Thursday, April 30, 2009

Scissortail Festival Philosophy

Our Special Is What We Have:
A Chimerical Philosophy and Really Brief History of the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival

As we enter the fourth annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, and as the popularity of the festival continues to grow, I think it is time to explain what the hell is going on. It is really very simple, guided by the cliched axioms: “less is more” and “if it aint broke, dont fix it” (see how I dont use apostrophes in my contractions – just like Cormac McCarthy dont). In another life, I was in Kentucky where a small-town diner, which served really good food, famously posted a sign declaring “Our Specialty Is What We Have.” I think maybe this phrase best captures the essence of the Scissortail Festival. Gladly, we only offer a limited specialty, but don’t let the simple structure of the festival betray the quality of the writing or the essential value of creativity. The festival cannot and does not want to be all things. Scissortail is a festival of reading where the words of creative thinkers are heard and celebrated. Scissortail is a gathering of folks who take writing seriously, not merely for the sake of petting egos and building careers (though happily both things sometimes happen when we focus primarily on the heart, the means of creativity, rather than superficial ends). The structure of the festival is decidedly mixed – mixed genre and mixed author. We celebrate a mixture of highly published authors standing beside and reading along with others who are popularly categorized as “emerging authors” – aren’t we all emerging? Panels are intentionally mixed – delightfully disjointed, ironic and/or paradoxical – consisting of many styles: lyrical poetry, narrative poetry, historical fiction, tall tales, experimental prose and poetry, creative nonfiction and various combinations thereof. The net effect is a quilt, a creative mosaic, or in the words of our friend Jim Chastain: “The whole thing is a poem.” This festival is not about workshops or academic assessment; it is more primal than that. The festival is about authors listening to the words, style and passion of fellow authors. The festival is a chance to communicate to audiences who invariably come away with some happy level of understanding and feeling. Scissortail Festival provides a weekend to renew acquaintances, make new friends, be inspired to write better, be motivated to live better. Basically, the only rule is the NAA rule (I can translate this for you in person if necessary; I don’t want to spell it out in fear of puritans and the FCC).

A few years back, my colleague Dr. Hugh Tribbey and I were having lunch. Hugh said that he always wanted a festival at ECU. From this seminal conversation, and with the work of several dedicated volunteers (always including lots of unheralded students), the festival has become a signature event for the ECU campus, for the state of Oklahoma, her authors as well as authors from across the country and, sometimes, even overseas. The festival has benefitted from gracious financial contributions from several individuals (see me if you want to contribute) as well as the blessing of the administration of East Central University, the helpful sustaining gifts from corporations and foundations. Most of all, the festival is successful because of all the writers who voluntarily travel to Ada, Oklahoma to read for twenty minutes and to listen to their friends and colleagues. Thanks to the hundreds of authors who have freely given their time and creativity to this festival, each year we look forward to the first April weekend.

Looking forward to your reading. Peace!

Ken Hada
April 2009