Last updated: February 20. 2013 1:03AM - 361 Views

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WILKES-BARRE -- About 100 students from Wilkes University's creative writing program were among those who gathered at the Barnes & Noble College Bookstore on Sunday night to enjoy hearing published authors share their stories at the eighth annual Maslow Foundation Salon Reading Series.

Going well beyond the students, the audience represented a cross section of educational backgrounds, said Bonnie Culver, head of the university's creative writing program. There were engineers, teachers, managers, nurses and others who all share a love for writing and want to take it to the next step.

The series is all about writing, she said.

Started in 2005, the university sponsored the reading series as part of its master of arts in creative writing and has attracted students from 30 different states and some from outside the United States, Culver said.

Sunday's reading was the first of five to be conducted every night until Thursday. Nine authors spoke on Sunday and 26 others will read by the end of the series, she said.

Michael Lennon, one of the program's co-founders, said the reading series offers students exposure to what it takes to become a successful writer.

It's not just writing, but also marketing yourself, Lennon said. You have to be able to talk it, too.

The students got a chance to see professional writers laying it out in a sharp, tight and concise manner necessary in today's publishing climate, Lennon said.

He said becoming successful as a writer also requires a lot of networking.

It's a lonely business, he said. You need a co-writers who can be coaches and help provide support.

The Wilkes program offers that type of networking, he said.

Lennon said Wilkes has become internationally recognized for its creative writing program and has produced several successful graduates, some from Northeastern Pennsylvania, including Cecilia Galante.

Nancy McKinley, novelist and one of the program's founding faculty, said the reading series elevates the creative spirit and honors the heart of the Wyoming Valley.

It also helps promote local culture, she said. Despite facing some hard times, Northeastern Pennsylvania remains unique and possesses a lot of beauty, she said.

Culver said that about 400 students graduated from the program since its inception in 2005. She said the program is one of the largest in the United States and is growing in popularity. There will be expansion into documentary film making and publishing in the near future, she said.

Culver said students also get direct access to the industry while participating. Much of their work is judged by people in the industry and not just faculty, she said.

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