Tag Archives: Creative writing

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!

Stephanie Powell Watts Offers Insight On Her Writing Process During Visit To Widener University

Author Stephanie Powell Watts visited Widener Nov. 14 and 15 as a part of the English and Creative Writing department’s Distinguished Writers Series.

Watts published her debut novel, No One Is Coming to Save Us, with Ecco in April 2017. Described as “an arresting and powerful novel about an extended African American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream,” No One Is Coming to Save Us has been named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly, W Magazine, Nylon, Elle, Redbook, and The Chicago Review of Books.

In 2011, Watts published a collection of shorts stories called We Are Only Taking What DSC02952We Need. While the reflective quality of the short story is something Watts is comfortable with, the final story in this collection is what inspired her to begin No One Is Coming to Save Us.

On campus, Watts spent time speaking in creative writing and English classes about her books, her writing process, and answering student’s questions. She also individually met with several students in the Long-Form Fiction course for tutorials.

“It’s always encouraging to hear from visiting writers about their process, struggles and breakthroughs,” Jennifer Rohrbach, a senior creative writing and English double major, says. “She gave me great advice about how to round out my characters and ways to develop my overall story.”

Watts concluded her visit with a public reading from No One Is Coming to Save Us, which she began by giving a brief overview of how she’s gotten to where she is as a writer. The visit offered students a great deal of writing advice, one of the anecdotes Watts shared, sparking inspiration in Haley Poluchuck, a senior creative writing and English double major.

Poluchuck says, “One thing that stood out to me was a story about Watts and her siblings when they were young, rushing to clean the house before their father came home. Her argument was that you could get a lot done in ten minutes if you really want to, so we have no excuses not to write. Lately, I’ve been inspired to dedicate at least ten minutes to projects I would have otherwise put off.”

During her visit, Watts was also able to sit down with me for a brief interview, a portion of which appears below:

No One Is Coming to Save Us is your debut novel and We Are Only Taking What We Need is a collection of short stories. What challenges did you face in the transition from the short story form to the novel form?
I think they’re very different genres. It’s not like you just lengthen a short story, it’s not that kind of process, so I found it very challenging. No words are lost in a short story. A novel takes you on tangents. You’re allowed more space, literally and psychologically, to develop characters in different ways. It was a real learning curve for me. I found myself resorting to chapters that resembled or felt like short stories. I tried to open them up, so there is at least something you can hook onto for the rest of the story and also to deepen the psyches of the characters.

Do you find that you write your stories chronologically with a plan of attack?
I’ve tried planning, but I don’t find it very helpful. I find that I resist the plan, but I do sometimes have images. If you do have images or sources of signposts in your story, I would encourage you to write them down, because it helps you figure out some trajectory. You may realize you don’t need it, but first worry about getting the story down. With a short story in my collection, I knew there was going to be a scene in a vineyard, I knew there would be bees buzzing all around. Your senses are overloaded because the grapes are kind of rotting and the bees are really intense, flying around your head. I just wrote it down, wrote everything I could think of, so at some point I knew this scene was going to happen.

In an interview with Karen I. Johnson, you say, “Either you will be a writer and try to present the world in all its flawed complexity or you will stop writing anything more substantive than holiday cards or snazzy e-mails.” What do you feel this means in terms of your own writing and literature in general? What is the importance of this writing or the boundaries it can create?
Especially for women writers, writers of color, people that come from a marginalized community, or immigrants there might be an expectation that your writing is going to be directly about social justice issues and that that is the intention of your writing. I think that’s remarkable and important and that writing should exist, but I think writing, above all, is a social justice. It’s you saying this world and these people have a right to a voice, have a right to exist. Doing that is a movement towards social justice. Just by asserting the legitimacy of the existence of the people that you are representing, you are having a social justice moment. You can’t try to chase a trend. You have to write what it is that you write.

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Widener University Attends 2017 FUSE Conference on Representation and Resistance

Cabrini University hosted the fifth annual Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) conference at the beginning of November 2017. FUSE is a national organization that provides a network for undergraduate student editors and writers and their faculty advisers. The three-day conference brought together about 60 students from 13 universities for a series of writing and editing workshops and panels centered around the theme of representation and resistance.

The conference aimed to display the importance of understanding “the capacity of literary arts to evoke social change, depict the experiences of underrepresented populations, and protest injustices.” Each workshop was dedicated to speaking out, finding your voice, and telling one’s story, whether it be through Susquehanna University’s “Feminist Short-Shorts” or SUNY Geneseo’s “Defining Your America.”

Poet and activist Martín Espada kicked off the conference with a captivating reading of his poems, which “explore the immigrant and working class experience.” He read passionate poems from his published works as well as moving poetry in response to today’s political climate. Espada also hosted a workshop on satirical poetry where he read examples from Marge Piercy, Ernesto Cardenal, Jack Agüeros, and John Millington Synge before encouraging students to write and present their own satirical poetry from what they learned.20171103_201203

Widener University was represented by Nicole Gray, Jasmine Kouyate, Haley Poluchuck, Jennifer Rohrbach, Carlie Sisco, and Kira Smith, along with their professors. Below are reviews from Widener representatives regarding the 2017 conference:

Jennifer Rohrbach
Carlie Sisco, Nicole Gray and I presented an hour-long workshop session titled “Using Documentary Theater to Craft Monologues of Resistance.” During the workshop, we worked with student editors from other schools to write monologues that addressed the issue of polarization in our society. We used examples from Anna Deavere Smith’s 1994 book, Twilight, Los Angeles, 1992, to help students shape their own monologues. Smith’s book contains monologues from people involved with and impacted by the 1992 Los Angeles uprising in protest of the police brutality of Rodney King. 2017 marks twenty-five years since the uprising occurred, so we really wanted the monologues created during our workshop to do justice to Smith’s work and the legacy of the event. It was a little nerve-wracking to present in front of a whole seminar room of my peers, but they were extremely receptive to our vision for the workshop. It was especially rewarding to hear how the mode of monologue-writing pushed people out of their comfort zones and made them think about language–and the impact of 20171103_135311it–in a different way.

Carlie Sisco
The most inspiring aspect of this conference was being able to hear the incredible writing of my fellow peers at the open mics. We are a very tight-knit team at Widener and we’ve gotten to know each other not only as people, but also as writers. It was amazing to hear from the talented students at other universities and colleges who are brave enough to read personal or vulnerable pieces of work to a room filled with strangers that share the same passion. This conference allowed for so many opportunities to generate pieces as well as reading them. Between those who shared during Martín Espada’s workshop and those who read during the two-hour open mic, I’ve become so impressed and inspired by those around me. It’s a true testament to why we do what we do. As writers, we aim to inspire, move others, express a given voice, and potentially make a difference with the stories we tell. Listening to the students I’ve gotten to meet and work with over the course of three days, it’s easy to tell that we’re on that path. I’ve never felt such a part of such a talented community.

Nicole Gray
After attending Martín Espada’s workshop and enjoying how people got very into the performance element of their writing, I felt it was a must to attend the performance poetry workshop. I was glad I did. Susquehanna University held a session titled “Using Performance Poetry to Reclaim Identity” in which students were asked to explore their identity, what brought them to this place in their lives, and what sense 20171103_134045of self does to propel them in today’s society. The students running it had history in acting and were able to provide suggestions about voice and body language. They also shared information about a slam poetry club they were involved in at their own school. It was cool to hear that performance poetry is becoming more appreciated as literature in itself, since it certainly has qualities that cannot be expressed through pen and paper.

Jasmine Kouyate
During the FUSE conference, a few Widener students participated in the workshop shop hosted by fellow University of California Los Angeles students, titled “Finding Your Voice.” The prompt given at the workshop was to write about a time that you feel you should have spoken up when feeling marginalized or when your voice was undermined. We were given fifteen minutes to write about this moment in time and then an additional ten minutes to write about how the conversation would have gone had you spoken up. In this moment, I was forced to step into the consciousness of the individual whom I disagreed with and conceptualize realistic dialogue for this hypothetical situation. While I did not necessarily come to any resolution with that person, I found that exercise to be cathartic, daunting, and comforting. It was comforting to know that I had internally confronted the individual and myself, knowing that I will be prepared in the future for confronting ignorance and bigotry.

Haley Poluchuck
FUSE was interesting. I liked being surrounded by writers and getting to know people from different schools who shared my majors. Martín Espada, our guest reader, had great pieces with awesome backstories and meaning. He was very animated and was entertaining to watch. I also enjoyed hearing pieces written by the other students, read during the open mic. I learned some interesting things during the different panels as well. The first talked about writing monologues, which is a style I hadn’t written in before. It’s a great way to exercise dialogue-writing skills. Another panel I went to talked about editorial policy, which I was interested in because I want to be an editor. We discussed how to choose what should and shouldn’t be accepted in a journal. Being Widener Ink’s past editor-in-chief, it was interesting to hear from other students who ran literary journals and to hear what they did differently. Overall, the conference was a great way to meet people with similar skills and goals as me, and it was a great learning opportunity.

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Dr. Kenneth Pobo’s Loplop in a Red City Engages Audience at Widener University

For those who have an appreciation for the arts, it can often be hard to choose just one form, let alone one single work of art to showcase. The world of artist expression is vast and constantly changing. Fortunately, we do not have to choose. We can praise all art and even weave it together as our own, which Widener professor, Dr. Kenneth Pobo demonstrates in his newest book, Loplop in a Red City.

Released on May 15, Loplop in a Red City is a collection of ekphrastic poetry inspired by artworks old and new, figurative to abstract, Vincent Van Gogh to Leonora Carrington to Max Ernst. The poems are agonized and idyllic, uneasily at home in the surreal, animated, beautiful, and complex.

A large group of students, fellow faculty, and more gathered in the Widener University Art Gallery on October 5 to hear Pobo read from this book of ekphrastic poetry. Anybody who has ever heard Pobo read poetry before can agree there was a draw to be in that room and share in the experience.

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Dr. Kenneth Pobo shares his latest ekphrastic poetry at the Widener University Art Gallery

In Dr. Michael Cocchiarale’s introduction, he mentioned that Pobo became interested in poetry through a love of music. How fitting that someone so impacted by writing would also be impacted by music, painting, and any other artform. When one person has such a passion for art, it can become contagious and that is what happened that day at the reading. By the time Pobo got to the poem “Georgia O’Keefe’s Flowers”, his audience was so engrossed that most of us felt we were indeed collapsing into this magnificent flower that he described

I think a good way to sum up the theme of the experience is with Pobo’s response to the question, “What is your favorite painting?” After some thought, he simply said, “I don’t know.” I think for any true artist that is the only answer. Art can affect all different parts of us and for all different reasons. Though we might be driven, for a moment, to appreciate one work of art above others, the nature of art makes it impossible for any one piece to stand alone as the best.

Loplop in a Red City is published by Circling Rivers and is available for purchase on Amazon.

by Nicole Gray

Remembering Grant Hart’s Musical and Literary Legacy

On September 14, musician Grant Hart passed away from liver cancer. The former drummer and singer was a vital part of the punk rock band Hüsker Dü, which helped revolutionize alternative and rock and roll music. Hart left the group in 1989, subsequently creating another band, Nova Mob, before pursuing a solo career.

Hart released his last completed solo album, The Argument, in 2013. The Argument is a concept album based on John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, which depicts the Biblical stories of the rebellion of Satan and the fall of man in twelve books of blank verse. Hart’s take on this iconic epic was inspired by an unfinished stage play called “Lost Paradise” written by Hart’s friend, the late American writer William S. Burroughs. From 2008 to 2013, Hart developed his double LP, The Argument. “From the outset, knowing it was a mighty piece of work made it more challenging,” Hart said in a 2013 interview with Clash Music.

With 20 tracks and 74 minutes of heavy guitar and drum, mixed with electronic riffs, beeps and even xylophone, The Argument breathes new life into Milton’s centuries-old poem. The second track, “Morningstar,” is a favorite of critics. Ryan Bray for Consequence of Sound aptly describes the “essential track” as “flower child ruminations,” while AV Club points out that it “frames Satan as, alternately, a hypnotic Pied Piper of chantlike hooks and a sly, Rudy Vallée-esque crooner.” “Run For the Wilderness” is an especially upbeat, lyrical track, one I could see being performed in a Rent-style Broadway setting. Opening with the literal roar of a motorcycle, and the rapid drumbeat conjuring images of a hurried escape, Hart sings, “We kissed the fruit forbidden / we smelled and tasted it / no difficult conditions / he gave us open wide / we disobeyed now we got to run / for the wilderness / well it’s the only place we can escape to now.”

The first notes of the final song on the album, “For Those Too High Aspiring,” recall the 1998 hit “Closing Time” by Semisonic. Hart’s punk ballad features a sentimental harmonica layered over guitar and prominent drum as his lyrics depict the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden and of Satan from Heaven: “For those too high aspiring / here’s to you / you bit off more than you could chew / now you know / sadly how far you could go.” The last 30 seconds fade off with a high-pitched whirring noise, like a motor slowly failing into empty silence, as the album—which is more of an aesthetic experience than anything—winds down to an end.

Hart’s talent and originality is a loss not only to the music industry, but also to the literature community. His former Hüsker Dü bandmate, Bob Mould, put it best: “Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful story teller, and a frighteningly talented musician. Everyone touched by his spirit will always remember.”

To listen to The Argument click here!

By Jennifer Rohrbach

Image courtest of: The Current (MPR/Nate Ryan)

The National Book Awards Longlists Have Been Announced For 2017

Earlier this week, the National Book Foundation announced the poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature longlists for the 2017 National Book Awards.

Since 1950, the National Book Awards and the National Book Foundation have made it their mission to “celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.” As a nonprofit organization, the National Book Foundation hopes to “raise the cultural appreciation of great writing” through these annual awards.

Each year a panel of esteemed judges read hundreds of published submissions before assembling a longlist of ten titles for each category. These longlists are then narrowed down to five finalists before a single winner is chosen.

This year’s longlists feature a variety of writers including Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan, 2011 National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward, and five-time nominee Frank Bidart as well as numerous first-time longlisted authors and debut collections. Women prove to be a dominate force in the categories of Young People’s Literature and Fiction, while the topics of race and politics set the tone for the nonfiction contenders.

The finalists in each category will be announced on Oct. 4. The winners will be announced following a ceremony in New York on Nov. 15.

If you’re looking for some new reading material, click here and check out the longlists for the 2017 National Book Awards!

Top Destinations for the Perfect Literary Adventure

Looking for something to do this summer?

Check out these awesome literary destinations courtesy of Verily magazine and Flavorwire!

Take a trip to Long Island, New York and feel the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby or venture to Hartford, Connecticut to visit the Mark Twain House & Museum. The literary adventures are endless!

For destinations in the United States, click here.

For worldwide destinations, click here.

 

Issue 18 is live!

Hi everyone! Please check out Issue 18 of our magazine featuring a variety of great pieces!

Thank you to everyone who submitted and contributed.

Enjoy!

 

2017 AWP Conference Reflections

     The Association of Writers and Writing Programs held it’s annual conference and bookfair February 8-11, 2017 in Washington, D.C.. The AWP Conference is an opportunity for writers, teachers, editors, publishers, and everyone within the literary community to gather for four days of insightful discussion. Each year, AWP accumulates over 12,ooo attendees, with over 800 exhibitors and 550 events to explore. Several students from Widener University’s Creative Writing department had the opporunity to attend the 2017 conference. Below are two students’ reflections on their AWP experience:

Evan Kramer
     The 2017 AWP Conference in Washington, D.C. opened my eyes to a literary world that I never realized was so large in the United States. This was my first AWP experience; however, it was not my first writing conference, so I did have high expectations. Planning your panels and routes beforehand is a necessity at AWP because panels are operating around the clock with only fifteen minutes of time in between each one. I made these minor mistakes on the first day, but for the remaining days, I planned accordingly and learned a lot about writing, the future of writing, and all of this information shaped me into a stonger creative writer.
     One of the first panels that I attended was called “Writing in the Internet Age.” As a writer in the twenty first century, I view the Internet as technology that will be present in the world for the remainder of my life. The Internet and digital humanities is changing writing and thinking for all writers and readers, so attending this panel, in my opinion, would provide a lot of insight for me. The Internet is too fast to be studied, said the panelists, and it is a cure for loneliness and boredom, and a way to pull us out of the reality of the world. I learned that the Internet is a convenience for writers because it replaces a trip to the library by functioning as an online encyclopedia, but it can also slow down writing because it is distracting and sometimes addicting. A presence on the Internet is a requirement for writers so that readers and other followers know that you are alive and writing, so that they can develop trust with your work. Absence from the Internet creates suspicion, and for writers, it is critical to maintain an image through interacting online with other people, news topics, or by generating personal opinions.
     In addition to this helpful panel, I attended another one called “The Village of Your Novel,” which talked about how to manipulate the universe that you create as a writer. Writing a setting is important to me, as a creative writer, because I view it as the first step to taking my readers out of reality and into a new world that is worth visiting. I am currently in the process of writing a story in which two separate villages clash together.The panel inspired me to consider the boundaries of the village, the traditions, the internal alliances, and how a stranger entering is the catalyst of change, comedy and drama. The panelists used Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters as example because they create social novels with striking locations, such as Highbury from Emma and the Moors from Wuthering Heights. This panel got my creative juices flowing to produce more work because the panelists provided helpful tips to think about when designing a village for the characters’ events to unfold. The setting always interests me as a writer because it should inspire every reader to want to visit there. No matter how beautiful or deadly the village is, it should shine from behind the characters, their dialogue and the plot.
     The final reading of AWP included Rita Dove, Terrance Hayes, and Ocean Vuong, and it was entertaining to watch these vastly different poets present their work. As a student who is easily discouraged from reading out loud, I paid close attention to their delivery. Out of all of them, Terrance Hayes was my favorite because he frequently interacted with the crowd and he improvised, almost like a stand up comedian, before returning to his content. Hayes produced the most controversial poems and presented his poetry with a confidence that differed very much from Ocean Vuong, who carefully approached the podium and read with a gentle innocence. It was a perfect contrast, and their topics approached different things, yet still impacted the audience in many ways and deserved standing ovations. I heard of Vuong and Hayes previously before going to AWP, but watching and listening to the way they deliver their work on stage was something that reading a book cannot recreate.
     Exploring the book fair and interacting with many publishers and schools was my favorite part of AWP and it did not fail to reach my expectations. I did not explore every booth of the book fair because of its immense size, but I did obtain a wide range of novels, chapbooks, and books about craft. AWP taught me new things about the literary community across the United States, and how the writing life is continuing to transform as the country heads into new eras and as new technology rapidly influences American trends. I plan on attending the 2018 AWP Conference next year in Tampa Bay because I learned so much, and believe it is an informative event to attend, as well as an important place to show yourself as a member of the literary community.

Taylor Blum
     I had an amazing time at the AWP conference in D.C. I was not sure what to expect, and I was a bit apprehensive, but I am extremely glad that I went. I also had a great time with my fellow students, and I had a great time getting to know everyone better. The number of panels and readings set up was amazing, so it was easy to find something to go to during each time session.
     One that particularly stood out to me on the first day was the “Adaptation in Three Acts: Adventures in Adapting Material for Scripts” panel. It was not entirely what I thought it would be, but I was very interested in the projects that the speakers were working on. One speaker, David Shields, talked about his project I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, which he first created as a book, and then made into a movie with the help of James Franco. The book is essentially an argument between him and his friend over a wide variety of topics, with an overarching theme of the balance between art and life. Shields posed an interesting question about a person who sees themselves as an artist, and if they see themselves as such, how committed to life would they be if they have a need to commit themselves to art. Can there be a balance without neglecting one side? What I found particularly amazing about his story is that James Franco, who went to the same graduate school that Shields taught at, offered to make his book into a film. I find his whole project fascinating, because it is something that is not really done. To publish a book that is, as Shields put it, a “manuscript of discussions” and then get the chance to bring the discussions to film is unique. Another speaker talked about her project of taking a woman’s life story and adapting it into a book and how a playwright got wind of the story and took to adapting it for the stage. No speaker at this panel had the same story when it came to adaptation, so what I took from this is that there really are infinite ways to make a story accessible.
     Another panel that I enjoyed excessively, was “Coming of Age: The Blurry Line Between Adult and YA Literature.” This panel featured many established writers of Young Adult (YA) literature, such as Jason Reynolds, as they discussed the art of YA literature, their struggles throughout the community and industry, and the distinction between adult fiction. What I loved the most about this panel was the honesty of the speakers. They did not behave as if they were anything special because they were published authors, or that they were untouchable, but instead acted real and treated the audience as friends. While I have not read any of the speakers’ work, I feel this is probably reflected in their writing. They all brought up how 80% of YA books are bought by adults and that teenagers will read adult books if they are interested enough, because young people do not care about the YA or adult distinction. They also brought up that the genre of YA was created to sell more books, and that the decision to publish their stories is purely based on marketing techniques and what people in the publishing industry think will sell. It was a very honest discussion about publishing and marketing which I appreciated from an aspiring writer standpoint. They were also very honest about how it is harder for non-white writers to find a place in publishing and getting non-white stories told. Part of this issue comes from, racism, of course, but also the way certain publishing and marketing higher ups think that teens should be portrayed and the type of stories they think they can be in. Jason Reynolds spoke a lot on this, as he writes stories about black youth doing mundane things, but there is a stigma in the industry that that is not typical for black youth. Reynolds spoke a lot about how teens can be turned off stories if they feel they are not represented properly, which I also agree with. I know I do not want to read a story with a depiction of females that is constantly unrealistic (although, I have been faced with a lot of that in literature), and I can see how that can be a real problem for non-white people reading literature. This panel covered a lot of important topics, while also reaffirming my love for literature. That is what I loved the most about the conference, the sense of community between everyone there.

     The book fair was a great experience, and I really underestimated just how big it would be. I was slightly overwhelmed at first, but luckily, I had three days to walk through it. It felt almost empowering to see how many literary journals are actively engage in the community, and their effort to gather more submissions and readers. I really enjoyed visiting each booth, learning about their journals, and seeing their artistic endeavors.  Making connections with the people tabling was also fun, as I spoke to a lot of people who enjoyed the community and the friends that they have made over the years. I had never been in a situation where everyone around me all shared the same sentiments and love for similar things. It was amazing to be in a community where I could start a conversation with anyone and know that we would agree or share similar thoughts. Knowing that everyone around me loved literature and writing was something I was not used to, and really helped me ground myself in my love and dedication to the arts. Every day I felt motivated to dedicate myself to language and the writing craft. I feel inspired to hone my skills in writing and delve deeper into this community.

For more information about the AWP Conference click here.

2016 FUSE Conference Addresses Literary Citizenship

Since 2012, Widener students have been attending and presenting at the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) national conference. This year, students and advisors from fifteen schools from South Carolina to Pennsylvania to Michigan to California came to Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio to present on the conference theme of literary citizenship. Widener University was represented by junior English majors Emma Irving and Jennifer Rohrbach and senior creative writing and communications double major Kelsey Styles, along with creative writing professor and faculty advisor Dr. Michael Cocchiarale.

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Literary citizenship is, to put it quite simply, the act of creating a more positive community with stronger writers and editors. It can also include the acts of maintaining diverse journals, teaming with other publications and organizations on campus, communicating effectively among staff and writers, and encouraging participation from all students—not just English or creative writing majors.

Widener students presented a panel about how four campus publications tackle this issue.
Widener’s The Blue Route, a national undergraduate literary journal, publishes interviews with local authors and poets. Widener Ink and the Blue & Gold both sit down with students and work together to improve that student’s writing. The Chester Magazine connects Widener with the surrounding community, and works to bridge Chester’s growing arts scene. All three of Widener’s student representatives collaborated to create this panel.
Here are personal reflections from two Widener participants at FUSE:
Jennifer Rohrbach

Working with Widener’s dedicated community of writers, editors, and readers gave me the opportunity to hone my own writing and editing skills through publications such as The Blue Route, the Blue & Gold, and Widener Ink. My three years at Widener have shaped me into a literary citizen without me even realizing it! But the literary community is so much larger than what we see on Widener’s campus. Attending FUSE at the wonderful Bowling Green State University opened my eyes to the national literary community, what it has accomplished, and what it can become.

We hit the ground running on Thursday, the first day of the conference. After a business meeting and a journal showcase, students from universities across the United States presented panels on how their schools and publications promote literary citizenship. I learned that literary citizenship is a much broader, yet more inclusive term that I’d originally thought. Anyone with a love for literature and a desire to share it can be a literary citizen. One of the most inspiring panels I attended was about representation and diversity not only in the stories published in journals and lit magazines, but also among the editors reading submissions.

On Friday, the group split up for roundtables where students from different schools could more casually discuss topics such as aesthetics and technology and advising student editors. It was a great experience to speak with students I otherwise would never have met, and it was reassuring to hear that they go through the same highs and lows with their publications that I go through with the publications I’m a part of. After the roundtables, I chose to participate in the Guerilla Poetry activity—just one of the various activities for the afternoon. A group of about 10 students and I left sheets of poetry all around Bowling Green’s campus which, for comparison’s sake, is at least three time’s Widener’s size, if not more. We got some weird looks from Bowling Green students as we stuck poetry in random books at the library and in between bike wheel spokes. But not an hour later our ‘tour guide’ Ally Butler (a student at Bowling Green and FUSE attendee) got a Snapchat from a friend who was delighted to have found a poem stuck to a tree in the middle of the quad.

While the conference itself was great, my favorite part was the new friends I made. On a campus as small as Widener’s you can see the same people every day. It was inspiring to realize that there is a community of writers and editors out there in the world who are as enthusiastic about literature as I am, and who are dedicated to instilling that enthusiasm within others to further cultivate literary citizenship.

Kelsey Styles

I attended many panels about literary citizenship. The first panel I attended was run by two students from Francis Marion University in South Carolina. They talked about how to get more majors involved with the literary journals on campus. Editor-in- chief of their journal, Snow Island Review, Anna Jackson, was herself a psychology major, and used that to her advantage. During her presentation, she pulled up scientific theories of motivation, such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and explained how she incorporated them into her campus organization. She explained that by giving editors more responsibility and making them feel like they were contributing to something important, they became more excited to work toward the common goal. Not only did meeting attendance increase for them, their submissions soared from about 75 to about 180.

The next presentation I saw was about Susquehanna University’s literary journal, Flagship. It’s a journal just for travel writing, and it’s open to all majors at their university. At Susquehanna, it’s required that all students study abroad at least once. This journal is not only a collection of some of those stories, it’s a way for students to cope with any culture shock or large experiences they were struggling with since returning from another country.

The final panel I attended before my own presentation was about representation in literature, entitled “Maintaining a Diverse Literary Community.” Camera Martin from Oakland University explained how it was the responsibility of editors to include diverse writers. Editors are the gatekeepers of media, in many cases. By opening the door to writers of color and writers of different sexualities, editors are able to create a more diverse and empathetic audience—and it is their job to do so. Her panel was fabulous. Widener followed her which was both tough because it was such a strong presentation but also a plus because she’d drawn a significant crowd. We basically had a full room to discuss how Widener contributes to literary citizenship—which we do in many ways.

There were more than just panels. I also went to a keynote speech by the very talented Karen Craigo (I know she’s very talented because I attended her reading later that day). I went to a reading by Wendell Mayo, a fascinating author with strong voice. Friday, I attended a discussion about how other schools conducted their literary journals. Widener’s literary journals are extracurricular, though the Chester Magazine had a class element to it and Professor Cocchiarale has taught a Contemporary Literary Scene class that examined current undergraduate journals including our own. All schools who participated in the discussion explained some of the benefits and the drawbacks of conducting their journals in the class format. Some schools, like Susquehanna and Widener, had several journals, and some schools, like Cabrini, only had one. Bowling Green also hosted workshops where students could either work on their writing, post poems around campus, or create their own zines.

Though I had initially been wary about the small size of the conference, FUSE 2016 was ultimately just as amazing as a large conference. I was able to make closer friendships than I would have otherwise made. It’s easier to get to know someone when you’re constantly in close proximity. At a larger conference, I might not have seen the same people twice. This FUSE, I not only saw people constantly, but by the end of the conference we had interacted so much that I could consider us friends.

If you wish to start a FUSE chapter at your undergraduate institution, check out the FUSE National website for more information: http://www.fuse-national.com/.

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Written by Jennifer Rohrbach and Kelsey Styles