensive university that delivers a personal and challenging academic experience.

2/29/2012 2:26 PM

Clarion University students benefit from partnership with Chautauqua Writers’ Festival