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Lunch with visiting author Sandi Wisenberg

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Lunch with visiting author Sandi Wisenberg

Sandi Wisenberg engaging with her audience at the Reading Series event on Feb. 21

Sandi Wisenberg engaging with her audience at the Reading Series event on Feb. 21

Sandi Wisenberg engaging with her audience at the Reading Series event on Feb. 21

Sandi Wisenberg engaging with her audience at the Reading Series event on Feb. 21

Auden Hattendorf, Staff Writer

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Thirty-five years later and Elgin Community College is still welcoming authors on to campus to speak. With a couple each semester, ECC has had nearly 120 authors speak on campus. Each author brings a different story as well as different things that they want those who attend the Reading Series event to leave with, but a majority, if not all, want to bridge the gap that exists between the reader and the writer.

I found myself wondering what the deal was behind this event. If it has been around for so long, and about three authors come each semester, then this has to be something that people are passionate about. But what do people take away from the Readers’ Series that keeps them coming back for more?

Readings have a certain magic,” said Rachael Stewart, the director of the Writers Center event. “Maybe it comes from our ancient history of storytelling around the fire. I have seen authors and readings capture the imagination of students and inspire them in new directions.”

The authors that have visited the campus have been a widespread variety, and it’s due to the scouting and careful planning of Stewart. Many have asked how the authors are chosen and where they even come from.

“I do research into the authors to find out what they’ve published, whether they have any teaching experience, where they are located and critical evaluations of their work,” Stewart reveals. “Additionally, I try to bring in writers who represent a diversity of race and culture, but also genre, style and experience.”

This led her to Wisenberg, who I had the opportunity of having a laid back lunch with. During that afternoon, I got to ask her some questions about what makes her do what she does and what that can mean for someone who has the chance to hear her speak or read one of her stories.

“Read as much as you can,” Wisenberg said, as she sipped on her cup of tea. “I think you need to read to see what came before you. Because sometimes you think you’re inventing something, and you realize ‘oh no — James Joyce was doing that.’”

ECC’s campus is filled with students of all aspirations, but I know we’re brimming with writers (myself included). I decided to ask her about her writing experience and the things that propelled her to where she is today, and I wasn’t disappointed with her responses. She told of how she began writing as early as first grade just for the joy it brought her. But, as she grew older, the passion was still within her and didn’t seem to be dying out any time soon.

“I think there’s ultimately pleasure in putting something together,” Wisenberg said. “Some of it is self-expression, some of it is seeing what I’m thinking. I think a lot of writers are like this. You don’t know what you’re thinking until you write it down. It’s a way of exploring things and interrogating yourself.”

Wisenberg continued to weigh in on what it is about writing that makes it so addicting and fulfilling. She rambled, but her thoughts were still coherent and driven, yet gentle in delivery. When prompted about what she ultimately wants someone to walk away with after hearing her speak, she brightened.

“When I was in sixth grade, this author came and spoke,” Wisenberg said. “It was the first time I heard an author speak. I think [there was something about] making the connection between somebody who’s right there in front of you, and this book – that a real person wrote the book, and had it published.”

And as for her experience with the students at ECC, she said that everyone seemed “responsive” and when she talked to them about musicals, which is what her current project is, they had seen a lot of the ones she spoke of. This pleasantly surprised her.

The actual event took place at 7:30 P.M. Everyone settled into their seats and silenced their phones when Wisenberg stepped onto her podium. She was effortlessly funny, knowing exactly how to time her jokes and how much time to wait before making an additional one to really get the audience laughing. She also spoke seriously, and when she did, everyone was silent and attentive. And then a light comment would slip in and the room would melt.

She read an excerpt from her nonfiction book “The Adventures of Cancer Bitchwhich was a collection of blog posts she had lined up and published. The blog posts were documentation of her struggles and experience of battling her breast cancer. She also delighted the attendees by reading a section of a piece she was working on currently.  

After the event, the audience was comfortable enough to ask her questions and to snag a few copies of her books. I had my own questions for those who attended. When I asked Jacob Skinner, a second-year student, if he will be attending another reading event, he jumped to answer.

“I absolutely will,” Skinner said. “I try to attend at least one reading a semester.”

And then I asked the recurring question of what he had gotten from this event, and his answer let me know exactly why the aspiring writers of ECC are quick to attend and keep coming back for more.

“I now have knowledge that the best writing follows no formula, but creates its own,” Skinner said. “I came away with an urge to read and an even greater urge to write.”

About the Writer
Auden Hattendorf, Staff Writer


I’m getting my Associates in Arts to transfer, I’ve been at ECC since the fall of 2016, and I felt like writing in another form (journalism) could...

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