The November 2021 Spoken Word Series, sponsored by the Writers Guild at Bloomington, will feature four local Bloomington women: Ryser Scholarship winners Hanh Tam Bui and Juliana Crespo, Ryser Scholarship founder Shayne Laughter, and singer-songwriter Sarah Cassidy.
When she won a Ryser Scholarship in 2020, Hanh Tam Bui was a student at Bloomington High School South. Due to the pandemic, she postponed her Indiana University Writers’ Conference registration till 2021.
Bui was a member of the BHSS Writing Club and a contributor to The Optimist, the school’s student news site. Winner of a Silver Medal at the National Scholastic Writing Competition for her senior-year writing portfolio Daydream, she was one of four contest participants from the Central Indiana region to place at the national level.
“I still can’t quite believe it,” Bui says, about the silver medal on her shelf. She also says that the Ryser Scholarship offered by the Writers Guild at Bloomington encouraged her to recover from the burnout that the pandemic had exacerbated. Although virtual, her IUWC experience was rewarding for her.
She says, “It felt especially safe with how women, particularly women of color, were featured during the conference, and I think they’ve been the most influential to me.” Tiana Clark and Hannah Bae were particularly inspirational. Clark, who had asked on the final day of the conference, “What is something that has failed to kill you?,” influenced the poetry collection that Bui completed recently.
Ryser Scholarship winner Juliana Crespo earned an M.F.A. in fiction from Indiana University, Bloomington, and an M.A. in fiction from University of Nevada, Reno. She teaches English and journalism, and serves as a yearbook advisor at BHSS.
Crespo released Touch the Universe in 2020 (Platypus Press Shorts #3, Book 2), and her other work has appeared in North American Review, Hobart, PANK, Flash Fiction Magazine, Fiction Southeast, and Literary Orphans, among other publications.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Crespo emigrated to the United States of America at the age of seven. She says her Brazilian roots and immigrant experiences affect the kind of stories she writes and the characters she explores.
“It was wonderful to see writers coming together and collaborating in such an open and authentic way,” says Crespo, about her 2021 IUWC experience. “I honestly haven’t had that feeling in a while,” she says, about her regained sense of belonging to a community of writers.
Crespo is soliciting a literary agent for the collection of short stories that she continues to edit. A “big name” agent, who represented Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel, has shown interest in her manuscript. A “verse novel,” that Crespo calls “a multi-generational story about Brazilian women,” is also in-progress.
Ryser Scholarship founder Shayne Laughter is a fourth-generation Bloomingtonian and a graduate of Indiana University. She has been an actress, singer, storyteller, teacher, staff and freelance journalist, editor, screenwriter, administrative assistant, performance artist, experimental ritualist, theater usher, and house cleaner. Her first novel, Yü: A Ross Lamos Mystery (Open House Press, 2010), which she had written while housesitting in “elegant homelessness,” won second place in the 2006 Arch & Bruce Brown Foundation Fiction Contest, and was a finalist in the Adult Mainstream Novel category in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s 2006 Literary Contest. She has also developed and co-produced documentary films, including the feature film Kumbh Mela: Songs of the River (Samsara Films, 2006).
Laughter has returned to her native Bloomington roots after two decades in Seattle and two years in New York City. She is a local news reporter and anchor for WFHB, Bloomington’s community radio station.
Laughter was Joan Ryser’s student at BHSS in the mid-1970s. She says Ryser was her favorite English teacher, “not just because she dressed in short skirts and tall boots and had frosted hair and great makeup and a great smile,” but also because she had recognized Laughter’s “knack for imaginative writing.” Such memories had inspired her to assume a proactive role in establishing a scholarship in Ryser’s name.
After the pandemic’s outbreak had temporarily halted Laughter’s writing, she published a story in the 2020 Fiction Issue of The Ryder, and is currently working on a short story collection.
About the Ryser Scholarship
The Ryser Scholarship is named after Joan Ryser (3 January 1940 – 6 March 2017). Born in Solsberry, Indiana, Ryser taught American and European literature, creative writing, and grammar and composition at Bloomington High School South for 44 years. While living, she had instructed her family to redirect memorial contributions to a local program or organization that encourages writers and their craft, or that promotes writing and literacy.
Honored to receive the redirected funds, the Writers Guild at Bloomington established an ongoing scholarship to enable writers of all experience levels from South Central Indiana to attend a regional workshop or conference.
Each year, the Guild offers the Ryser Scholarship on a rotating calendar year basis for three applicant categories: high school teachers of English language arts; high school students (juniors or seniors); and Guild members.
The Guild will return to offering the Ryser Scholarship to its members in 2022. The $350 award can be applied toward the cost of attending a virtual or in-person writing workshop or conference. These options include: Indiana University Writers’ Conference (Bloomington); Gathering of Writers, Indiana Writers Center (Indianapolis); Midwest Writers Workshop, Ball State University (Muncie); Writing for Your Life Spiritual Writers’ Conference (Indianapolis); and Women Writing for (a) Change workshops (Bloomington).
The Writers Guild, Ryser Scholarship, and First Wednesdays Spoken Word Series
To join the Writers Guild at Bloomington, visit: https://writersguildbloomington.com/join/
Direct all questions, or request a scholarship application form, by emailing to Patsy Rahn at [email protected]
The application deadline is 30 November 2021.
As social distancing continues, check out the virtual Ryser Scholarship edition of the First Wednesdays Spoken Word Series, sponsored by the Writers Guild at Bloomington. The performance starts at 6:00 p.m. (EST) on 3 November 2021.
Two ways to enjoy: Email the Writers Guild ([email protected]) for a Zoom link, or log in to Facebook for a livestream from the Writers Guild page @WritersGuildBloomington. All Spoken Word Series performances will become available on YouTube.
The Writers Guild at Bloomington is a 501(c)(3) arts organization that is “committed to fostering diversity, and welcomes members regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and ability” (WG Mission Statement).
Hiromi Yoshida is a freelance writer and editor, who serves as a diversity consultant for the Writers Guild at Bloomington. She edits copy for Gidra Magazine, and leads a poetry workshop for the award-winning VITAL program at the Monroe County Public Library. Her poems have been nominated for inclusion in the Sundress Best of the Net anthology, and have been added to the INverse Poetry Archive. She is the author of Joyce & Jung and the poetry chapbooks Icarus Burning and Epicanthus.