Guest Artists Bring Valuable Career Insights

Crescendo issue: April 2014

One can rest assured that, at any given moment, somewhere on the Interlochen campus, something amazing is happening.

Anyone associated with Interlochen is well aware that hundreds of guest artists visit campus each year to showcase their talent and work with students. Across campus, one might encounter a preeminent violinist, a legendary Shakespeare practitioner, an incredibly familiar voice, a star of stage and screen, and more. These artists are accustomed to the stage and the spotlight, but, during their visit to Interlochen, they will encounter neither. That is by design, because they’re here for the students of Interlochen.

A perfect example of this partnership between Interlochen and the larger artistic world occurred at The Writing House recently when Jen Percy paid a visit. Jen is the author of the bestselling “Demon Camp.”

“Jen spent quite a bit of time talking about the lengthy and sometimes scary process of writing Demon Camp,” says Interlochen’s director of creative writing David Griffith. “She talked with the students about how she took notes, conducted research, drafted, and revised the book, which gave the students a vivid and unvarnished look at the kind of work that goes into producing a book.”

“The visits mean a lot to me,” says creative writing student Carly Miller. “What's most helpful is to see that people of all different backgrounds, personalities and styles can make it in the publishing world. It makes me feel as though I too have a chance and my career success will not be dictated by some mold of ‘published author’ that does not, in fact, exist. It gives me a lot of hope. Also, it's always wonderful to see a new face and listen to new people talk about the craft of writing. It really opens it up and makes it feel like a much larger thing; a global passion. “

“The Creative Writing program has lots of traditions,” says Griffith. “Arguably the most important is our long history of bringing the best poets and writers working today to our campus. From the beginning of the program, Interlochen has believed that young writers need to have access to working writers. We need to put in front of our students living, breathing artists who can show them, by their very presence, that it is possible to make one's life as an artist. The experience of hearing work straight from the writer's mouth is one that I hope reminds students that writing the work is only the first step, you then need to shepherd it out into the world, which takes a certain amount of gumption and drive.”

Through interactions with thriving and successful artists, Interlochen students are able to see the bigger picture of art as a career and begin to form their own paths, unique to their own wants and needs.

“Writing is a calling,” says Sarah Cornwell, a former Interlochen Writer In Residence who is adapting Jen’s book into a screenplay for Paramount Pictures. “Not writing would be one of the most frustrating, enervating things I can think of. For many of us, not writing is not an option. The trick to the 'career' part of it is figuring out how to write and make money at the same time. The question to ask oneself might be: if I study writing and feed my passion, and then fail to find commercial or critical success, will I regret studying writing? If the answer is yes, then it's time to consider other fields of study. If no, then the study of writing is a joy and an end in itself, and whatever comes afterward is another adventure.”