Tag Archives: FUSE

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

Reflections on AWP 2016

From March 31 to April 2, the conference for Associated Writers and Writing Programs wasIMG_4611 held in Los Angeles, California. AWP is a massive conference that joins editors, writers, teachers, and publishers, from students through veterans of the occupation. More than 12,000 people gather for over 550 readings and panels. Widener’s Creative Writing department was able to attend and brought four students along for the ride this year.

Before coming to AWP, I’d attended FUSE, a national conference for undergraduate student editors. That conference was quite different, and I knew it would be, because it was much smaller-scale and much more tailored specifically to student editors of literary journals. FUSE had also been held at Widener this past fall, so I didn’t even have to travel for that conference. For AWP, I literally crossed the county.

IMG_4594At AWP, there was a FUSE caucus for students both who had attended FUSE and who were interested in attending future FUSE forums. The caucus helped unite undergraduate student editors and students who had become old friends at this point. Undergraduate student editors interested in FUSE should check out their website here! Additionally, FUSE members took turns tabling in the book fair, a huge expo for creative writers. Though the conference was a business venture, being able to run a table made me feel like I was even more a part of AWP.

Though I knew AWP was going to be massive and with a lot more to do and see than FUSE, I was unprepared for the size of the book fair. That blew my mind. There had to be a thousand vendors packed into one room—literary journals, MFA programs, the literary journals of MFA programs and so on. There were big presses, like Tinhouse Books and Penguin Random House, and small presses, like Cactus Heart. The New York Times had a stand, as did the MLA. My favorite part of the conference had to be the massive bookfair. I spent hours in that room at a time.

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While in the bookfair I got to discuss people’s literary journals, what people recommended, and how their programs differed than other places. I saw the moderator for a panel I’d attended about writing diverse characters. She and I struck up conversation, and I was able to follow up with her about what she’d discussed.

It was exciting to talk to people from other writing backgrounds as I explored the convention center. It was also wonderful to see so many writers in one place. As one Widener student noted, writers are such versatile and diverse people—you see all types.

Overall, this conference was larger than life. Besides being incredibly informative, it was also incredibly fun! If fellow student editors and writers are interested in attending, talk to your professors and see if there is a way. Next year, AWP will be in Washington, D. C., which is much closer to Widener than California, so you can bet we’ll be there again.

To learn more about AWP, check out their website here.

To read more in-depth about my AWP reflection, including some of the panels I attended and speakers I saw, click here.

Written by Kelsey Styles, ’17

What’s on your October Reading List?!

Happy October everyone! With the semester in full swing and the FUSE conference just 5 weeks away, things are getting pretty hectic for us at the Blue Route, and we’re sure you’re feeling the stress too! But fall is in the air and despite all the craziness, it’s important to take time out of the day to relax, enjoy some sort of seaonsally-inspired coffee drink, and read something not for a class. Whether it’s a fun blog, that YA novel your best friend has been bugging you to read for months, or a ridiculous high-fashion magazine (my personal favorite), use this fall to check out media you don’t always take the time to read. What’s your go-to fall read this season? Comment and let us know!

Lots of Important Stuff…READ THIS!!!

And just like that, you’re back on campus like you never even left…happy new school year everyone! On behalf of the whole Blue Route staff, I’d like to wish all our contributors and followers a successful start to the new semester! A lot of exciting things are happening on our tiny campus in the new future including a new submission period for our next issue (see details here) and best of all, the 2015 FUSE Conference (check it out here)! The blog staff will be bringing you all the latest updates of conference preparation/journal publication, so do not hesitate at all to contact us with any questions. And please, take literally 3 minutes to like us on Facebook (The Blue Route), follow us on Tumblr (wublueroute), and keep up to date with us on Twitter (wutheblueroute). And while you’re at it, go follow all the undergraduate literary journals you can find on social media! There are so many amazing things being created and discussed by students in these publications…they all deserve to be supported.

Happy New Year!!!

Written by Emma Irving

AWP: An Undergraduate Newcomer’s Perspective

Originally posted at The Ink Plot

Community, for a writer, is important. “Writer” is an identity often shunted aside in favor of more socially acceptable options, which means that finding others who share in your love of language and a well-crafted sentence is paramount. I have identified as a writer since grade school, so I have come to accept that people will raise eyebrows or hear “Starbucks Barista” dubbed over my words when I tell them what I want to do after graduation. While I do not believe, as they do, that my future in my field is nonexistent, it is frustrating to hear those doubts repeated so often. Occasionally, I struggle to remember that I am not the only person accustomed to hearing these remarks.

I went out to dinner on the last night of the conference with the other Widener students and faculty who attended the conference. (Photo courtesy of Michael Cocchiarale)

I went out to dinner on the last night of the conference with the other Widener students and faculty who attended the conference. The others were on the other side of the table. (Photo courtesy of Michael Cocchiarale)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity, through the generosity of my university’s Creative Writing Department, to attend the largest annual gathering of writers in the country: the AWP Conference. There, I found a writing community that I could scarcely have dreamed existed.

I had heard stories of the conference from students who attended in past years, but being immersed in it was a wild experience. Here were people who have faced the same struggles as me; who strive toward the same dreams and goals; and who have found and succeeded at the very careers that some would have me believe cannot be found.

Better yet, some of those successful people were the panelists who shared their advice for writers aspiring to similar success (or just similar projects). I attended panels on careers in writing; on troubleshooting faulty plotlines; on writing unlikeable characters; on writing violence; on writing sex. No subject is taboo when you strive to allow the truth to leak from your pen. Authenticity supersedes awkwardness.

Even now, weeks after returning to the daily grind of my classes, I cannot quite force my thoughts on the conference to coalesce. They are like clouds I watch while lying in the grass, constantly shifting: first a rabbit, then a dog, then a lion. Even if I were to give a full account of every panel, interaction, booth at the Book Fair, even of the hours spent away from it all in the Caribou Coffee shop two blocks away from the Convention Center, I could not possibly convey the magnitude of the experience. The words overload and overwhelming fall short of the array of daily options, after which it was all I could do to drag myself into the shower and then collapse into bed, making sure to set my alarm early enough to do it all over again the next day.

Representing at the FUSE table with the other student editors from Widener: Autumn Heisler of Widener Ink and Emily DeFreitas of The Blue Route.

Representing at the FUSE table with the other student editors from Widener: Autumn Heisler of Widener Ink and Emily DeFreitas of The Blue Route. (Photo courtesy of Michael Cocchiarale)

The conference also allowed me to meet undergrads from writing programs around the country through the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE), and to plug into my own Widener writing community more. My professors have never exactly been boring suits in front of a blackboard, but I still learned a lot by going out to dinner with them and talking about something other than the book we’re reading in class or how to improve my story/poem/essay to earn an A. It’s good to be reminded every once in a while that “professors are people, too.”

I have been fortunate in my life to find support for my creativity first at home, and then in the small Creative Writing Department here at Widener, among the students with whom I workshop in classes and work on the literary journals, but that is a mere microcosm of the community I found at AWP.

by Sierra Offutt

The FUSE Conference: Uniting Literary Journals Across the Nation

The gathering of undergraduate editors at the 2014 FUSE conference at Bennington College in Bennington, VT.

The gathering of undergraduate editors at the 2014 FUSE conference at Bennington College in Bennington, VT.

The FUSE conference, which took place at Bennington College in Vermont this November, was a unique opportunity to interact with like-minded people who aim to produce excellent literary journals. FUSE, or the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors, is a national organization that serves to connect student editors from schools across the nation, giving them the chance to share ideas, offer advice, and support each other in their endeavors.

The conference consisted of presentations by students, faculty, and guest speakers about editing, publishing, and other general concepts related to creating a literary journal with undergraduates. There was also time set aside for attendees to take a look at the various journals being represented, and to show their own.

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Autumn Heisler, editor-in-chief of Widener Ink (left) and Emily DeFreitas, editor-in-chief of The Blue Route (right) present on community outreach during the conference.

While there, I had the opportunity to take part in a presentation on community outreach, but more importantly, I was able to listen to the thoughts, ideas, and strategies of other literary journals. I came out of the event with a substantial list of things The Blue Route staff should consider doing in the future, and I suspect that editors from other schools did as well. As one of the speakers pointed out, the main competition for a literary journal isn’t other literary journals. In reality, we compete with the distractions of the electronic world around us as we attempt to reel in readers. Because of this, having a network through which we can promote each other, encourage readership, and improve the individual journals we’re producing is an extremely valuable thing.

Some of the ideas presented were not necessarily specific to literary journals alone. Some might be well applied to groups like Widener’s own English Club. Students talked about write-ins, open mics, and blind dates with books, all of which are fantastic ways to participate in the literary world, building a reading and writing community in person, not just online or on paper. This conference was meant to assist in building that community. Throughout the event it became clear that there are many ways to do that, and literary journals play an important role.

by Emily DeFreitas

Does your school have a literary journal? Are you interested in learning more about FUSE? Check out their website at http://www.fuse-national.com/