The Creative Writing Reading Series event hosted on November 9th in the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art differed from this year’s other readings. This reading was a time for students in their last year of the MFA program to showcase their final creative work. Three fiction writers, Chelsea Hansen, Mir Yashar Seyedbagheri, and Colin Raunig, shared chapters from their larger theses.
While the room at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art is a cozy space for a creative reading, the museum offered standing room only. Leslee Becker, Professor in the English department, opened the reading series and introduced the first reader, Chelsea Hansen.
Becker used words like “talented” and “conscientious” to describe Hansen and her writing. From working at Disney World to joining the MFA program at CSU, Hansen has gained numerous experiences to incorporate in her writing.
Becker has followed Hansen throughout her creative writing journey, both as her undergraduate and graduate advisor. Hansen’s The Octopus Tree is a novel described by Becker as “haunting, magical, and original, a necessary reminder of how good fiction can be.”
The novel follows twin brothers, Sawyer and Jacobi, but one now exists in limbo. Hansen’s reading shared the moment where Sawyer dies in a traffic accident. The chapter began from Sawyer’s point of view, focusing on “the body the body the body.” Dead brushed against the living as two worlds overlapped in one devastating experience. We are privy to Sawyer’s thoughts and feelings as he comes to the realization of his own death, moves through the space of the accident, and feels the cold touch of the living.
As a transition from Hansen’s heavy story about an untethered twin, Mir Yashar Seyedbagheri read an excerpt from his larger meta piece. Inspired by The Big Lebowski, he was described as someone who wants to be “The Dude” but is more like Walter. Seyedbagheri is also a self-proclaimed romantic.
As soon as Seyedbagheri began his reading, it was apparent how meta his meta fiction was. The chapter, titled “Choose your own Nick,” was written as a conversation between a series of different Nicks, each living in different times and spaces. The reading became Nick writing about and to different versions of Nick.
One Nick struggles with family issues while another Nick is working on his final thesis for the MFA program he is in. Does this feel meta yet?
Seyedbagheri’s reading was full of ironies and subverted comments that alluded to both himself as a creative writer in an MFA program and layered worlds of possibilities on top of one another. Each of his Nicks were products of particular moments in time and Seyedbagheri left us with one final question: “where’s the real Nick?” And, perhaps, “where’s the real Seyedbagheri?”
Colin Raunig ended the reading series with a chapter from his novel, inspired by his service and his Navy squadron. Seyedbagheri described Raunig as “the Larry David of the MFA program. If there is a bear to poke, he’ll poke it.” Before beginning his reading, Raunig thanked the MFA students because it “takes a village” and “it’s taken all of you.”
Raunig’s chapter followed Brittany, a naval flight officer on the last flight before their plane is decommissioned. While his reading was fiction, it was inspired by the plane Raunig flew on during his naval experiences. Brittany, the protagonist, is described as a powerful female leader partnered with a gay naval officer. Raunig filled the story with the perfect mix of humor and serious reflection of naval life.
By the end of Raunig’s reading, we felt how Brittany felt, feeling like a woman in a man’s world. The trope of missing Swedish Fish was mentioned over and over again, possibly representing the missing meaning in Brittany’s life, something that would be found with the discovery of the lost Swedish Fish.
Overall, this reading did a powerful job to show the diversity and hard work of fiction writers in our MFA program. While some experiences might feel meta, each author showed the ways we can use our own passions and experiences to create strong pieces of creative writing.
The CSU Creative Writing Reading Series is made possible by the support of the Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment, the Crow-Tremblay Endowment Fund, and other generous donors. Interested in supporting the Creative Writing Reading Series? Go here to donate.
All events are free and open to the public.
We’d love to see you at our next reading, this Thursday! To find out more about the event, see the entry on our events calendar.