Organizing a Literary Event (I did this)

A couple of weeks ago, I helped four of my classmates, along with our professor Cathy Day, plan an event called “What’s Next: Graduate School for Creative Writers.”

(You may have seen the poster I shared for it) event poster
Cathy, myself, and my classmates Lindsey, Stephanie, Rachael, and Kayla worked together to get a group of Ball State University writing faculty sit on a panel and tell students about their experiences with going to grad school, the different types of graduate programs offered, and the different jobs available to you with these degrees. Sounds interesting, right? It was. The amount of information that the attendees walked away with was borderline overwhelming, in a good way. So what’s the problem? The amount of attendees! (The turnout was a bit disappointing.)

What did we do wrong? Well, I’m not entirely sure so let me tell you what we did.

  1. Poster! We made a poster, then we plastered prints of it all over Robert Bell, which houses the English department, among other things. (We did this well in advance)
  2. Facebook! We made a Facebook event and shared it with everyone we could think of that would be interested in attending or would share it with people they thought might be interested. (Some tweeted it as well)
  3. Announcements! Several students visited writing classes and made announcements about the event. Personally, I went up to each student who expressed interest and reminded them either they day before or the day of the event.
  4. Finally, on the day of the event, we shared it on social media again as a reminder.

Here’s a photo of the panel

event panel

(From left to right: Jill Christman, Matt Mullins, Sean Lovelace, Michael Meyerhofer, Cathy Day)

Perhaps you don’t know it, but this is a rather kickass panel. The students who were invited certainly knew it, so why weren’t they there? I can only think of two things.

#1: In the midst of a busy week on campus, they just forgot.

#2: They were stereotypical college students who were more concerned with partying than education.

Now, because I know a lot of these students, I can in good conscience say that it was probably number one. (If you’re skeptical, note that the event was on a Thursday evening, not a weekend day or early in the morning.) So, how do we combat HSF (Hectic Schedule Forgetfulness)? The only thing I can think of would be passing out individual mini-flyers. This idea came to me when another student handed me a mini-flyer for The Vagina Monologues in one of my English classes. I stashed it in my planner where I kept seeing it everyday. I did not forget about The Vagina Monologues. Sadly, this happened after our event, but I will remember it for next time.

Silver lining? When I was approached with the task of organizing a literary event, I was petrified. The very thought of it seemed impossible, but to be honest, it was rather simple. Granted, there were five of us plus our professor, but even so, I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to plan a literary event in the future, I’d have a few friends to help out and even though it wouldn’t be as simple, it would be entirely possible. That’s nice to know in addition to all of the information I got from the panelists.

(Do you have any suggestions on how to spread the message for future events? Please comment.)

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5 thoughts on “Organizing a Literary Event (I did this)”

  1. Hectic Schedule Forgetfulness is a good term. Also the ideas for flyers is good. These days, you really have to bombard people from all angles in order to get through to them, it seems.

  2. Hi. Got here via the Literary Citizenship blog. So, former graduate student sharing experience:

    1. Any turnout is good. In my own uni, MA programs’ presentations were usually coupled together or so in order to drag more students of varying interests into the actual room. I know the information is great and I know that Cathy, at least, is worth it (I don’t know anybody else there). But. A tiring day in uni? Maybe a class the next day that I haven’t prepared for? Need for food/sleep? Those count way more than you’d think they would.

    You’d think that, in the long term, attending this would be a more rewarding and important experience than going out for coffee – and that’s true – but you need to beat the short term as well. Sitting in a classroom with people talking is not as comfy/relaxing as lying about on a couch, and that couch can be soooo seductive, with its cushions… Which is why any turnout is good turnout. There are some who don’t plan on attending at all, because they won’t be joining any Master’s program, or because they’re not interested. And out of those who would be interested need to move there. Getting anybody there is awesome! Whether it’s 5 students, 10 students or 20, or whatever you consider few, you rule. You made them come. That’s awesome!

    2. Yes, flyers are great 🙂

    3. The poster isn’t actually very compelling. “Confused about whether or not…” – I may be wrong here, but I think you may have inadvertently narrowed your target audience by saying this. It makes people think yes/no/undecided on the subject of graduate school and it puts them in slightly the wrong mindset: that of considering what they want to do, whether they want an MA degree or not. So they can start thinking about it – and remain with that question while ignoring your event.

    Maybe a better thing would’ve been to get across the idea of “come check out what the creative writing people do” – which suggests they don’t *have* to do anything, they don’t have to be decided one way or another, or even really plan to go for graduate studies, but they can give in to curiosity anyhow.

    Congrats on organizing the event anyhow! 🙂 It sounds like it was cool.

    1. Hey, thanks for the insightful comment! I think you make a very good point about the poster. That is definitely something I will remember for future events.

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