At the launch party of her debut novel “The Principals Behind Flotation” Alexandra Teague stood in front of a pack crowd in local bookstore Bookpeople of Moscow and said, “This is a community all about finishing projects. There’s a reason I’ve had two book launches here.”
The University of Idaho and the Moscow community offer a number of opportunities to engage with the local literary scene. For Stacy Boe Miller, a graduate student approaching her second year as a poetry MFA candidate at UI, moving to Moscow 6 years ago and recently pursuing an MFA have opened up numerous opportunities for literary engagement that are unique to this community.
“I feel sometimes like a sponge that doesn’t quite have enough capacity to soak everything up because there is so much going on,” Miller said.
During her time in Moscow, Miller has attended and participated in a number of writing and reading events, including Pop-Up Prose — a reading event organized by local writers that invites people from diverse backgrounds to share their work in front of a crowd. At previous events, Pop-Up Prose has been host to the voices of UI undergrad students, grad students and community members, whose work fit the ever-changing theme of the event.
Miller said, “In a way, it’s been like a sense of being published because others are hearing your work, which I find a lot of joy in. I’m terrified every time I read, but I’m always glad I did afterward.”
Pop-Up Prose events occur at a number of locations in the community, such as Bitterroot Tattoo, One World Cafe and the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute. Among the businesses that continue to host events for the literary community is Bookpeople of Moscow.
Carol Spurling, co-owner and manager of Bookpeople, said the local bookstore operates as a space to empower creative voices. Since its shift to new ownership two years ago, the shop has given a platform to distinguished and up-and-coming writers from the Moscow community and elsewhere, including nationally recognized authors such as Alexandra Teague, Robert Wrigley, Sherman Alexie and countless others.
Spurling said, “Any time a person can a writer in person, especially someone that’s like them, it gives them a window into the process and opens up possibilities for them.”
In addition to hosting readings by professional and published writers, Bookpeople has hosted events for up-and-coming writers. The first annual Undergraduate Reading, composed by UI’s English honor society Sigma Tau Delta, took place at Bookpeople Spring of 2017. “Bookpeople has been such an amazing resource for this community as far as supporting the community with book readings and author events,” Miller said. At the event, Sigma Tau delta sold copies of their literary magazine Vandalism, contributed to and edited by UI’s undergraduate students.
“I think places like Pop-Up Prose or the Undergraduate Reading at Bookpeople can feel like a platform where we can showcase our stuff to one another in a really supportive, non-competitive environment,” Miller said. “We get to come together and just celebrate what everybody’s been doing.”
Moscow’s literary events aren’t limited to the passionate organization of community members. UI also contributes readings and workshops by Distinguished Visiting Writers (DVW’s) four times per year. Miller said she was very impressed by DVW Mary Szybist, an award-winning poet, during her visit to campus.
During her second year as an MFA student Miller will be working as the Marketing Editor of Fugue, UI’s graduate-level literary journal. Fugue offers positions for both grad and undergrad students, where outside submissions are considered for publication and students are able to participate in editorial decision making.
“There’s so much talent here, within and without the department,” Miller said. “You can live in this community and not even be in grad school and still have access to so many opportunities.”
Austin Maas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @austindmaas