Reading Series: Neely O’Connor, Artemis Savory, and Whitney Dean

by Evelyn Vaughn

The reading on March 27th, 2014 consisted of three graduate students from the English Department’s Creative Non-Fiction Program. When I first arrived at the reading, as usual in the Art Museum portion of the University Center for the Arts, I was unaware that the readers that night would be so moving. The first two readers, Neely O’Connor and Artemis Savory, both read about their fathers, while Whitney Dean read a piece called “Holes, Depressions, and Other Losses.”

O’Connor’s piece from her thesis was entitled “Gone,” a heartbreaking story of her father’s alcoholism and manic depression.

neelyoconnor

“The kind of box they put my father in had four white walls. Padded.” The words would haunt me as I left the reading that night. The humor in O’Connor’s piece was what kept me from tearing up as she read, however. Ending on the fervent wish that her father, when he died, would come back as a Wisconsin cow (because the cows there are happy), O’Connor managed to express both a love for her father, and a disappointment in him that will never leave her.

So when Artemis Savory took the stage and said her piece was about her father, I steeled myself to try not to cry again, but her first piece entitled “Doing it Right” turned out to be downright hilarious. There are very few joys on this planet like making fun of our families. In “Doing it Right,” Savory makes fun of her own family’s tendency NOT to do it right the first time.

artemis“So what if the doorknob is on wrong for fifteen years?” she asked the audience. Her father’s bathroom door had a doorknob that had been put on wrong, so the lock was facing out. This meant that while you couldn’t lock people out of the bathroom, you certainly could be locked in. The belly-aching laughter that accompanied “Doing it Right” and her second piece, “Imaginary Boyfriends,” was quite a relief from the heart-rending pieces by Neely O’Connor, and the final reader, Whitney Dean.

Prior to coming on stage, Whitney Dean was introduced in the context of hurricanes,        “Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Sandy. Whitney Dean.” It certainly gave quite an impression of the powerful woman that was about to come on stage, a woman who is a part of the so-called “cult” of CrossFit, with a deadlift of 345 pounds (information that was, right after the hurricane introduction, shared with us). When she began her piece “Holes, Depressions, and Other Losses,” she warned us that she might cry while reading it. After laughing so hard at Savory’s reading, I did not think that this final piece would affect me so much.

whitneydean“I wonder, before the hole opened up, if the television was on.”  The piece, about a sinkhole devouring a house in Florida, did indeed make her tear up a little bit. She imagined the people who lived in the house before the ground opened; she compared them to people she had known in her past.  “I know these guys, sinking long before the ground sunk, and I bet the television was on.”

The Creative Non-Fiction Program has certainly done a wonderful job with these three writers. Lines from all of their work would be bouncing around in my head in the weeks to come, and I’m sure others in the audience that night can attest to the same.


One more reading is scheduled for this semester: Ben Findlay & Kaelyn Riley, May 1st, MFA Thesis Reading, (fiction & poetry).

Sponsors of the Reading Series include the English Department and Creative Writing Program at Colorado State University, Organization of Graduate Student Writers through ASCSU, College of Liberal Arts, and the Armstrong Hotel. These events are also sponsored by a grant from the Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Fund, a premier supporter of arts and culture at CSU. Please help grow this fund with a gift at: http://president.colostate.edu/lillabmorgan/index.aspx.

All events are free and open to the public. For additional information call 970.491.6428 or e-mail mary.ellen.ballard@gmail.com.

 

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