“Her steps must’ve been light today. Death always seems to come heavy in the night, but it awoke her with a kiss this morning” (77).
What struck me most about this quote, and this piece in general, is the switch between first and third person at the start of each new paragraph. Given the title and content of this work, the first thought that came to my mind was the concept of dissociation, where one experiences an out of body moment brought on by intense feelings of depression. In these moments of severe depression, the brain chooses to separate one from the body they are in in hopes of minimizing the trauma that they experience. The narrator in this story might feel like herself one moment, and then feel forced to refer to herself as “she” the next because she doesn’t even identify with the body she’s in.
Another idea that entered my mind is the existence of another girl, as hinted at by the plural “girls” in the title. Perhaps the narrator’s story is being intertwined with that of another girl who has already chosen to end her life. In this reading, there is an eerie foreshadowing that follows the unidentified girl’s last day alive before committing suicide as we are also brought along on the narrator’s day, insinuating that is is also her last. Perhaps neither of these readings are correct and perhaps the truth is something else entirely. Rodriguez could very well be intending to leave it up to the best guess of each reader, allowing them to pick the version that best suits their interests. Either way, I think this is a fantastic piece that is a part of an even better collection that’s both truthful and entirely compelling.
Announcing issue 27 of The Blue Route, featuring undergraduate writers from Bellevue College, Berea College, Boston University, Cal Poly SLO University, Central Michigan University, Pittsburg State University, and University of Mississippi. Read it now at issuu.com. Thanks to all contributors for sharing your work.
It’s a grey Wednesday afternoon in Philadelphia, and the city is roaring at its rambunctious state of equilibrium. To most, its business as usual with mobbed crosswalks and blaring car horns operating around the clock, but in one relatively small section of a tremendously large city, thousands of writers are gearing for Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference (AWP), one of the biggest events in the industry.
I am one of those writers and for all the commotion that was about to ensue, the conference attendees felt oddly quiet. Maybe it’s because as writers, our voices ring loudest on the page, but there was a calmness that afternoon, and it really continued throughout the length of the conference.
This was my thought process as I arrived and prepared for my first in-person AWP conference. The event was massive and packed an incredible amount of activity within the Philadelphia Convention Center. It was almost overwhelming trying to take in the plethora of events continuously running throughout the day, on top of the largest book fair I have ever seen and off-site readings.
I did my best to prepare in advance for the event, and I planned which panelists and topics I was dead-set on attending, along with major publications I needed to see at the book-fair. I would recommend that anyone thinking of attending to do the same because there is just so much to explore. While it is difficult to pick just one favorite from the conference, I would have to say I enjoyed Toi Derricotte’s keynote presentation the best. Not only is the keynote speaker an event where the entire Widener group attends together, but it was such a joyous and inspiring night. Toi Derricotte is truly one of a kind.
Despite being limited by the hours in the day, it was nice hearing from fellow Widener students and faculty about events they attended; everyone did their own thing, so it was great to hear what went on in events that I may have wanted to attend but didn’t get the time.
Here are some reflections from a couple creative writing students on their time at the conference.
“I visited the bookfair almost every day that I was there. At first. I walked back and forth without much of a plan, but I ultimately began talking to people at the tables. I thought it would be awkward, or the people would be overly eager to get me to sign up/pay for things, but it was actually a very enjoyable experience. I got to talk to people and learn about various presses and literary magazines. I also bought several books that I would not have known about otherwise. Some were even signed by the author. I will admit that I sometimes felt obligated to buy a book if the author was there and promoting it, which is an odd feeling that I had never really considered beforehand.”
“The first in person session I attended was a Brevity journal reading by four authors who have had their nonfiction published there in the past. I think this might have been my favorite session of the entire conference because the pieces were incredibly moving and vastly different though they were all a part of the same genre. It gave me reassurance that nonfiction involving trauma does not automatically mean it is boring or cannot generate an audience, nor does every nonfiction piece sound the same. One of the panelists, Ira Sukrungruang, had been a visiting writer at Widener in the past and I was already a fan of his work going into AWP this year, so it was especially exciting to both see him and hear his work read. Interestingly, one of the panelists had studied under another, so that was quite inspiring to see a student and teacher succeeding side by side. Looking back at the notes I took during this session; I realize I wrote that nonfiction does not have to be limited to traumatic or otherwise negative events; nonfiction pieces can be about anything true such as vandalism of library books or reading someone else’s letter to a lover.”
Everyone in our group came away with something different from their time at the conference. Despite us all being there and experiencing the event together, everyone left with their own unique story to tell.
It is a common misconception that because poetry is smaller in scale compared to a novel or series of essays, it is less grandiose in its vision or aspiration. As a poet, this is not only disheartening, but entirely untrue. Instead of debating the futility of this argument to a poetry skeptic, I would simply point them toward Jane Wong’s How To Not Be Afraid of Everything. Whatever expectations you have regarding poetry, throw them out the window. If someone has never read a poetry collection, I would absolutely recommend Wong’s collection as a gateway. Having no prior experience with Jane Wong, I had no expectations or reference bar for the work. I was going in with a completely blank slate and that lack of judgement profoundly heightened the experience.
The deeper I go into the poetry weeds; I find myself most attracted to poetry that oozes confidence and control. A confident poet can take the reader wherever they want them to go, however dark, chaotic, or messy it may be. No other poet has had the confidence to start a collection with a Mad-Lib. The first piece, “Mad” threw me so off guard that I had to prepare myself for the task of filling in the missing gaps. That choice to demand so much from the reader, right out the gate, is bold and alluring. If a reader did have expectations, they were dismantled immediately. What is even more captivating, is the fact that the poems feel complete, despite the blank spaces. Writing this, Wong was confident that the reader would subconsciously know the right answer. How to Not Be Afraid of Everything” is not only a brilliant poetry collection, but a social agreement with the author that we can be responsible and still live our truth.
Whenever I tell people I am an English and Creative Writing major, they ask if I’m going to be a teacher. While teaching is a wonderful profession, it is not right for me. Usually, the next option for people with such a degree is an author, which is also a wonderful choice. But what about all of the other great job opportunities? Some alternative routes include journalism and ghostwriting. Journalism, of course, is all about the production and distribution of or reports on the news, sports, celebrities, fashion, facts, and ideas. Ghostwriting is for people who are not ready to put their names out to the public. You write about any kind of topic you like and then sell it to any company that needs it.
But have you ever thought about travel blogging? Travel blogging involves going to all kinds of places and writing articles about your amazing adventures and experiences, and you don’t need someone to hire you for it! You can simply create your own website and travel to places you have always wanted to visit. Maybe you want to visit the Colosseum in Rome, or The Great Mosque of Cordoba in Spain. How this works is that you create your blog and use it as a resume. The more post you make the more people will see and review it. While you are working on your blog, you can work as a virtual assistant with other blogs to get experience. After you get into affiliate marketing and start placing your ads on websites, you can start selling your videos and even make videos about your adventures to generate income. If your blog ends up becoming successful, you can end up getting sponsored by brands and they could pay you to travel somewhere and blog about it. After you create a website and start writing and taking pictures of the sights you’ve seen, you can advertise your blog on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
Below are links to some travel blogs to see what yours could potentially look like:
Widener University continually goes above and beyond for its students, particularly when it comes to providing students with an inside-look at the professional world side of what they are studying. Every year, The English and Creative Writing Department brings in a visiting writer to speak in classrooms, engage in tutorials with students, and put on a public performance to a larger audience. The honorary guest and speaker this semester was Aimee Nezhukumatathil, who is an accomplished author, poet, and literary editor, with four poetry collections, one chapbook, and a creative nonfiction collection to her name. Her most recent nonfiction collection, World of Wonders, was Barnes and Nobles’ 2020 book of the year, a New York Time’s Best-seller, and listed as a must read of 2020 by NPR. Embedded within her works is an innate connection to nature and the environment, which is one reason Aimee’s works speak so much to me. Her work is both deeply personal and incredibly relatable, always feeling so grounded. This semester, I had the pleasure of reading World of Wonders as well as the poetry collection, Oceanic. While two different genres, I was inspired and amazed at Nezhukumatathil’s attention to the context and background that surrounded every subject and idea covered. As a poet myself, I was exposed to entirely new poetic modes and forms that I have attempted to experiment with in my own poetry, including the “review” and “self-portrait” models. The former acts as a play on “yelp-style” poetry, and the other involves writing from the persona of a specific location or natural object. Aside from her own writing, Aimee is the poetry editor for Sierra, a magazine under the Sierra Club, and is a professor of English and Creative Writing in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi. Apart from hearing Aimee speak and read her wonderful work aloud, I had the chance to participate in a one-on-one tutorial. I have met with a couple visiting writers in the past, but none of them were poets. I was so grateful that Aimee took the time out of her busy schedule to read and comment on my works, and I was beyond surprised to hear that she enjoyed my poems! It is such a validating feeling to have a writer applaud your work, especially if you are having trouble seeing the value in it. Aimee is such an inspiring and uplifting writer, and that attitude translates to her real-life persona. Whereas some writers will overly critique student work, Aimee was constructive while maintaining kindness and positivity. I cannot speak enough on how connected I feel with her work and how highly I view her as not only a writer, but an instructor.
When I was still living in Albania, I remember watching a TV program called “Follow Me,” a crash course on the English language, and I could not get past some idiomatic expressions. “Keep Off the Grass” was one. I translated it word by word, yet I could not understand how it was supposed to mean “Stay Off the Grass” when the meaning of the word “keep” is “to maintain.” This and other examples showed me that words placed within a sentence operate in groups, and when translated separately, may be taken out of context. The way we interpret the world beyond our language barriers depends on translation.
But imagine translating figurative language. While it may be challenging to translate scientific, historical, and cultural data, literary translation is particularly complicated considering the many layers of meaning and the purpose an individual word, phrase, or passage.
A faithful translation recreates the original’s atmosphere by rigorously rebuilding the essential meaning intended. It reflects on the connections within the passage as it does on allusions. Translators must consider cultural context and reflect on cultural, artistic, historical authorial references, considering the time the work is written, thus mirroring the original text in the intended context. When translating colloquial expressions, for example, consider how important it is to portray the region and the time a work reflects correctly, or use a word in the exact denotation, how it affects accuracy.
Learning another language widens one’s perspective and helps one to understand differences and similarities. That is an excellent place to begin. We agree computing is complex, and there is so much more to consider beyond basic syntax rules. As someone who reads and writes in more than one language, I’ve come to understand that translation is also about acknowledging the process of a work written in English from one whose first language may be another.
Furthermore, shared experiences are necessary to understand a text, and thus respectfully translating its meaning. There is no perfect translation, as it depends on each reader’s perspective and interpretation. Still, one closest to the original is one that recreates the same ideas, especially evoking the same emotions and provoking one’s thinking to ponder similar, if not the same, author’s aimed questions.
Experimenting with translation–engaging in the act of communicating with a different language and culture, even at a beginner’s level–is an enriching endeavor, one that will undoubtedly make you a more sensitive reader and writer.
Stories can be written in all kinds of ways. However, many people might think of longer pieces, like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter or Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight novels. But what about flash fiction?
Flash fiction, which has become especially popular in the last twenty years or so, is a genre of fiction writing consisting of very short stories that are no longer than 1000 words. In Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook, David Galef not only writes about the many different kinds of flash fiction, but he also provides examples by a wide variety of writers. Here are just a few examples of some types of flash fiction stories, and what Galef advises fellow writers to do when creating them:
Vignette: A short piece that uses imagery to describe a subject in greater detail. Galef suggests that writers “dramatize the writing, do more with fewer words, to go for evocative, concrete details, and to make your piece mean more than what it seems on the surface.”
Fable: A short narrative that exemplifies a moral or principle of human behavior. Galef mentions that fables should “emphasize simple character traits rather than complex psychology, a quick unfolding of events instead of a suspenseful tale.”
There are other kinds of flash fiction that only have one rule, and that’s the word count. Here are a few that Galef does not mention:
Drabble – A 100-word story
Hint Fiction – A 25-word (or less) story
Fiction Fragments – A one-sentence story
The shorter you go with your stories, the more difficult they become. Writers must carefully decide what details to keep and what to take out. It is a difficult, exciting challenge to see how few words you can use to tell an exciting story.
Most commonly, when someone learns that you are earning your degree in English, or have already earned your degree in English, they assume that you are either aiming to be the next James Patterson or a teacher. Sometimes this is actually the case, but not in every situation! If you are working towards an English degree, a degree in a similar field, or have already completed your degree, I would like to bring up the copywriting and copy editing fields for you to consider! If you are not already familiar with these careers, copywriters typically work closely with businesses or ad agencies to produce thoughtful and intriguing slogans, campaigns, and sometimes even emails to be sent out by the company. Copy editors can work with most any type of business, with their main focus being editing pre existing work to ensure that it is polished and ready to be consumed by a large scale audience. If either of these career fields pique your interest and you would like to browse open jobs in the aforementioned fields, consider opening the links listed below. Happy job hunting and best of luck!