OGDEN — A wave of undergraduate poets and writers, and three prominent authors, will slide into Ogden this weekend for Weber State University‘s annual National Undergraduate Literature Conference.
The event, co-founded by Mikel Vause and Michael Meyer in 1985, brings college students together to present their work and learn from influential writers. It runs today through Saturday, March 28-30.
Vause created the program “to counteract the attitude that the kids are JUST going to Weber — like it was a second-rate operation.” He went to Weber as an undergraduate before heading to the East Coast for graduate school, where he discovered he was more prepared for the rigors of post-graduate work as a result of the personal interaction he received as a Weber State student.
Vause says the response to the conference has been remarkable. Over 34 years, more and more schools have participated, and some schools have sent students every year. The content has evolved, too — students submit critical works, poems, fiction, essays, and even plays.
The NULC gives students “an opportunity to see that their paper is every bit as insightful and critical as those of students from other schools,” according to Vause.
“It really validates students themselves,” Vause says.
In other words, he says students don’t have to go to a prestigious, expensive college in order to learn to write well.
“It really hits some people,” Vause says of student participation in the conference. “It makes them recognize that there’s a lot of satisfaction from artistic and intellectual expression.”
Vause said students recognize that what you do isn’t always about the money.
The program is also unique, according to Vause.
“It’s the only one in the country to my knowledge,” he said.
That not only makes it beneficial to the students who present their papers, but also to the community.
The conference features three days of student sessions, along with author readings and question-and-answer segments. All sessions are free and open to the public.
Multiple student sessions occur during each block of time. Each block is broken out by style or focus.
This year’s sessions feature students presenting a wide range of papers, including a Marxist critique of “The Walking Dead,” a look at heterosexual romance and feminism in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” science and religion in “Dracula,” mania in Emily Dickinson’s writings, feminism and satire in “Parks and Recreation,” personal essays, original fiction and poetry, and much more.
Organizers say these talented young writers could become the next big author or distinguished professor.
National author sessions at the conference will include Jesmyn Ward, the first woman and person of color to win two National Book Awards; Michelle Kuo, whose first novel has been short-listed for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Goddard Riverside Social Justice Prize; and Tom McAllister, author of “How to Be Safe” and “The Young Widower’s Handbook.”
Sarah Vause, co-director of the NULC, says any of the author sessions are worth catching. She points out that Ward and Kuo both focus on race in the South, with Kuo presenting the perspective of growing up as a child of immigrants. Tom McAllister’s fiction features characters grappling with tragedy, and he hosts the Book Fight! podcast that deems itself “tough love for literature.”
Get the full session schedule at www.weber.edu/nulc/agenda.html. Click on the NULC 2019 Schedule link at the bottom of the page for detailed information about each session.