Inside the Moravian College Writers' Conference
On Friday and Saturday, Mar. 16-17, Moravian College hosted its 4th Writers’ Conference, directed by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, chair of the English department. The conference was entitled, “Writing about Health: Activism, Advocacy, and Storytelling” which connected to Moravian’s In Focus theme of Healthcare. This was my first Writer’s Conference and it definitely made me more aware of the various ways writing can be used to convey opinions and stories about complex topics, such as healthcare.
Big Pharma: Market Failure Screening
The Conference opened with a screening of Vince Mondillo and Richard Master’s documentary, “Big Pharma: Market Failure,” that explores the problem of pharmaceutical drug pricing. Not only does the film go into depth about the increase of pharmaceutical drug prices, it also goes into how drug costs can impact the public, businesses, and the economy.
After the screening, the audience had the opportunity to ask a couple of questions about making the film and the directors’ (Vince Mondillo and Fran Quigley) opinions on the issue. One viewer asked if they wanted to convey a particular stance in the film to which they mention how they wanted to present a positive case about an issue that is rarely talked about. They replied, “when we did research, we were familiar with arguments and didn’t try to trick people with questions or misrepresent them.” Mondillo and Quigley also enforced that we need to, “change mentality that we can’t fight against these people when we can.” We are able to speak up against these increased drug prices and the more we protest, the more likely a change will eventually be made.
Following the movie screening, attendees visited the Opening Reception and Remarks. Following the Reception, there were Opening Remarks that were made in the Arena Theater. There were 3 speakers along with keynote speaker Marie Myung-Ok Lee and each speaker read excerpts from some of their works. The speakers also discussed how narrative can be helpful when discussing healthcare. One speaker said that, “healthcare needs the art of poems, stories, and writing to cure the art of medicine.” This shows that writing about healthcare can provide insight on people’s different opinions and experiences with healthcare.
At the start of the Saturday portion, attendees went to one out of 3 different workshops that were offered. I attended the workshop entitled, “Cellular Composition: Writing Water, Environment, and Self,” hosted by Mary Heather Noble, an environmental scientist turned writer. Noble expressed how storytelling can be a primitive and intuitive account to activism, and that the emotion that a writer conveys is key to the success of a writing piece. At the workshop, we read pieces from authors who linked environmental issues to health problems and drafted short stories from three different prompts and shared with the group.
There were two other workshops entitled, "Whose Truth Is It Anyway?: A Workshop on Memoir, Health, Living, and Dying," hosted by Nina Angela McKissock and "The Power of the Pen for Health Justice: How and Why Writers Can Advocate for Health as a Human Right," hosted by Fran Quigley and Vince Mondillo. Conference attendee Jennifer Khawam ‘18 attended the Memoir workshop and what stood out to her most from the workshop was the “community of different aged people coming together to find a common ground in writing.”
Liana Irvine, a transferring sophomore from Bucknell University, attended the Advocacy workshop and expressed her favorite thing about the workshop being the community. She says it was a, “great representation of people who care.” The prompts were different from other workshops since they were mostly discussion based, but the message of the discussions that stood out to her the most was that, “you have a right to advocate not only for others, but for yourself.”
Keynote address by Marie Myung-Ok Lee
The conference concluded with a special keynote address by speaker Marie Myung-Ok Lee. Lee discussed how she wanted to be a doctor like her father when she grew up, but later took an interest in writing after playing with a typewriter. She elaborated on how her son has autism and other severe cognitive disabilities and how her son’s disability had influenced her writing. After the address, I approached Lee and asked her more about how healthcare had influenced her personal writing. Lee told me that she “would spend so much time in the hospital and how most people do not realize the messiness of procedures,” which had influenced her to write about medical practices. When asked about what impact she hoped that her writing has on healthcare, she discussed the issue of using medical cannabis and other drugs for treating her son that people say are harmful, but can be used to help people with children of similar issues.
For my first Writers’ Conference, I would say it was very successful and organized. The presenters were wonderful and the events that they had planned were suitable for the In Focus theme about healthcare. This conference made me more aware about how writing can be used in the medical field and how it can make an impact on medical advances. This was a very well run conference and I encourage everyone reading this article to try and attend future conferences hosted by Moravian!