“I think I’d spontaneously combust if I didn’t write,” said Daryl Sznyter, one of the speakers on the poetry panel, at Authorfest 2017.

WHTE MILLS - “I think I’d spontaneously combust if I didn’t write,” said Daryl Sznyter, one of the speakers on the poetry panel, at Authorfest 2017.

Nearly 30 published authors gathered at the Dorflinger Factory Museum, July 26th, the fourth annual forum held until this year at the Hawley Silk Mill. Anyone interested in writing- as well as reading- could immerse themselves in an aura of company who love the written word and could offer first hand, the wonder of inspiration as one sits down and words come.

There were authors of children’s books, adult books, books of fiction, history, poetry, how attitude plays a role in politics, and more. There was also a seminar on screen writing and a panel discussion on poetry.

Refining their vision

After the event, the founding committee, Ann O’Hara, Lyndsey George and Juan Espino, talked about how Authorfest has grown and where they hope it will go.
Now known as Authorfest Community, their mission is to foster the professional development of regional authors, promote communication among the literary community, and help promote appreciation of literature by the public.

They note it has succeeded at serving as a needed forum for authors to mingle and network, to meet one another and encourage each other in their shared love for the written word. The committee wishes to expand on its educational focus, and create a scholarship for students wishing to pursue the literary field.

To this end, the plan is to create an endowment through the Wayne County Community Foundation, where they can draw funds for the scholarships.

Espino said that they have a goal to become self sustaining. A structure is needed to plan fundraising, marketing, the annual Authorfest event and educational opportunities.

They also expect to schedule more workshops for writers; Lyndsey said that writers may inform them of what they would like to have. O’Hara said that they have built up a database of authors and others who have supported Authorfest, as a starting point.
The Dime Bank has generously sponsored Authorfest in the past. More business sponsorships are welcome.

Other prospective plans include networking with public libraries as well as schools, to further the educational component of their mission.

Why poetry is important

Brian Fanelli, Dawn Leas, Daryl Sznyter, and Nancy Dymond made up the panel at the morning discussion entitled, “Coming to the Muse: Why Is Poetry Important?”.
The moderator was Mary Olmsted Greene, of Narrowsburg. Mary is the founder and director of the Upper Delaware Writers Collective and a published poet.

Fanelli, who lives in Dunmore, is a full-time writing and literature instructor at Lackawanna College. He is also a published poet.

He shared that he was good at football in high school, but he found himself not growing. Creative writing teachers helped inspire him, an experience that continued at college.

Fanelli said it was important to find a mentor to “shepherd and support your work.” It is also important to make writing a daily habit- even if it is five minutes a day.

Keeping a journal is beneficial, no matter your genre.

Although modern poetry relies less on rhyme and meter, he observed that no one is totally “free verse” and structure is needed to anchor your poetry. He said there is movement today called Neo-Formalism, to reintroduce the ‘musicality” back and restore rhyme to poetry.

Asked about how to publish, Fanlli advised that it can be quite costly to pay fees for multiple contests, but one should research the press and who will do the judging. Before trying to have a  book published, it’s recommended to have one’s work published in journals, to show book editors.

Each of the speakers shared some of their poetry. In his poem, “Where Poetry Exists,” Fanelli expressed how poetry is found every day in his community, in the people, his friends, and his family.

He wrote, “I tell them poetry is found in labor of men and women who still populate
their hometown, that to write it seriously should be as habitual as waking to the alarm clock’s buzz and meeting the work day.”

One of his students, Daryl Sznyter, shared how writing became therapeutic for her. There was a time she would carry books wherever she went just to try and avoid social interaction. Her teacher and mentor, Brian Fanelli, encouraged her to submit her poetry to journals.

Sznyter said that she and tries to read some poetry before she begins writing to prepare herself mentally, and writes about 20 to 30 minutes every morning.

Much of her poetry surrounds the human body and tender moments, the Dunmore resident said.

Nancy Dymond, of Bethany, spoke of the source of inspiration, which was referred to as the “muse.” She each of us has a muse, which can be found.

“Coming to the Muse,” she said, suggests a certain humility and a reverence as to why poetry matters. “Because the muse exists in the realm of the unconscious, it holds a certain anonymity while holding unassailable influence over our thoughts and our actions.” She added, “So it makes sense to discover what really matters, we consult this mysterious representative of our deepest hopes and fears.”

Poetry, as a life ambition, may not make one rich or be a recommended career path. She said when she told her father she wanted to major in poetry in college, she learned the meaning of a “guffaw.”

“So what can poetry do, that matters,?” Dymond asked rhetorically. “It can change your life, it can change your mind. By juxtaposing words, it can allow you access to the world of feeling. Feeling soft grass under your bare feet; feeling a migratory bird’s growing compulsion to head south shoulder to shoulder as one. And perhaps most moving of all, feeling the feelings that other people feel…”

Dawn Leas said she started writing at 10. A creative writing teacher in high school inspired her. In her mid-20’s, as she seriously began to write poetry, she was sustained by becoming involved in the local writing community. She went on to graduate school later, and found wonderful mentors that gave her the foundation she needed.

Leas is in a writing group, with people she said she can really trust, to honestly critique each other’s writing and help push each other.  She said her routine is to read a poem or two ever morning, and keep a journal.

Memory, nature, photographs and songs inform her writing. Leas said she writes significantly about the people in her life and their relationships. Her journal is helpful, to look back upon.

Leas said she reads her draft writing out loud, to be able to hear the “clunkiness.”
Leas has served as assistant director of the Wilkes University M.F.A. Creative Writing programs, and is currently the assistant to the President at Wilkes. She said she is leaving that position, to further her writing and editing.

Greene, the panel’s moderator, raised the question of political poetry. “Whenever there’s an upheaval, there’s an upsurge in art, basically, and certainly in poetry.” She asked if the speakers feel an obligation to reflect the state of the world in their poetry.

Faneli said it is important for the artist and writer to be involved in the community, but the danger is in how to keep your work from becoming dated.

Sznyter commented that simply be being a woman, she is a “political statement.” She said it wasn’t easy to say things that make people feel uncomfortable without forcing one’s views, but it was their duty.

Some poets have paid a high price for their writing. Fanelli referred to those who sought to resist tyrannical regimes through art, and have met with persecution.
Leas stated that history is cyclical, and political poems serve as a reminder. “You need word and metaphor to kind of process and understand what is going on in the world,” she said.

“We are here to witness,” Dymond said. “We are scribes of events but we do more than just record facts.”

The poetry panel followed a workshop that concerned screenwriting, which was led by Christopher Peroni.

Thanks was given to James Asselstine for use of the Dorflinger Factory Museum meeting space for this year’s event.

The committee decided to host the annual Authorfest event on the last Saturday in July. The venue for the 2018 edition is to be announced.