Students and faculty bring language to life

The crowd at Mojo Books & Music gathered around a single microphone stationed in the middle of the store Saturday.

Mojo, located at 2540 E. Fowler Avenue, has become a go-to spot for USF students looking to expand their collection of vinyl records, CDs, DVDs and books. Yet, on this particular night, the store was host to a fundraiser for a lesser-known creative outlet.

USF’s annual literary journal, thread Literary Inquiry, features undergraduate poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, screenplays and literary criticism. Published every spring, thread is composed by student editors. Last year’s fifth volume edition featured 17 pieces of writing spanning various genres of literature.

The thread fundraiser at Mojo showcased seven student writers, equipped with an arsenal of poetry and creative nonfiction. Before the readings, attendees perused the aisles stocked with books and records, purchased baked goods to support thread and got their caffeine fix at Mojo’s new coffee bar.

Readings began on a humorous note, courtesy of Alan Shaw’s piece of creative nonfiction, “My Man Card,” which examines what it means to be a man in today’s society. Shaw, a graduate student studying fiction and a teaching assistant for the English department, said he enjoys fostering a creative community at USF.

Claire Stephens, a graduate student who teaches creative writing, showcased her free verse, lyric poetry. Stephens also shared her graphic poetry, in which she uses art to accompany and complement her writing.

“My undergraduate degree is in photography,” Stephens said. “So I’m trying to use both of those skills to communicate.”

Jenni Nance, a graduate student studying creative writing, read her piece, “Breaking Beautiful Things,” where she reflects on her tumultuous and emotional family history.

Andy Faza, a senior majoring in English literature, said he attended the thread fundraiser seeking inspiration and found Nance’s piece very powerful.

“When you reach the depths of a person, you find great similarities in all of us, and I thought she touched on those similarities,” he said.

Ryan Bollenbach, a senior majoring in creative writing, presented his musings on the complications of interpersonal relationships in the form of four poems. “New Year’s Eve,” a chronological account of a tense evening between a male and female, provoked thought among students attending the fundraiser.

“(‘New Year’s Eve’) was definitely impressive,” said Mark Farag, a senior majoring in creative writing. “It inspired self-introspection.”

Creative writing instructor Melissa Carroll closed the readings with free verse poetry. With its imagery of drunken men in football jerseys, rows of pitchers of beer and girls prancing around in pantyhose, “Education at Hooters” painted a bleak picture of the hot wing hub.

Carroll said the appeal of thread extends beyond writing or literature majors at USF.

“People who aren’t writers can still appreciate good writing,” she said. “It’s about creating a community of artists, writers and people being creative.”

After the readings, the single microphone was replaced with gear for the fast-paced rock quartet Ink and Sweat. The ambient sounds of Mono Lakes’ one-man guitar looping followed.

As midnight neared, Month Mind, a two-piece experimental progressive band featuring thread editor Kevin Potter on drums, played and prompted several audience members to whip out their camera phones. A performance by Dan Sutter and “Adam D” wrapped up the evening’s artistic offerings.

Editors of thread hope that fundraising will enable them to showcase more student writers in the journal.

“An event like this brings the community into it,” said Potter, a junior majoring in English and American literature. “It’s about the art and everyone who contributes to it, not just the journal itself.”

The sixth volume of thread publishes next spring, and editors will accept submissions between October and December.

Editor Jessica Edmondson, a senior majoring in English and American literature, said increasing funding will ensure that more students get an opportunity to have their work published in the journal.

“The more notice we get, the more we can really support our writers,” Edmondson said. “That’s the whole point of thread – to feature and celebrate writers in our community.”