10 years of novels and nosh

By Eve Fuller

Students can attend a free lunch to be inspired by authors, professors and their peers alike at an event sponsored by the Fiction Writing Department.

The program, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and is one of the longest standing programs in the department, aims to help orient fiction students with people and topics that relate to their careers. Fiction Writers at Lunch is a free, open-door mentorship program that takes place about eight times throughout the semester in the Hokin Annex in the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.

“The goal is to welcome students into the literary world where they can meet with fellow students and professors,” said Tom Popp, coordinator of the event and adjunct faculty member in the Fiction Writing Department.

Participating students are welcomed to a three-hour catered meal, where they can speak with other Columbia students and professors, listen to visiting featured writers and hear panel discussions that guide students through the fiction writing process, including advice on how to get work published. Open-mic performances are spread throughout each event where students can read their original work to the forum.

“Fiction Writers at Lunch is very inspiring and gives students healthy competition to hear the crowd’s response to their work,” Popp said.

Though many of Columbia’s fiction writing teachers are well-known to new students through their published work and reputation, most have to wait for more advanced courses before they can take a class with them. All the instructors in the Fiction Writing Department attend Fiction Writers at Lunch, creating a community and keeping new students interested.

“Fiction Writers at Lunch has definitely contributed to the department’s retention rate, and we work very hard to connect with students so they can share their experiences, anxieties and trials,” said Randy Albers, chair of the Fiction Writing Department.

The department encourages students to get involved in community events like Fiction Writers at Lunch to help foster creativity for everyone.

“A great thing about Columbia is that we are in the center of the arts and media,” Albers said. “If you are trapped in your apartment, you are not taking advantage of what Columbia’s mission is all about.”

Many fiction writing students think Fiction Writers at Lunch is an encouraging place to read their work aloud, said Shanice Johnson, a junior fiction writing student. Johnson said the process gives students a wider scope of what their peers’ talents are.

“Fiction Writers at Lunch is an opportunity to read to a wide-range of people, and a chance to hear and feel their reactions to your work,” said Bryan Strausbaugh, a fiction writing student.

Fiction Writers at Lunch could serve as a useful networking tool, linking students from other departments together.

“I wish I saw more students from other majors attend,” said Alex Bonner, a fiction writing student. “There are a lot of great writers at Columbia, and I would love to hear their work.”

Popp said Fiction Writers at Lunch, which is one of the longest-standing programs in the department, will continue to grow.

“I want to involve other departments and collaborations at Columbia in the future,” Popp said.

The next Fiction Writers at Lunch program will be a dinner held on Nov. 3 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit the Fiction Writing Department in the South Campus Building, 624 S. Michigan Ave., 12th floor.