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RipRap Literary Journal holds its final reading series of the semester

Eight MFA students read poetry and fiction writings to an audience at Gatsby Books.

First+year+MFA+candidate+Zara+Raheem+reads+a+fiction+story+about+fitting+in+with+different+cultures.
First year MFA candidate Zara Raheem reads a fiction story about fitting in with different cultures.

First year MFA candidate Zara Raheem reads a fiction story about fitting in with different cultures.

Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

First year MFA candidate Zara Raheem reads a fiction story about fitting in with different cultures.

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In a dimly lit bookstore located in a shopping center off Spring Street and Bellflower Boulevard, people crowded in between tight corridors of shelves to hear the works of Master of Fine Arts creative writing students. The audience listened in silence as the words of young writers met their ears, with short bursts of applause following each story.

This was the latest installment of the MFA Reading Series, which took place Tuesday night at Gatsby Books. The event was hosted by the Department of English and RipRap Literary Journal, with eight candidates of the MFA Creative Writing program getting behind the microphone and read their original fiction or poetry works to an audience.

The RipRap Literary Journal, an annual publication run by creative writing students at Cal State Long Beach, aims to shine a spotlight on new and emerging writers of poetry and fiction.       

“The MFA candidates all have a chance to read at least once during the semester,” RipRap Event Coordinator Mouminat Damer said. “They share the writing they’re working on or haven’t presented in class and get a chance to show it to other people.”

Students came with trays of cookies, bottles of wine and packs of beer for everyone to enjoy during the readings.    

The owner of Gatsby Books, Sean Moor, said he enjoys having his business crowded with fellow literature admirers. The store cat, Ruby, also enjoyed the company as she meandered through attendees’ legs and under chairs.    

“It’s amazing to have all [the students] here,” Moor said.     

Moor transformed his quaint store by rearranging the shelves and lining up rows of seats to accommodate the over 40 guests, student and otherwise, who attended the event.

Attendees filled up the small space at Gatsby Books Tuesday night.

A two-piece band performing acoustic melodies before the readings set the mood as people mingled amongst the books.    

First-year candidate Adam Keaton got behind the mic to read a poem and two works of fiction. One of Keaton’s writings described a fictional girl desired by the unnamed character, vividly detailing personality traits of the love interest to bring the story to life through the character’s viewpoint.     

“I’ve spent years on some of these writings,” Keaton said. “One of them I wrote this semester but I’ve spent years revising.”     

The first reading took place at Gatsby Books then moved to the Nugget, before returning to the atmosphere Gatsby Books provided. Rebecca Komathy, a second year candidate and magazine coordinator for RipRap Literary Journal, assisted Damer in organizing the event and spoke about the choice to hold the night at the cozy store.     

“[RipRap] has had a longstanding relationship with Gatsby,” Komathy said. “[The bookstore] is very small and it has a cat that follows you.”     

Komathy also participated in the event and read an excerpt from one of her fictional writings.   

According to Keaton, the readings are appreciated among students for providing a platform to debut their works and engage with other writers in a more personal setting than a classroom can provide.      

“It’s good to see what other young writers are writing about and how they are going about articulating those concepts,” Keaton said. “You start to find homologies between the concepts the fiction and poet [writers] are tackling.”

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