The Davidsonian

Davidson Reads 2022: Alums Share Creative Careers

By Stephen Walker ’26 (He/Him)

On Wednesday October 19th, Davidson alumna Laeta Kalogridis ’87 and Molly Sentell Haile ’94 returned to campus to headline the annual Davidson Reads event. Sponsored by the English Department and Davidson Arts and Creative Engagement, the event took place at 7 PM in the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room of Union. Students and members of the greater Davidson community were treated to a reading and viewing of two notable works written by the speakers, along with the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session afterward. 

Kalogridis has made a career of writing and producing films and television for over 20 years in Hollywood. Some of her writing credits include Alexander (directed by Oliver Stone), Shutter Island (directed by Martin Scorsese), Battle Angel Alita (directed by Robert Rodriguez). She is also an executive producer, uncredited writer, and creator of numerous other film and television titles. Notable examples of which include Avatar (directed by James Cameron) and the Netflix television show Altered Carbon. She is also known for her work with writers and producers to bring the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America Strike to an end. The New York Times described her as a “a pipeline to the guild members holding out for sizable gains, whose support would be needed if any deal was to be reached.” Her decades of work in Hollywood have helped mold the industry into what it is today.  

Sentelle Haile has gone on from Davidson to have writing published in many journals/magazines, most notably, she has had work published in Oxford American, The North Carolina Literary Review, and Epiphany. Sentelle Haile won the 2020 Doris Betts Fiction Prize and has earned nominations for the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, and a Notable designation in The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is also a regular contributor to O. Henry magazine. Currently, she works as a creative writing teacher at the Hirsch Wellness Network in Greensboro where she works with cancer survivors and caregivers; also somehow finding the time to volunteer with the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival. If not exemplified by her resumé, the presentation would exhibit her incredible dedication to creative writing and teaching. 

Before hearing from the speakers, their former teacher and current Davidson professor Cynthia Lewis introduced each with stories from their time as her students. The audience was treated to several anecdotes about the speakers as students and even quotes from their written work for Davidson classes. Professor Lewis’ words highlighted just how motivated both were to make careers out of their passions for writing. This passion was only reinforced when each speaker took the stage.

Sentelle Haile began with a reading of her award winning short story, “Little Things,” which follows a day in the life of a Girl named Carol as she is slowly exposed to the harsh realities of growing up on a farm. From the beginning of the reading it was clear what a gifted, empathetic writer Davidson has produced in Sentelle Haile. The feelings behind Carol’s experiences were so poignantly expressed through the author’s words that the audience couldn’t help but experience emotions along with Carol throughout the story. The world Sentelle Haile created felt so real as she progressed through each passage. By the end, that world was as rounded out as entire novels. 

After the reading, Kalogridis presented and discussed selected scenes from one of her more notable films, Shutter Island. The film follows Teddy Daniels, a Federal Marshal investigating a disappearance from an insane asylum, as he and the audience learn more about the mysterious world the characters are placed in. She then spoke about the purpose of the scenes shown: all three show the audience new things, subverting their entire understanding of who the main character is as the movie approaches its tragic climax. The film itself is a unique experience; Kalogridis’ insights into the purpose behind the script conveyed exactly how creative and original she is as a writer. 

The closing Q&A gave the audience the opportunity to learn more about the personal lives of the speakers, their industries, and all of the work both have put into perfecting their crafts. We learned from Kalogridis just how much the film and television industry has evolved since she started her career. What was most impressive about her was the fact that she had climbed to the top of an industry where women have only recently begun to be given opportunities to have their voices heard and talents acknowledged. Sentelle Haile ended the Q&A with advice for aspiring writers at Davidson. She emphasized the importance of embracing all of the lived experiences that come with attending college and of making the time to sit down and write whenever possible. It all begins, like it did for these two talents, right here at Davidson. 

Stephen Walker ‘26 (he/him) is an English major from Haverford, Pennsylvania. He can be reached for comment at stwalker@davidson.edu

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