Binghamton University’s Center for Writers is holding a new bi-semester reading series that incentivizes all writers, especially people of color or those part of the LGBTQ+ community, to gather and share their stories or poems in a safe and welcoming environment.
The program, called “Common Ground,” had its first reading of the year on Oct. 3, with a total of seven writers performing a mix of poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction to an audience of peers and supporters.
Held in Lecture Hall 9, the event boasted a talented roster of graduate and undergraduate students, and presented fresh coffee, cucumber melon water and an assortment of cookies and cakes to all who attended. Contrary to what some may believe, the event is not specifically for those who are majoring in English — in fact, people of all backgrounds are encouraged to participate.
Samantha Flatt, a Common Ground coordinator and second-year graduate student in the creative writing program, assisted Nicoletta LaMarca-Sacco, a third-year graduate student in the creative writing program, in leading the event. Before each reader stood up to perform, the two would share amusing icebreakers from readers to loosen up any nerves.
“No matter what you like to write, you will be welcomed, supported and connected with others who have the same interests as you,” Flatt said. “Common Ground is a low-stakes way to dip your toes into the world of being a writer and an easy way to make connections.”
All the readers showcased their public speaking skills and shared a variety of works. Among the readers was Paul Folks, a junior majoring in English.
“I’d never presented my work in front of so many people before, and I felt like presenting to other writers was the best arena for such a thing,” Folks said. “It turned out to be a great experience and I’ll be participating as much as possible in the future.”
Folks had first attended a Common Ground reading in the fall 2021, and then finally performed in the event himself in the spring of 2022. While reading in front of an audience is one part of the event, Folks said being an audience member is also a great way to get involved.
“For writers who don’t feel ready to read yet, I’d still highly encourage attending the event because it’s a great way to get involved on campus and see what your peers are up to,” Flatt said. “Many creative writing students attend and even read at this event regularly — it won’t be long before you begin to see some familiar faces.”
The energy at the event was welcoming and supportive. After each reader finished their piece, the audience applauded and the coordinators would stand and draw attention to their favorite part of the readers’ work. Then, after their performances, the readers answered questions and comments.
The Q&A portion included advice for new writers, questions about specific aspects of their pieces and critiques meant to help improve the quality of the works presented. Additionally, there was time before and after the readings to engage with other attendees and performers to swap information and advice.
“Most writers are somewhat like-minded, in my opinion, so just talking with fellow writers about their writing processes or common reading interests is very nice,” Folks said.
The second reading of the semester will be on Nov. 3 from 6:30 p.m to 8 p.m in the Fine Arts Building. According to Flatt, it is a valuable opportunity for new and experienced readers alike.
“I would say that if you’re interested, you should definitely go for it,” Flatt said. “We welcome writers of all genres and experience levels. Our environment is relaxed and most importantly, fun.”
Those interested in participating in a future event or those who want more information can contact Nicoletta LaMarca-Sacco at email@example.com or Samantha Flatt at firstname.lastname@example.org.