Writers share fiction and poetry, talk inspiration during second Stegner Fellow reading

Nov. 15, 2018, 5:20 a.m.

On Wednesday night, the Creative Writing Program held its second Stegner Fellow reading of the quarter. Two emerging writers — poet Colby Cotton and fiction writer Devyn Defoe — read excerpts from their published and unpublished works for an overflowing room of Stanford students and faculty.  

The Wallace Stegner Fellowship is a selective two-year fellowship offered by the Stanford Creative Writing Program for writers “intent upon practicing and perfecting their craft,” according to the program’s website. Last year, the fellowship was awarded to only five poets and five fiction writers out of a pool of 1,200 applicants.  

Cotton, who is in his first year of the fellowship, urged the importance of discipline in producing great writing. He said he believes the process of generating and revising poetry is one of “rinse, wash and repeat.”

“Becoming a writer takes demystifying the fact that exceptional authors just produce,” Cotton told The Daily after Wednesday’s event. “Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes a lot of hard work.”

Cotton grew up in a small town in western New York, which he said inspired many of his works. A recent graduate of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Writing Program at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and a Fred Chappell Creative fellow at UNCG fellow, Cotton’s poetry appears in The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review and Washington Square Review, among others.

Cotton said poetry is a “necessity for his life.”

“Everybody arrives to their story in their own unique way,” he said. “Write what you have to say now. If you keep working and you want it bad enough, you’ll write into something. You might find it when you’re older, tomorrow or even three months down the line.”

Defoe received her undergraduate degree in anthropology from University of California Berkeley; she later earned an MFA from Columbia University. Her writing has been featured in PALM LEAF, Tin House and the artist book “Girls in Trees.”

Defoe shared a preview of her novel-in-progress during the Stegner reading.

“[The reading is] intimate time with the writers to hear their works performed,” said program organizer Ose Jackson. “This provides students with an authentic taste for writing and style… an opportunity to see artists working in the field.”

Zoe Mahony ’20 said she initially attended the event as a requirement for her English class but, after attending, felt inspired to pen her own stories.

“Hearing such good writers makes me want to go back to my dorm and begin writing my own works,” she said.


Contact Ryan Long at rylong ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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