Randolph College April Visit & Keynote Speech

Surrounded by marvellous, supportive mentors and friends. Karin Warren (EVST,) Laura-Gray (Creative Writing,) Jim Peterson (Creative Writing,) and Barbara and Doug Shedd (Biology).

I’ve had the pleasure of spending the week in Virginia, at my alma mater, Randolph College (formerly Randolph-Macon Woman’s College).

The busy week has included reading and speaking in the following classes: Animal Behaviour, Evolution, Advanced Creative Writing, Advanced Fiction Writing, Sustainability Practice and Principles, and the BFA Colloquium.

The week has also included giving a speech for the Symposium of Artists and Scholars, and visiting, meeting, and catching up with many friends, old and new.

Laura-Gray Street performs as a stunning "hipster waiter"...
Laura-Gray Street performs in the Drag Show: a “hipster waiter”…

I’ve had the pleasure of touring the Organic Garden, being shown the Natural History Collections, spending time in the new Student Centre, and residing in the Visiting Writer’s Apartment. I’ve greatly enjoyed speaking with students, and hearing them give talks on senior honours projects and symposium presentations. I’ve especially enjoyed the opportunity to hear Creative Writing majors read some of their poetry, short stories, and non-fiction.

The Dean and President of the College attended my speech, which was also an honour,  as well as seeing many very special people there, including all of my academic supervisors from Senior Year. I was delighted to meet the President formally the next day, and was also impressed to see him acting as one of three judges for the Student-Faculty Drag Competition (yes, you read that right!) – on a previous evening.

Doug Shedd and Emily Smith give me a tour of the amazing acquisitions in the Natural History Collections.
Doug Shedd and Emily Smith give me a tour of the impressive acquisitions in the Natural History Collections.

Seeing my Creative Writing supervisor, and friend, Laura-Gray Street, perform in drag, was awesome – and also seeing new friends and students do some fantastic dance choreography!

The Natural History Collections project, run by Emily Smith and Doug Shedd, is a burgeoning research centre, which has every potential to become a Natural History Museum, under the right circumstances of space and funding. I’m so impressed!

It’s been a particular joy to walk all over campus, to re-visit special memories and places, and to enjoy gorgeous weather for the whole week. Unfortunately, the weather looks like it’ll be rainy for our one weather-dependent event: a Star Party at the campus Observatory, during which I’ll read from and sign copies of Double the Stars. However, I’m still delighted to go to the Winfree Observatory, and I’ll enjoy meeting and talking with students!

The Winfree Observatory, where we'll hold tonight's Star Party for Double the Stars.
The Winfree Observatory, where we’ll hold tonight’s Star Party for Double the Stars.

The last time I was on campus was in the spring of 2009 – shortly after Darwin’s Microscope was published. The visit was to take part in the Visiting Writers Series, and it was fun to be back. I still had good friends who were, at that point, seniors, and it was only two years since I’d graduated. The school was going through some serious growing pains, having just decided to change from a woman’s college to a co-ed school the year that I graduated, in 2007.

This trip, eight years after graduation, has been particularly significant. The past twelve months have been full of challenges and transformation. This visit has been an opportunity to come home, to confront some ghosts of my past, and make peace with an important time in my life. It’s incredibly special that the people who were so influential to my time at R-MWC are still here, still carrying out their marvellous teaching and support.

With Dr Shedd, our favourite Biology Prof!
With Dr Shedd, our favourite Biology Prof!

I’m especially grateful to everyone who made this visit possible: Karin Warren, Laura-Gray Street, and Doug Shedd; and to all who have hosted me for lunches, dinners, teas, and tours: Karin, Doug, and Laura-Gray, Heidi Kunz, Jim Peterson, Emily Smith, Sarah Sojka, Heather Garnett, Ludo, and Hart! And thank you to all of the wonderful students I’ve met. I’m certain you’re having just as great a time as I had when I was a student here!

With Laura-Gray and Jim, Creative Writing Profs!