When I think about the 2012 Slash Pine Writer’s Festival, I do not feel that it had anything to do with Tuscaloosa. I do believe that it functioned as “community art,” but that “community” was not Tuscaloosa; it was the community of writers that came together, and it just happened that we came together in Tuscaloosa. Place did not seem to matter as much as the atmosphere that the community created. This community was the audience of itself. The writers that came to visit, the students and faculty that came to participate, and the interns and sponsors that came to host the event made up both the audience and the community.
I am not sure what this festival brought to the general public, but I know what it brought to the community of writers that participated. The festival brought out a self awareness in us that can only come from being surrounded by like minded individuals. We grew together as a community of writers during the time of the festival; we bonded in ways that only writers can. We listened to what each other had to say, and not just passively, we actively listened and engaged with one another.
As an intern, I had a different perspective on the festival than someone that just came out to hear one of the readings. I was there for the preparation meetings. I helped with the anthologies that we would be selling. I even sold books at the book table.
I remember one meeting that we had about the venues. We kept trying to decide whether or not to have chairs at the Gorgas House Lawn. Eventually we decided that we should all bring blankets. This presented us with the relaxing atmosphere that seemed to permeate throughout the festival. Sitting on the front lawn made for such a beautiful reading; the pink flowers framed each reader, and the sunshine seemed to melt away all the jitters that we had preceding the festival.
Even getting ready for the festival as an intern gave me more insight than other participants. I helped proofread the manuscript for the festival’s anthology. I went with Laura Flowers and Kyle Dennan to look for paper. Then I got to learn the “dreaded” loop stitch that we used to sew the chapbooks together. I felt very proud after I finished sewing my first book. That must have been my favorite part of organizing the festival.
I also enjoyed reading and meeting all of the writers that came to the festival. I was so enraptured by Bruce Covey’s work, and it meant a great deal when he complimented me on mine. Some of my friends were at the festival as well, and I was pleasantly surprised when they acknowledged my reading too.
While we were at Green Bar, I managed the selling booth with Judah Martin. It felt great when people from our community of writers were buying each other’s work. I bought several books myself, and it was an amazing experience to have the writers there in person. I made a point to speak with everyone who’s work I purchased, and they all signed their books for me. I was so excited that Ashley McWaters remembered speaking with me two years before the festival. That made me so thankful to be a part of not only this community of writers but the community of the University of Alabama.