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A love for literature: Miami writers celebrate fifth annual Oxford Writing Festival

By Olive Overmoyer, For The Miami Student

Students trickled into the Shriver bookstore Wednesday night, excited not only for the cookies they were promised, but also for the chance to meet a famous author. A small group was gathered to hear Gayle Forman, author of "If I Stay," speak about writing and the process of getting published.

Forman's talk was the first event of the fifth annual, week-long Oxford Writing Festival. She kept the energy up the whole time, crafting a story using ideas suggested by a very eager audience. She also discussed the many places writing can take you and how you can eventually publish your work.

"I was pleasantly surprised by how active the people who were there were," said Leah McInturf, a first year student who attended the presentation. "They seemed to have a lot of good questions and well thought-out answers when she asked questions, and they really seemed to enjoy it."

The Oxford Writing Festival is put on by Students for the Promotion of Writing (SPW).

"Our main event we hold is the Oxford Writing Festival which includes student readings, includes a couple of authors which you've probably heard about and this year we have our library-wide scavenger hunt," said the president of the club, Dallas Stiles.

The scavenger hunt began in the Shade Family Room on Thursday evening and took participants on a clue-led quest through each of the five libraries on campus.

This year, the club secured the appearances of both Gayle Forman and Garth Stein, author of "The Art of Racing in the Rain."

"It's awesome to see these authors actually come to Miami because for months it's just been talking about them, so seeing that they're actually here is pretty awesome," said Liz Winhover, a member of SPW.

Although the club is focused on writing, there are many members who are not English majors. Current majors represented in the club include biology, business, chemistry and marketing. SPW and the festival alike are open to everyone.

"I think there are a lot of ways that people can get something out of it without necessarily being writing majors themselves," said Stiles.

Foreman's presentation was just one example of this. While the focus was on story writing and publishing, these were not the only messages. She captivated the audience with stories of her life and where writing has taken her.

"I think that she was just a really inspiring person overall and one thing that I really liked about her was that she was really personal - she didn't have a problem talking about her personal life," said McInturf. "She talked about taking a horrible, horrible situation and turning it into something better and kind of coping with it. So, even if you weren't planning on being a writer, she brought that to the table."

While this week's events may be over, the club and those who attended have already started looking forward to next year.

"I definitely thought it was a good experience," said Julia Koenig, who attended the festival this week. "I definitely thought it was worth my time, and hopefully we can have more advertising next year and more people to come."

As the festival is only in it's fifth year, members of the club are excited that they are already able to pull in bestselling authors and those with movies based on their work like Foreman.

"Just from where I've seen it in the past couple years, I think this year it's the most successful in that we really got on our game for trying to attract big name authors," Stiles said. "In the past we've had a lot more local talent which has been excellent because it's been a lot of diverse people. We've had singer-songwriters and poets, as well as screenwriters."

Stiles hopes that the club and the festival will continue to grow in the future.

"We definitely hope for more support, more members in the coming year," said Stiles. "We think that next year we're going to take it up another notch again."