News & Events

UMPI’s Voices in the North Country returns

After nearly two decades, the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Voices in the North Country writers symposium—designed for writers, literature lovers, and general enthusiasts—returns on Thursday, Sept. 26, with activities taking place from 1:30-4 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. in the Campus Center. All are invited to attend this free event.

Voices in the North Country is an event that allows participants to hone their writing craft, meet fellow writers, and celebrate good writing. The symposium will focus on the theme Writing What You Know, with readings by local students and published writers and a panel discussion and Q&A with Maine writers in the afternoon, and a distinguished lecture in the evening.

“Since the time that I was an English major at UMPI, I’ve thought about how great it would be to host an event dedicated to connecting students and other aspiring writers in the community with published authors,” Melissa Lizotte, event co-chair, said. “Such experiences are crucial for aspiring writers. Hearing authors share their stories of challenges and success in writing can help them develop their own unique voice in their genre.”

Lizotte, an UMPI alumna, reached out to University officials last year to see if an event could be held for writers and aspiring writers in the region. Through conversation, the idea was hatched to bring back Voices in the North Country.

“I am grateful to Melissa for taking the initiative with this project to host more literary events for the campus and the greater community,” Dr. Deborah Hodgkins, UMPI Associate Professor of English and event co-chair, said. “I attended the Voices conference in 2000, and it is always a rich experience to hear published authors share some of their work and engage in dialogue with each other and audience members about their writing process. I’m especially pleased that students published in our campus journal, Upcountry, will also be included in the readings.”

The symposium begins at 1:30 p.m. with readings by local students Pat Karpen and Manish Pandey and published writers Alice Bolstridge, Anthony Scott, Jenny Radsma, and Dr. Theordore C. Van Alst Jr. Following a break and book sales, Maine writers Bolstridge, Scott, Radsma and Dr. Van Alst will take part in a panel discussion and Q&A.

Bolstridge’s chapbook of poems, Chance & Choice, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press. Scott’s poetry collection The Year Things Came Apart was released in 2016 by Maine Authors Publishing. Radsma was one of five writers to contribute to the anthology Compassionate Journey: Honoring Our Mothers’ Stories, published in 2018 by Maine Authors Publishing. Dr. Van Alst’s novel in stories about growing up in Chicago, Sacred Smokes, was published in 2018 by the University of New Mexico Press. Kathryn Olmstead, retired journalism professor and long-time editor of Echoes Magazine, will serve as moderator.

The event concludes with a Distinguished Lecture at 7 p.m. by Dr. Van Alst. An UMPI alumnus, Van Alst is the Associate Professor and Director of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University in Oregon. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Van Alst is co-editor and Creative Editor for Transmotion (an open-access journal of postmodern indigenous studies). He is also the author of The Faster Redder Road: The Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones.

Originally held in 1994, 1996, and 2000 as a three-day conference consisting of workshops, panel discussions and readings, Voices in the North Country aimed to be a forum for aspiring writers, published authors, students, teachers, and the general public of New England and Eastern Canada to discuss various topics related to creative writing, such as how literature affects our perception of human, cultural, and global issues, the teaching of writing, and the genre techniques of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction.

“On Sept. 26, Voices in the North Country is returning as an afternoon and evening symposium,” Lizotte said, “but, the organizing committee is ensuring that this event has the same goal of connecting aspiring and established writers with the knowledge, wisdom, and encouragement needed to succeed in their chosen craft. We look forward to welcoming participants to join us and learn from one another during this event.”

For more information about Voices in the North Country, which is free and open to the public, please contact UMPI’s Marketing and Communications Office at 207-768-9452 or email umpi@maine.edu.