Aug 10, 2020

Fresno State writers to go live at Rogue Fest

Fresno State professors, students and alumni will be showcasing their pieces of writing at the 2018 Rogue Festival as part of Fresno Writers Live.

The festival will feature theater, music and spoken word, and will take place in the Tower District from March 1 to 10.

“Some of the stuff is really kind of out there and brash. The Rogue Fest is meant for that,” said Jefferson Beavers, Fresno State communications specialist for the English department and organizer of Fresno Writers Live. “It’s a fringe festival. It’s intended to be a little bit edgy and sometimes strange.”

Fresno Writers Live is an adjunct of the Fresno State creative writing program. Beavers organized it to make it easier for those who wanted to participate in Rogue Fest to do so.

“The feedback I was hearing from a lot of the students is, ‘We’d really love to do Rogue Festival, but it’s too complicated,’” Beavers said. “I just personally decided that I would buy the spot myself and do all that organizing.”

Rogue Fest could be seen as “complicated” due to it taking place at various venues in the Tower District and surrounding areas, over just under two weeks.  

In addition, Beavers wanted to provide a way for writers at Fresno State to be a part of community events that are off campus.

“We do lots of events on campus,” Beavers said. “But people in the community always say, ‘Why don’t you bring your students out to us?’”

Fresno Writers Live will be performing on four dates. The March 2 show’s lineup of performers is organized by the San Joaquin Literary Association. The show on March 3 will feature four different students in Fresno State’s creative writing program. The March 4 lineup is organized by the Chicanx Writers and Artists Association. March 10 features mothers and daughters collaborating and is organized by the Fresno Women’s Reading Series.

Tara Williams, a Fresno State graduate student in the creative writing program, will be reading on March 2 from her novel, “Fishing in Afghanistan.” Williams’ novel centers on a couple with a daughter in the Army who is killed while deployed in Afghanistan.

“The novel is interrogating a lot of ways in which, both historically and in the present, violence touches our lives,” Williams said. “And what kinds of conflicts arise out of that and how people navigate that and survive it.”

Williams said events like Rogue Festival give her the opportunity to share her work with a wider audience.

“It’s really exciting to take the things that you wrote by yourself and make them real by speaking them, and then have people respond to them,” Williams said.

Williams also feels that the festival gives art a chance to thrive in the company of other people.

“Art isn’t just something to hang on a wall,” Williams said. “It’s supposed to be out there and alive and interacting with the community and making things happen – politically and socially and culturally.”

Samina Najmi, a Fresno State English department professor, is reading with her daughter on March 10. Najmi is reading a personal essay on the concept of home and what it means to her.

“It’s kind of a meditation on home. It’s a meditation on time,” Najmi said. “But it’s very much also about parenting and the fact that my daughter will be leaving soon for college.”

Najmi said the essay was influenced by her upbringing, namely her experiences living in multiple places. She has lived in Pakistan, England, Boston and Fresno.

“I think the meditation on home comes from the fact that it’s not been so easy for me to define it,” Najmi said.

She said that compared to someone reading a piece of writing on their own, reading a piece of writing out loud gives the speaker more sway in how it’s presented.

“What I like about it is that I get to inflect things as I want to,” Najmi said. “The audience can hear my intonation.”

Najmi said one reason she appreciates writing is that it provides a platform for one to share personal sentiments with others.

“Whatever your experience – loss, pain,” Najmi said. “When you turn it into something that someone else can relate to and draw pleasure from – somehow, none of it is lost. I really love that about writing.”

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