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Widener Students Attend 2018 AWP Conference

On March 7, four Widener English majors and four faculty members–including five Blue Route members!– traveled to Tampa, Florida to attend the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Along with nearly 12,000 other writers, readers, editors, and publishers, we enjoyed three amazing days of panels, networking opportunities, enlightening readings and keynotes speeches, and of course, the sunshine! Read on for a few words from three senior English majors about their time in Tampa!

 

Emma Irving

This year’s conference was truly the ride of a lifetime and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend.
The ride of a lifetime literally began with a ride that felt like a lifetime—17 hours down the east coast as we escaped early from an impending winter storm! It was an exhausting way to begin our weekend but come the next morning, we were all ready to go for whatever the conference brought!
One of the best things I did at the conference  was visit the Traveling Stanzas exhibit. The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University received a grant to create a world of interactive exhibits in conversation with the immigrant and refugee community in Akron, Ohio. At the exhibit, you could add a line to their community poem, create your own poem from speeches from people like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Emma Gonzalez, and listen to immigrant and refugee community members talk about and read the poetry they created through Wick Center workshops. I was blown away by the scope of the work and the ways in which poetry had a direct effect for the better on the Akron community. Sometimes the scope of what authors and editors and publishers can really do in the world feels small to me, especially when we’re all packed in one convention center, the thousands of us all individually vying to put our name out there. This exhibit was enlightening as to how much good words can do.
That afternoon, we all went to the National Book Critics Circle reading with Jeffrey Eugenides, Lorrie Moore, and Dana Spiotta. I enjoyed getting to hear these big-name authors speak so candidly and joyfully about creating; Lorrie Moore in particular was strikingly funny and I was laughing out loud at some of her comments.

Jennifer Rohrbach

image1I really enjoyed this year’s AWP conference in Tampa, Florida. In addition to enjoying beautiful, warm weather, I met some amazing people, attended interesting panels, heard inspiring speakers, and spent some quality time with my Widener friends. My highlights of the trip were attending the Keynote by George Saunders, meeting Rita Dove, a handful of panels, and stopping by the Emerson College booths at the book fair.
Prior to attending AWP 2018, I had read a couple of George Saunders’ short stories, including “The Semplica-Girl Diaries,” which is one that I think about quite often. I also own his short story collection Tenth of December which I haven’t read but look forward to reading now. His writing style is unique, and I am often struck by his tendency to push against stereotypes of what makes “good literary writing.” By that I just mean that his writing is not overly flowy or ornamental—he usually gets to the point quickly and efficiently. The circumstances of his stories and characters are always unusual, twisting our reality and running into the genre of speculative fiction. Hearing him speak at the Keynote made me appreciate his writing even more, because he seems like a really funny, down-to-earth person.
Another highlight of the trip was meeting Rita Dove. I heard her speak at last year’s AWP in Washington, D.C. This year, she just happened to be at the Traveling Stanzas exhibit at the same time as me, and I had the opportunity to tell her how much I liked her poetry. It wasn’t a deep or lengthy conversation, but I got to speak to her in person, so it was still pretty cool!

Victoria Giansanteimage2.jpeg

Attending the AWP conference solidified my decision in continuing on to graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing. My experience was uniquely designed around my interests, and I was able to network with a variety of publications, graduate schools, and other like-minded individuals. My days were filled with panels, and the massive book fair filled with everything from small university presses to large commonly known publications. Spending time around people who have similar passions and have so much knowledge and wisdom to offer and pass down is an experience in and of itself that I would not trade for anything.
The AWP bookfair was a continuous event that was held every day of the conference. It was absolutely massive, and took the entire conference for us to get through the whole thing. This was the place where networking was the most important. I had the ability to talk to so many people, ranging everywhere from grad students to publishers. I even made my decision on which graduate school to attend by talking to the director of the MFA program at Rosemont, who was at their literary journal’s table. After speaking to her for quite a while, I left confident in my future decisions. Along my path up and down the isles of the book fair, I also met a woman who was the director of the International Women Writers Guild, who I had the pleasure of speaking with for some time. We discussed fiction writing, feminism, activism, and social justice, and I left that table with a free honorary membership to the guild, and a chance to visit a conference next fall. This book fair showed me the importance of networking and the value of relationships in the professional world, not to mention I left the bookfair with about 20 new books to add to my collection.

AWP was an experience I would recommend to anyone who loves writing, or literature in general. It’s an invaluable experience that I hope many more students after me get to continue to have.

Written by Emma Irving

Beyond “Frankenstein:” Mary Shelley’s Editorial Work

As the world celebrates the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein this year, Mary Shelley’s name will be constantly invoked as the mother of science fiction, the famed daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, and the tragic wife of the genius Romantic poet Percy Shelley—but there’s so much more to this woman than her creature and her relationships with others.
After Mary Shelley published Frankenstein at the age of 20, she went on to write other major works such as Mathilda and The Last Man, but the thing I find most interesting about Mary Shelley’s later career is her creative editing of her husband’s work after his death.
Less than three months after Percy’s death, Mary writes in her journal: “Beneath all this [grief], my imagination even flags. Literary labours, the improvement of my mind, & the enlargement of my ideas are the only occupations that elevate me from my lethargy” (Mary Shelley Journals 431). Thus, she set out to create a collection of Percy’s Posthumous Poems.
To do this, Mary faced the challenges of working as a single mother in the mid-19th century, gaining access to her very name from Percy Shelley’s vindictive father, and collecting manuscript documents scattered across an entire continent. This process of piecing together the best text version of a work through numerous drafts and contexts constitutes this project as a work of authorship as well as editorship, and in publishing his Posthumous Poems in 1824, she reformed our very idea who an “author” is. The Romantic period idea of an author was heavily influenced by “the author on the model of Wordsworth’s poet-prototype, the shepherd,” a lone creator working through his imaginative processes apart from the distractions of society (Hofkosh 247). What Mary did rejects that image completely.
I emphasize that gendered pronoun because there was a definite gender distinction between “authors” and “female authors” at this point in time. Furthermore, Mary did not co-write Percy’s poems per se, but working as his editor, piecing together his work to produce her best texts with accompanying introductory and textual notes, she became an author through her editorial work.
By broadening the definition of authorship beyond the lone male artist to include transcribers, editors, publishers, etc., we inevitably let women into positions of textual authority that they have not historically been allowed to occupy. The more we credit female editors as we credit female writers, the more cultural power they’ll gain—past and present—in forming not only a canon, but a more empathetic society (48).
So thank you Mary Shelley, and congratulations on 200 years of Frankenstein!

By Emma Irving

Works Cited:
Hofkosh, Sonia. “A Woman’s Profession: Sexual Difference and the Romance of Authorship.” Studies in Romanticism 32.2 (1993): 245-72. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. The Journals of Mary Shelley: 1814-1844. Ed. Paula R. Feldman and Diane Scott-Kilvert. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. Print.
Wolfson, Susan J. “Editorial Privilege: Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley’s Audiences.” The Other Mary Shelley: Beyond Frankenstein. Ed. Audrey A. Fisch, Anne K. Mellor, and Esther H. Schor. New York: Oxford UP, 1993. 39-72. Print.

 

What We’re Reading: Chris Ware’s “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth”

The graphic narrative Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware, is a provocative and poignant commentary on the fallacies of the American dream and the failure of America as a collective consciousness.  This story is not heavily plot centric, but is a microcosm of the American reality and the historical implications that are fused into our present. It critiques ideological and moral complacency and neutrality and their contributions to the circularity of the past, present, and future. However, the book still is an introspective exploration into Jimmy Corrigan’s life, as readers are given as small entry into his origin story, as he reunites with his father, and then loses him. Ware’s meticulous decision to design a narrative that is independent of plot, suggests a lack of resolution within Jimmy and the general American narrative.

Originally serialized in the Chicago weekly newspaper Newcity and in Ware’s comic book Acme Novelty Library, Jimmy Corrigan received the American Book Award and the Guardian Prize in 2001 before being rereleased by Pantheon Graphic Novels in 2003.

You can purchase Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth on Amazon.

Image courtesy of Amazon. Cover illustrated by Chris Ware.

 

by Jasmine Kouyate

Author Carmen Maria Machado engages audience at short story reading in Philadelphia

On Friday Feb. 9, author Carmen Maria Machado gave a reading at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia. The second floor of the store was packed with other writers, admirers of her work, and even people who had never read her work, but had heard amazing things about it, such as myself. She read from her debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, which was published last year and has already gained many awards including the Bard Fiction Prize, the John Leonard Prize, and the Crawford Award. The collection was also a finalist for National Book Award, among others.GOOD20180209_192756(0)

At the front of the room, Machado announced that she’d be reading an excerpt from the story “Inventory.” Having never read her work, I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly did not expect to hear a series of detailed sexual encounters amidst the backdrop of a national pandemic. But I was not disappointed. Machado has perfected the act of de-familiarizing her readers while keeping them wholly engaged. The first story in the collection, “The Husband Stitch,” humanizes and modernizes an old folk tale. “Especially Heinous,” the longest story in the collection, is, as she put it, basically a fanfiction of “Law and Order: SVU.”

What I love most about this book is that it uses various styles to explore themes that are sometimes overlooked in literature, such as the intimate moments of women’s lives, their bodies and the violence enacted upon them, and the queer experience.

After listening to Machado read from her collection, I understand why she is a rising star in the literary world. Do yourself a favor and pick up Her Body and Other Parties, or at least check out her website where you can read some of her many published pieces of fiction, essays, and interviews.

by Jennifer Rohrbach

“Business Insider” Examines Health Benefits of Reading

I recently read an article published on Business Insider, by contributor Brenden Brown, that provides a list of explanations for why reading is very beneficial for a person’s health. Research now shows that reading improves both memory and empathy as well as simply making us feel better and more positive all around. Science has also proven that reading has a wide variety of health benefits, from minimizing stress levels to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s later in life.

In an infographic originally published by The Expert Editor, the benefits Brown mentions are further elaborated. For example, reading strengthens the brain, because you have to remember quite a lot of information while reading a book. Every point throughout the story is a new memory for your brain and the existing memories become strengthen as the story builds. According to Brown, therefore, “short-term memory and recall capabilities are constantly being improved.” For a child’s brain in particular, reading is especially beneficial. According to the infographic, children who read are better able to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgement.

As an avid reader myself, I found this article particularly interesting. I had a very basic understanding of why reading has its benefits but had never really delved into the scientific aspect of it all. It is easy to get caught up in the whir of advancing technology and the busyness of everyday life, so it’s comforting to hear that the simplicity of taking time to sit down and read can be a key to improving one’s health.

To read the full article, click here.

by Emily Garofalo

What We’re Reading: C.E. Poverman’s “Cutter”

As a freshman criminal justice major, I chose creative writing as my elective requirement for my love of writing and short stories. We’re currently reading a couple short stories a week by various authors from the book Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers edited by Joyce Carol Oates. One day, I finished my reading for the class and came across a short story called “Cutter” by C.E. Poverman. This story wasn’t assigned, but when I read the first paragraph, I was hooked.

The first sentence introduces readers to a man named Jorge who receives a regular phone call. This person calls Jorge every time he supposedly commits a rape. My criminal justice mind automatically wanted to know everything. Who was this man that’s calling? Had he raped someone? Why was he calling Jorge? Why is Jorge important to the storyline? Why did this man want someone to know he had raped someone?

Throughout the eighteen-page story, all of my questions were answered. Jorge works at a suicide hotline; the person on the other end of the call is a mentally ill man named Buddy. Jorge and a co-worker had been working on catching this supposed rapist for months. They had also been working on answering the question, “why would he be telling someone he was committing rape?” Somehow, the story always goes back to Buddy and the mystery of whether what he was saying was a hoax or not.

Jorge talks to several other callers throughout the story. He fixates on people who self-harm by cutting their arms with razors. We get a sense of the pressure Jorge feels as someone volunteering for a suicide hotline. He connects with the clients he speaks to over the phone without even knowing their names, and as they connect with him, they start to rely on him. It’s interesting to see this side of suicide. With most stories about depression and suicide, we read about the person going through it directly. Getting the point of view from someone who is helping others on a daily basis, makes for a whole new story.

Anyone interested in CSI or even the old Nancy Drew books would thoroughly enjoy this intense story. It’s not too long and the whole storyline is a hook. Other short stories in this book are also definitely worth looking into, each telling a unique story about a unique character. I always finish reading them with a new point of view in mind.

If you are interested in C.E. Poverman, check out his collection of short stories Skin, featuring “Cutter.”

If you’d like to check out the rest of the stories compiled in Joyce Carol Oates collection, click here.

by Sarah Hedley

 

Our Submission Period Is Open!

From January 1 to March 1, 2018, The Blue Route will be reading submissions for Issue #20! If you are a current undergraduate student, you are eligible to submit prose (1-3 pieces of fiction or creative nonfiction totaling no more than 3000 words) or poetry (up to 3 poems).

We want good, highly imaginative writing about contemporary life as you see it!

We do not accept previously published work, but we do accept simultaneous submissions. However, please notify us immediately if your work is accepted elsewhereOur response time is about three months.

For more information, check out our submission guidelines.

If you’d like some general advice on submitting work, click here!