Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences recently hosted the Conference on the American Short Story in celebration of the art of short fiction.
The conference was composed of several events including a short fiction workshop led by four local authors, dramatic readings of the authors’ short fiction work, a Literary (Pub)lishing Crawl, and a keynote on the art of the short story.
During the event, the dean of Leatherby Libraries Kevin Ross also unveiled the Short Story Dispenser (pictured right). The dispenser is a stand-alone kiosk innovatively equipped to encourage reading for fun and creative idleness in the Chapman community. The kiosk, now housed in the lobby of Leatherby Libraries, connects readers across countries and cultures by printing contemporary short stories on sustainable paper, free of charge, at the wave of a hand. Chapman University is the first academic library in California to host the machine.
“We are excited that the conference brought scholars and story writers together and that we fostered an intentionally intergenerational audience through partnerships with Orange High School, Orange County School of the Arts, Chapman students and alums, and Town & Gown. After several pandemic-related delays, we were honored to host such accomplished writers and scholars and to gather together in person to celebrate the short story,” said Dr. Joanna Levin, the Chair of the English Department and one of the event organizers.
The conference began with dramatic readings of the beginnings of four short fiction stories. Among the authors read was Professor James Blaylock (English), who shared how students “read the early pages of short stories by writers Richard Bausch [English], Dana Johnson, Yoon Choi, and me… The value of the evening, I think, was that the conference involved students from the community as well as from Chapman,” said Blaylock.
“Getting to hear faculty and previous grads of Chapman’s MFA Creative Writing Program was lots of fun and made me feel lots of pride about our school’s [English] department,” shared Sam Trott (Theater Performance BFA ‘24).
On the second night of the conference, Dr. Gavin Jones, the Frederick P. Rehmus Family Professor of Humanities at Stanford University, presented a keynote entitled “Homelessness, the Short Story, and Other Media.” Wilkinson College Dean Dr. Jennifer Keene prefaced the keynote by noting, ”literature opens up the ability to inspire, create and reflect. This is what it means to be human, and these are the qualities we invoke when we call Wilkinson the heart and soul of the university.”
The Conference on the American Short Story instilled a better understanding of the significance of the short story in the literary canon to the local community. Bausch summarized the conference’s lasting message to attendees interested in authorship but unsure about pursuing it. “Do me a favor,” said Bausch, “trust this.”