July 21, 2024

Gordon Hosts 21 Renowned Writers at Second Annual 5 Ponds Creative Writing Festival

Maddie Miyares '23

With permission from Mark Stevick. Logo by Selina Taylor.

Twenty-one renowned writers and poets are scheduled to lead Gordon College’s second annual 5 Ponds Creative Writing Festival (5PF), a monumental event hosted by the Creative Writing program on April 9th. The free day-long festival is open to people on and off campus with pre-registration. 

Led by Creative Writing Professor Mark Stevick, the hybrid event will span several topics and genres. Speakers include Gordon Professors Lori Ambacher and Luke Redington, as well as alumni such as poet Brad Davis and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr. Poet Jeanne Murray Walker will give the keynote lecture; her latest collection explores sonnets as a medium for devotional reading. 

Close to the heart of 5PF is the theme of translation, which is featured in every workshop. There will be a special translation lecture with two attendance options. Guatemalan poet and professor Pedro Poitevin will be sharing on his work as a bilingual poet, writing and translating poetry in English and Spanish. Professor J. D. Scrimgeour, who learned Mandarin during the pandemic, will be speaking about experience diving into translation. Poitevin teaches mathematics at Salem State University and Scrimgeour, creative writing.  

Stevick said that he wants this festival to “bring life to relationships” and be welcoming to his fellow parishioners as well as colleagues at Salem State and other colleges in the area. 5PF seeks to rebuild bridges between Gordon College and its neighbors and establish some new ones in the process.  

Stevick said, “We have wonderful things to offer in the humanities.” While many successful creative writing festivals exist at Christian colleges throughout the country, 5PF intends to cultivate a conversation between faith and writing to the northeast. Stevick said that by supporting and bringing people together, we can offer that conversation. 

One difficulty in preparing for this festival was discerning how to provide a welcoming experience for Christians, non-Christians, and former Christians while also keeping faith and writing at the festival’s core. Last year’s festival received positive feedback with little dissonance, even among its multitude of constituencies.  

The festival also seeks to provide a unique learning opportunity for Creative Writing students. The website reads “bringing authors to Gordon to talk shop and life … gave us models to emulate, strategies to employ, eyes and ears for out fledgling efforts, and assurance that we were legitimate members of a writers club.”  

Currently Mark Stevick and Lori Ambacher are the only Creative Writing faculty at Gordon. By hosting several talented writers at 5PF, students are exposed to voices they might not have the chance to hear otherwise. Stevick said, 5PF is “an invitation for the arts and creative writing … to flourish and expand and thrive. ‘Cause we have been that.  And we’ve been distracted and reduced in some ways … by economic necessity, I guess.”  

He emphasized the importance of the arts: 

“What did you do during the pandemic? Did you just play settlers of Catan? Or did you watch films? People are writing those films … [We] depend on people to write terrific novels and great TV series. … [W]e need to consider writing and the fine arts not dispensable accessories. They are essential to who we are as humans created by the Word, right? The triune God speaking among Godself, speaking!” 

Several individuals played a role in bringing 5PF to live over the past several years. Stevick mentioned Director of Academic Operations Jerry Logan in particular as “muse,” as well as Director of Alumni Engagement Amy France, College Creative Web Team Leader Stephen Dagley, and former creative writing professor Denise Frame-Harlan for their active support. Regarding the 2021 Festival Manager Vicki Barclay (’20) Stevick said “without her, we wouldn’t have this festival.” This year, Senior Media Support Specialist Nick Hammes has ensured effective hybrid experience and the ability to host long-distance speakers. 

The 5PF festivities include a creative writing contest. Two prizes will be awarded: the Ann Ferguson Poetry Prize and the Lynn Marcotte Prose Prize. Both are named in honor of former Creative Writing faculty. Submissions are open until April 2nd. The winners will be highlighted during the closing Participants Reading on the day of the festival. 

Most of the funding for 5PF came from grants from the Cultural Councils of Beverly, Hamilton-Wenham, Manchester, and Essex, as well as the Massachusetts Cultural Council. These grants help to pay speakers and provide free attendance to all participants. 5PF hopes to be of benefit to local residents, current Gordon students, and Gordon Alumni who have stayed in the area.  

The event is free to attend, but requires pre-registration. Workshops include four breakout sessions, each with four speaker options. The link to register, the festival schedule, speaker bios, and contest information are available at https://fivepondsfestival.org/.

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