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New Voices Festival promotes campus collaboration

Author Erica Berry reads from Wolfish while students and festival goers look on at Buffalo Street Books. (Chloe Johnston / Ithaca Week.)

The New Voices Festival invited seven debut authors to Ithaca College from April 24 to 26 as the latest installment in a thirteen-year tradition founded by professors Chris Holmes and Eleanor Henderson. The festival is almost entirely student produced, including panels, live readings and a theatrical production.

About the Authors 

The poster for the Short Short event hosted at Buffalo Street Books, featuring seven new authors. (Courtesy of Emily Trage/New Voices Festival).

This years lineup included readings and panels featuring:

  • Erica Berry, an author and teacher from Portland, Oregon whose nonfiction book “Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear” was published in February of last year.
  • Kate Doyle, a former bookseller at Buffalo Street Books and Ithaca resident who now lives in Amsterdam, read from her new short story collection “I Meant It Once.”
  • Elisa Gonzalez, a Yale and New York University graduate whose debut poetry collection “Grand Tour” was released in the summer of 2023. Gonzalez also read from new works commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Sam Hurley, an Ithaca College graduate whose play “Im Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire” opened off-Broadway in July 2023. The London premiere will be directed by fellow 2018 graduate Tyler Struble, who recently worked at both the Kitchen Theatre Company and the Village at Ithaca.
  • Claire Jimenez, an assistant professor of English and African American studies at the University of South Carolina whose novel “What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez” was published by Grand Central in 2023. Jimenez co-founded the Puerto Rican Literature Project in 2019.
  • Raul Palma, the Associate Dean of Faculty and New Initiatives in Ithaca College’s School of Humanities and Sciences. Palma read from “A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens”, his second novel.
  • Stella Wong, a Harvard graduate whose poetry collection “Spooks” won the Saturnalia Book Editors Prize. 

Each writer was assigned two student guides during their festival stay.

About the Events 

Texcucano read from “What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez” at the Short Short event on April 24. (Chloe Johnston/Ithaca Week).

This years events began with the Short Short at Buffalo Street Books, which featured each author reading for seven minutes. Senior Ashley Damian Texcucano read for Jimenez at the first event, who was unable to arrive in time due to travel complications.

The next day included panels run by the student leadership team about the art of being a woman in the world” and allusions in writing, as well as a reading of work by Jimenez, Wong and Berry.

Its a very unique and cool experience that I havent had in many other classes. This is a very professional environment where [students] are running things mostly on our own, with some guidance from [professors Chris Holmes and Jacob White],” said Ryan Vincent, who was the student guide for Palma.

Student guides Vincent (left), Kayes (center) and Roter (right) were paired with visiting authors. (Chloe Johnston / Ithaca Week).

The third and final day of the festival included more panels about the use of genre in writing and parasocial relationships. It finished with a reading by Gonzalez, Doyle and Palma as well as a staged production of Hurleys “Im Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire” in the Hoerner Theater.

Working with [Hurley] and [Struble] has been a really fun and educational experience for me,”  assistant director Khani Cossa said. Their vision only gets more cool every single rehearsal and I really value all that Ill take away from this experience. Sams writing is so vibrant and lively, so bringing it to the stage allows for such incredible and wacky storytelling.”

Berry said that the festival was unlike any other.” She emphasized the kindness and professionalism of the student guides. Berrys guide Olivia Kayes said that it was a privilege to see a writer doing what they love, and do it so well.”

[The festival] is about the whole package of being a writer,” Berry said. Theres a lot to learn not only about the various texts, but also about our paths as young debut authors. Its about the art of being a writer in the world.”

According to Holmes, the class is meant to build the skills needed for pursuing a career in literary fields as well as connecting students to current industry professionals.

Were so excited and passionate about this festival,” said Sasha Roter, the student guide for Gonzalez. Its such a lovely environment, its like a giant book club.”

Reporter Chloe Johnston sits down with the New Voices student leadership team (April Morales, Riley Rhoder and Emily Trage), co-founder Chris Holmes and visiting author Erica Berry to learn about the festival. 

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