The Student Reading Series provides a safe place for creativity


GVL / Jonathan Lantiegne

Allison Rafferty

The Student Reading Series is a series of events in which students have the opportunity to read some of their writing pieces in a safe and open environment.

The event series is entirely organized, planned and publicized by Grand Valley State University students. The group hosts monthly events where students can choose to read their work aloud free of judgment or simply listen to the work of their peers.

The Student Reading Series hosted their most recent event on Thursday, Nov. 12. Due to COVID-19, the event was held via Zoom and lasted from 7-8 p.m. 

From poetry to short stories to non-fiction, students in attendance get to hear the best work from their peers so long as the piece falls under the broad literary genre. The series is sponsored by the Writing Department to give writing majors and other creative writing students a chance to share their work and practice public reading. 

Student co-creator Hannah Kelly said that The Student Reading Series is “a great environment to try out new pieces and network with other student writers as it is a casual, supportive space.”

During these events, students are encouraged, but not obliged to read some of their work.

Student co-creator Amanda Pszczolkowski said that even though it is a professional reading, “we try to create an environment that’s super open and inviting. You can come planning not to read and choose to do so after you hear your peers share their work. We don’t expect anyone to be a professional at reading either, since this is some people’s first opportunity to read in front of others.”

The Student Reading Series events typically have about 10 attendees each time, with the exact number fluctuating from month to month. The casual environment allows those in attendance to take their time to decide whether or not they would like to share their work with the group. Student co-creators have the opportunity to share their work as well.

“A lot of times, people who came with no intention of reading feel inspired after listening to their peers, and sometimes those who plan to read decide they aren’t comfortable with sharing anymore, and both are completely okay,” said Pszczolkowski. 

Pszczolkowski said that since most writers only have the opportunity to share their work in their classes, The Student Reading Series gives students a chance to share their work without feeling the pressure of knowing their work will be critiqued. 

Workshop classes provide a chance for students to share their work but it’s always with the intention of critiquing the work,” Pszczolkowski said. “A reading like The Student Reading Series is an opportunity to share work as-is without people trying to scrutinize it in any way.”

The Student Reading Series is a great way for GVSU writers to get inspired and inspire others, and Kelly said it’s served to build a larger community around writing. 

We have some incredible writers here at Grand Valley, and there is always something that inspires me or surprises me, and I leave feeling proud of the program we have here,” said Kelly. 

The goal of the Student Reading Series is to help writers be more confident in their work once they leave and feel inspired by the work of their peers.

I hope anyone who comes to share leaves feeling more confident in their work and their reading ability,” Pszczolkowski said. “And I hope everyone listening takes some inspiration from what their peers are writing. Maybe they find a technique they want to try out or a random line in a poem inspires a short story. It’s easy to get stuck in your head when you’re always thinking about your own writing, and hearing from my peers has always helped me think beyond my own little bubble.”

While The Student Reading Series is a professional experience that students can add to their resume, it is also designed to be a low pressure and positive experience for writers to feel supported by their peers. The final event of the semester will be the Senior Showcase which will be featuring the work of graduating seniors and will take place on Dec. 11 from 6-8 p.m.