Tag Archives: short stories

Catherine Zobal Dent Offers Writing Advice To Students At Widener University

Author Catherine Zobal Dent visited Widener on April 3 and 4 as a part of the English and Creative Writing Department’s Distinguished Writers Series.

In May 2014, Dent published her debut collection of short stories with Fomite Press, called Unfinished Stories for Girls. The collection includes sixteen stories. Taking place on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the short stories invite readers inside the lives of characters trying to figure out the problems and challenges of the gleaming, marshy world.
On campus, Dent spent time speaking in creative writing and English classes about her collection, as well as offering insight and advice on how to pursue a writing career. She also individually met with several students within the department for tutorials.

“Writers need other writers. That’s just the way it is,” Victoria Giansante, a senior English major said. “We workshop off each other; we get ideas from each other; and we help each other to be the best we can be. Any writer could benefit from closely analyzing their habits and their strengths, especially with guidance from someone with genuine experience and expertise, like Catherine.”

Dent’s latest projects include writing a novel and a nonfiction book about the Appalachian Trail, as well as a translation of the French short story writer Cyrille Fleicshman with her colleague Lynn Palermo. She began publishing her stories during graduate school and her work has gone on to appear in such publications as Drunken Boat, the Harvard Review, North American Review, Echolocation, PANK and elsewhere.

Currently, Dent is an associate professor of creative writing at Susquehanna University, a position she shares with her partner and fellow writer, Silas Zobal. She is also the director of the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE), a national organization that provides a network for undergraduate student editors, writers, and their faculty advisers.

Dent concluded her visit with a public reading surrounded by art made by Ann Piper, which accompany each story in the collection. After the reading, Dent took time to answer questions, sign copies of her book, and speak to students, including Rohan Suriyage, a junior English and communication studies double major whom Dent offered advice on organizing ideas for a short story.

“I was interested in her passion for exploring the relationship between art and literature, specifically how the art her colleague made coincidentally reflected the subject matter of her short stories,” Suriyage said. “She has a good grasp on including real-life aspects into her stories and encapsulating the human experience and its authenticity in the subject matter of said stories.”

Dent also sat down for an interview with The Blue Route during her visit. The full interview will be featured in our 20th issue set to be published in the next couple of weeks! For a preview of the interview, read below!

How do you create characters, voices, and point of views that are different from your own or different from each other?
I do a lot of research. I think as deeply as you can about the way voices sound different from each other and also the types of preoccupations characters might have. You can have a handful of characters who see the exact same object in the material world and, depending on their emotional state, each of them would describe it in a different way. I try to think of where the characters are coming from in a particular moment in time and find a preoccupation that would dominate their voice. In my collection, I have a number of stories that veer into second person where the narrator is addressing you, the reader. I’ve tried different ways of involving the reader in the work, and one of these attempts is to adapt the readers’ perspective and try to convince them that they are actually in the story. In “The Truth You Know,” I have the first-person narrator addressing the reader and saying, “Now you have to tell the end of the story.”

What drives you to write? Has there been a specific instance or a piece of advice that has driven you in your writing career?
When I’m not writing I don’t feel as alive as when I am writing. When I am writing, I am noticing the world in a much more meaningful way. I’m actively constructing meaning around me. Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Sometimes, I feel that way. I can go and recreate an experience in a way that makes more sense or is more satisfying to me. That’s one of the jobs of fiction, to try to create meaning out of chaos. That’s one of the jobs of identity, too, to try to stake, for a temporary period of time, a sense of order in the world. I write to create order in my world and hope to communicate a sense of connection, belonging, and order for other people too.

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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

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