Author Micheline Marcom, an English fiction professor at Mills College, shows her support for the Laurel Book Store each semester. Not only does she order all of her books for her classes from this independent neighborhood book store close to campus, but she also arranges to have store readings in which her students present their works in progress to the Oakland community.
On Dec. 2, students from Marcom’s undergraduate Beginning Fiction Workshop and MFA Fiction Workshop presented their pieces. “Tonight is a celebration of the word, of a story, a culmination of sorts of a semester worth of writing and thinking and reading together — and a coming together of what I like to think of as a tribe of writers for whom the word and books matter,” said Marcom in her welcoming speech to a room full of supportive peers.
Sitting in folding chairs lined in narrow rows of two, the audience watched the 25 writers showcase their work. Standing in the back, the overflow audience was in quick reach of the offered snacks, which included salami, cheese and crackers, grapes and chocolate, along with a variety of wine and sparkling ciders.
“I think it’s great for the writers,” said Marcom. “We are doing publicly what we’ve been doing in class all semester long.”
Camila Perez, a sophomore in Marcom’s undergraudate fiction class said, “I thought I was going to get nervous but I pushed that all down. I was able to pretend I was reading to my class.”
First year graduate student in the MFA creative writing program, Celine Homer, said this was her first public speaking event. “My final project is a combination of pieces I have been working on. I read an excerpt from my latest piece,” said Homer.
Justin Goldman, a second year MFA creative writing student, said he has taken classes from Marcom in previous semesters. “This is my third reading since I have been at Mills. My piece was a response to the books we have read in class, and is not part of my novel,” he said.
Luan Strauss, who has owned the Laurel Book Store for eight years, said she was approached by Marcom three years ago and asked if she could hold a reading in the bookstore.
“I love to hear the new writers. It’s a lot of fun,” said Strauss. “People love to see what classes are reading.”
It was clear Strauss is not alone in her sentiment, judging from the enthusiastic crowd.