Author Archives: cmbowers2

Interview with Widener University’s Visiting Writer Sherrie Flick!

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This semester the English and Creative Writing department of Widener University got the opportunity to meet flash fiction writer Sherrie Flick. Editor of the Blue Route Stefan Cozza had the chance to interview her about her craft and works from one of her flash fiction collections~ Ciana Bowers

Interview with Sherrie Flick conducted by Stefan Cozza:

1.) For many, flash fiction is an intimidating genre to tackle. You have many in “Thank your Lucky Stars,” but there are also non-flash pieces of short fiction. What is the process going into writing a piece like “Open and Shut,” versus “Home,” and “Trees.” I am personally fascinated with how much can be said with as few words as possible. I love your narrative heavy pieces, but in a way, your short pieces evoke this mood and tone that I cannot shake. How do you differentiate whether a particular spot in the collection is better suited for a story with a clearer trajectory like “Lenny the Suit Man” versus a “7:23 p.m?”

a. “Open and Shut took years to draft, and it goes all the way back to 1997. It was consistently worked on, complicated, and layered with different characters. These stories drafted through exercises, constraints to write in small spaces be evocative with space and image. A lot of these micro pieces are crafted like a still life and they usually require less revision.

2.) This is very much in a similar vein to my previous question, but I find it relevant and intriguing, nonetheless. You have a few composite flashes in this collection, my personal favorite being “Garden Inside.” What makes a narrative suitable for this experimental form? How do you choose which specific scenes to depict that will add to the overall tone and trajectory?

a. Each section is its own contained story. You get a story putting them together, but each piece has the power to stand alone. They were originally written as part of a collaborative exhibition with the photographer Sue Abramson and displayed as text panels on the gallery walls. They were written with a slightly different purpose than flash fiction. My end goal is not always to connect the pieces. For “Garden Inside,”

I was heavily motivated by Abramson’s visual art and was challenged to put words to photographs.

b. Also, there was a revelation that came with learning about chapter breaks while writing my novel and the possibilities they offer. One minute you’re in one place and you turn the page, and the next you’re somewhere completely different. Transitional phrases are not as necessary in composite flashes. I treat the section breaks as punctuation.

Conflict, conflict, and more conflict

By Ciana Bowers

I’ve written about the writers helping writers series before, Their collection of thesaurus help fiction writers and screenwriters Show not tell and help create rich stories and characters. Last month on October 12th their new thesaurus came out, The conflict thesaurus, any conflict you can think of is sure in this book, and if it’s not don’t worry volume two comes out next year in 2022. I enjoy having this book as it gives me many conflicts to choose from when going to write a quick story. This book not only gives you conflicts but possible outcomes, character emotions, and ways to develop characters through this conflict. I recommend this book as it also gives you several tips, tricks, and advice on conflict and worksheets to help with your stories.

Celebrating 200 Years of Widener

By Stefan Cozza

This past weekend, the English and Creative Writing Department held their homecoming open mic, along with manning a tent at the homecoming tailgate. From 11-2 on Saturday, faculty from the English and Creative Writing departments, along with a few students, promoted the program through the use of interactive writing prompts. Alumni and community members sat down for a few minutes, picked a notecard with a particular prompt, and wrote whatever came to their heads. Later that evening, the department held their usual homecoming open mic. Since the pandemic, the open mics have been virtual, but that hasn’t stopped them from being engaging and fun events. To start the event, everyone was given a few writing prompts, similar to the ones earlier in the day, and allowed a few minutes to generate some writing. Some participants even read what they came up with. Students, along with alumni read some of their work, whether it be poetry or short fiction and got enthusiastic feedback from the audience. The event lasted well over an hour and the energy carried throughout. Despite being virtual, the success of another open mic in this format just proves the communal power of writing.

An Evening of Early Autumn Laughs, Whistles, Cheers 

By Shpresa Ymeraj

I immersed into the light afternoon traffic Sunday, September 19th, ready to be absorbed by the serene woods of Widener’s Taylor Arboretum, where Lovers and Madmen: the adaptation of Shakespeare’s Visions of a Midsummer Night’s Dream played; A production of Widener’s Lone Brick Theatre & Forgotten Lore Theatre, as part of 2021 Philly Fringe Festival. Once there, an “air spirit” led me to the scene. The sun beaming through the opening trees spot-lit Theseus, the Duke of Athens. Possessing his future bride from under her arms and knees, he upheld her, spinning for the round spectator view.

The young lovers chased and danced with one another, coming and going through the narrow paths between the woods. Swiftly I am pulled in to scene by the play producer and director himself, Peter Quince, filling in for Snug, the lion. Surprised, I may have tried to roar. The audience led by Fairies into different scenes, thus experiencing separate ongoing parts of the play, moving through the enchanted woods, often burst into laughs when the “ghostly” presence of Hermia running after Lysander and Helena after Demetrius and Demetrius after Hermia cut through the scenes with beaming screams: “Demetriuuuus!”, “Lysandeeeer!”,”Helenaaaa!”.   

While woodland, Victorian, and contemporary costumes composed a lovely theme, the play within the play Peter Quince led followed a similar pattern. For example, between script and under-toned “out of script” remarks, about Theseus, in the closing scene directed to the audience: “What is wrong with this guy?” Quince’s character brought the contemporary spectator in, sparking a comedic blast throughout the play.  

Nick Bottom steals the show ending with his passion-full interpretation and the tragically funny self-inflicted death, as Theseus dressed in a dark business suit *lols the play, within the play. The spectators love it! They laugh and whistle, filling the air with cheers. Fully immersed in the new Midsummer Night’s world, I applaud the amazing actors and producers of this memorable play, compete with colorful vibrations the leaves changing over a well-hidden water stream where perhaps Shakespeare’s spirit currents through Tayler Arboretum. 

Amplify your Voice

By Stefan Cozza

It’s always puzzling when looking back on how much time has passed, and this fall semester seems to be travelling at a lightning faced pace. With it, The Blue Route’s deadline for our Fall issue is rapidly approaching. We are still accepting submissions up until next Friday, so if you have not yet had a chance to share your creative work, consider choosing The Blue Route. Whether you are a first-time submitter, or are seasoned with the process, putting your work out there is not only a confidence booster, but an indicator of your progress over time. Everyone has the ability to produce magic on the page, and that magic has the potential to be appreciated and displayed to the greater literary community!

Challenging Yourself and Deviating from the Norm

By Stefan Cozza

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As creative writers and poets, our craft is constantly evolving and adapting to our development as scholars. Part of this is consistent practice and experimentation with new forms to challenge ourselves. With poetry, it can be all too easy to fall back on whatever mode the poet is most comfortable with, and while having a cushion to fall back on is convenient, it is not always effective. For my advanced poetry course, the class was assigned to read Natalie Diaz’s poetry book When my Brother was an Aztec, a beautifully intricate collection that really pushes the boundaries of narrative and lyrical poetry. Diaz experiments with a multitude of poetic modes, but one that really ignited a passion within me was “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation.” Don’t be dissuaded by the long title, the poem is utterly provocative and engaging. For those uninitiated, an abecedarian is a poetic form that utilizes every letter of the alphabet; the first letter of each line is to correspond with a respective letter. Additionally, the poem should incorporate an element that could be considered “otherworldly,” while still adhering to a casual diction. Diaz’s abecedarian uses the imagery of angels as her supernatural element, but her language is quite straightforward and the scenes she portrays are still easily identifiable and grounded in reality. Diaz perfectly balances the obscure and familiar and coats her language in a way that is still creatively stylized. The beauty of Diaz’s writing is aso effectively juxtaposed by the brutally honest subject material, much of which speaks on societal injustice. Any poet looking for an evocative writer who will bring out the best in their own efforts, look no further than Diaz and her collection, and consider creating your own version of an abecedarian. The end result of writing with constrained parameter may pleasantly surprise you!

Link to Diaz’s Collection: https://www.coppercanyonpress.org/books/when-my-brother-was-an-aztec-by-natalie-diaz/

Link to Abecedarian: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56353/abecedarian-requiring-further-examination-of-anglikan-seraphym-subjugation-of-a-wild-indian-rezervation

Ten Websites to Help with Writers Block

By Christina Giska

With the creation of the internet, it became easier than ever to find information and resources. Sometimes the hardest part of having so much information is that you aren’t sure where to start. There are so many websites geared towards writers that it’s easy for some to get lost in the cracks. Here are ten websites that I’ve personally found helpful!

1. Fighters block: https://cerey.github.io/fighters-block/

a. Fighter’s Block is a fun website that helps writers focus on writing rather than worrying over a specific word or the complete accuracy of their first draft. You get to choose an avatar and set the word count you want to reach; pressing Fight! leads to a new screen. Two bars fight against time, and every word you write helps the avatar keep HP and the monster lose HP. You can pause the game and set the monster’s speed and attack to be higher or lower as needed. It’s truly a customizable experience that can work for anyone!

2. 750 words https://750words.com/

a. 750words is a website meant to encourage writers to write every day. It shows various statistics for anyone who joins, and the whole website is free! Their goal is to get people to write three pages every day, no matter the quality. They set each page equal to 250 words, hence the 750 word goal.

3. 4 the words: https://4thewords.com/

a. This is a writing adventure game! Complete quests and gain access to different areas of the map by writing.

4. https://www.creativity-portal.com/prompts/imagination.prompt.html

a. This website gives you various different prompts for you to respond to! A good warm up website, or a place to just start writing more often.

5. Thesaurus: https://www.thesaurus.com/

a. Thesauruses are a necessary tool for any writer, and this website is a great example. It organizes the words by length, relevance, and you can click on the new word to make sure you aren’t accidentally changing the meaning of your sentence. Check it out!

6. One word: https://www.oneword.com/home/

a. This website gives you one word and a minute to write about it. It’s a good warm up for any writer and is an easy exercise to get over writer’s block.

7. http://cliche.theinfo.org/

a. Copy and paste part of your story and it’ll highlight parts that use more cliched phrases. Cliches can be useful, but too many can be a drag. Whether intentional or not, it’s always better to be aware of clichés that creep into your writing!

8. http://www.writewords.org.uk/word_count.asp

a. This website will count how often you use specific words. Not only is knowing which words you repeat a good habit to get into to avoid being repetitive, but it’s also cool to see your writing style laid out with statistics!

9. http://www.writewords.org.uk/phrase_count.asp

a. This is exactly like the last website, but it counts specific phrases instead of words.

10. tip of my tongue: https://chir.ag/projects/tip-of-my-tongue/ and https://www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml

a. Have you ever completely forgotten the perfect word for the sentence you’re writing, and no matter how many times you try to describe it in google, the word eludes your grasp? Well, that’s where this website comes in! Tip of my Tongue is a website where you can describe a word by its lengths, letter, or actual definition, and it’ll give you various words that meet the criteria. If that doesn’t work, Onelook, the second link, does a similar task, so feel free to check them out as well

2 Cool Writing Pages to Follow on Instagram 

The Blue Route’s blog manager Ciana Bowers shares two helpful Instagrams for creative writers to follow.

@SethWrites 

SethWrites is an Instagram that makes post that help short story writers and novelists. Some of his posts include advice on how to write bilingual/multilingual characters and showcase character relationship dynamics. He even addresses writing rumors within the writing community. SethWrites also publishes tips on how to edit short stories and novels to make the process easier and quicker before sending your work off for publication. 

@writers.write.company 

This Instagram (writers.write.company) posts writing advice for all types of writers, including poets, short story writers, and nonfiction writers. They also post memes to lighten the hearts of writers who may be struggling with their writing process. They also post resources for other writers to check out. 

Have some favorite writing-themed Instagram accounts to recommend? Share in the comments!

Expanding Literary Narrative: A Response to Bernardine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other”

By Stefan Cozza

As avid readers, we are always looking to find the next piece of literature that will challenge and force us to put our reality and privilege into perspective. Published in 2019, and winner of the that year’s Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other, will surely satisfy your itch for that next gripping novel. I am having the privilege of reading Evaristo’s mesmerizing work for my contemporary British Literature course, which highlight’s people of color’s experience living in and around England. Evaristo provides the reader with a unique insight into the lives of 12 complex and fascinating characters, all of which are women of color, and many of which do not fall into the traditional gender binary spectrum. Evaristo not only presents narratives that push back against traditional ideals about femininity, gender, and race, but she does so while acknowledging the historical, political, and social factors that create the reality of many of her characters. Each character in Evaristo’s novel gets their own section, in which the author jumps around various points in that individual’s life. Her narrative is not linear, but it never feels jumbled or confusing. I feel like I am going into the mind of each and every one of these 12 individuals: Evaristo picks the events that define her characters and we as readers are meant to find the commonality amongst them.

Evaristo steers away from traditional prose, opting for a more poetic, free-flowing narrative that rarely utilizes punctuation. This creates a “stream-of-consciousness-like” feel to the story, making it feel as if the reader is truly inside these characters’ heads, getting their first-hand,

authentic reactions. Evaristo does not write in complete sentences, rather she uses fragmented clauses and stand-alone phrases that function similarly to stanzas. These stylistic choices not only reflect the intricacy of the human thought process but elevate Evaristo’s rich narrative beyond the level of greatness of simply being a good novel. I would recommend Girl, Woman, Other to any fiction fan unsure of their next read because they will come out of it so happy they picked it up. Evaristo’s work is interwoven with narratives that you can easily lose yourself in for hours, and I found myself entranced by the way Evaristo seamlessly transitions from character to character without losing momentum, all while opening my eyes to a diverse range of characters.

How the Pandemic Has Changed the Way We Read

Coronavirus pandemic could have caused 40 million deaths if left unchecked  | Imperial News | Imperial College London

By Matthew Lomas

2020 has come and gone, but we continue to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. It has not been easy, as we have each had to radically change the way we live. I have found myself more glued to my computer and phone in order to maintain contact with friends and find entertainment. Scrolling through social media over the last year, I began to notice an increasing number of people posting about the last thing that I would expect my generation to ever post about: books. Specifically, they were sharing thoughts on the books, as well as goals for how many they planned to read.

According to a poll done by Independent UK, “Respondents generally reported that they were reading more than usual. This was largely due to having more free time (due to being furloughed, or not having a commute, or the usual social obligations or leisure activities).” (Boucher). The Conversation provided similar findings about US readers, stating, “While many people are finding more time to read due to Covid-19, not everyone has access or money to buy new books. Some people also took to re-reading books because the stories were familiar. In a world where things are continually changing and fear fills our lives, it can be nice to find solace in the familiar. Re-reading a loved book helps the reader avoid any suspense or unwelcome surprises. The pandemic has certainly changed America’s reading habits, but it remains to be seen whether it will continue once the pandemic passes.” (Contributing). Such a result bodes well for published works, libraries, and people’s perception of books overall. For most of my life I have often heard that my generation could be the one that begins the end of the book industry. However, this pandemic (despite all the bad it has brought to the world) appears to be proving that books and other written forms of literature are just as important as ever.

I work at a library near my home, and we were forced to shut down our building during the beginning of the pandemic due to state laws. After three months, we began to reopen slowly to the public with limited services. While we are still limited in what we offer to the public, we have had an enormous amount of people from all over Delaware County come to visit us. I remember one day, I had a dozen customers come in within two hours asking to sign up for a library card. This has led to a boom in the number of items checked out, as well as the amount of library accounts that have been opened in the last year.

What I find most fascinating about this sudden change in the amount of reading is what people are putting in their hands. BookBub reports that “Others are looking for books to bring them comfort. “11 Feel-Good Books to Read Right Now” is one of the most popular recent articles on BookBub, and Barnes & Noble’s “Feel Good Fiction” list, which includes similar lighthearted, uplifting novels, is also trending, according to Flareau. Draft2Digital reported an unusual bump in romantic comedy sales, particularly compared to March-April 2019, and Google searches for topics like “uplifting books” and “happy books” have increased.” (Robertson)

The question that I have is simple: Will this trend continue beyond the pandemic? Free time is a major contributor to this wave of reading, but once our schedules go back to normal,

will people still be willing to pick up a book on a Sunday evening? Only time will tell. For now we will have to continue to cuddle up with good books and wait this virus out. Why not check out Ciana Bowers’ article on John Gardner’s classic The Art of Fiction?: https://widenerblueroute.org/2021/01/21/fictional-dream/

Independent UK article mentioned above (Reading between the lines: How our bookish habits have changed during the pandemic) https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reading-habits-changed-coronavirus-lockdown-b882662.html

AZBig Media Article mentioned above (How the pandemic has changed American reading habits) https://azbigmedia.com/lifestyle/how-the-pandemic-has-changed-american-reading-habits/

BookBub Article mentioned above (How Reader Behavior Is Changing During the COVID-19 Crisis) https://insights.bookbub.com/reader-behavior-changing-covid19-crisis/