Tag Archives: Undergraduate Writing

Cynthia Dewi Oka Offers Insight On Creative Vision and the Labor of Writing

Poet Cynthia Dewi Oka visited Widener on Nov. 12 through 14 as a part of the English and Creative Writing Department’s Distinguished Writers Series.

Oka, a three-time Pushcart Prize Nominee, published her debut collection of poetry with Dinah Press called Nomad of Salt and Hard Water in December 2012, celebrating journey and its relentless precision of language. A second edition with new and revised poems was published in April 2016 with Thread Makes Blanket Press.

Much of her poetry has been published online and in print in such places as The American Poetry Review, Guernica Magazine, and Apogee Journal. In addition, Oka is a contributor for anthologies such as Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism and Who Will Speak for America among others. She has also been awarded the Fifth Wednesday Journal Editor’s Prize in Poetry as well as the Leeway Foundation Transformation Award and is currently pursuing her master’s in fine arts as a Holden Fellow at Warren Wilson College.

Oka’s latest collection is titled Salvage: Poems. Published in December 2017 with Northwestern University Press, Salvage interrogates what it means to reach for our humanity through the guise of nation46094202_10156720303009754_2090155279231483904_n, race, and gender.

On campus, Oka was the feature speaker at the Honors Freshman Composition Forum. She also met with several students within the department for tutorials and visited numerous creative writing courses. For many students, Oka’s visit was transformational and eye-opening.

Rohan Suriyage, a senior English and communications studies double major, found Oka’s presence and communication to be like that of a friend. Suriyage, along with several students in the Creative Writing department that received tutorials with Oka, believes he gained so much incredible insight from the visiting writer in such a short amount of time.

“Her prowess for effective writing, aesthetic, and finding a writer’s voice is truly incredible,” Suriyage said. “I’ve rethought the way I approach my writing, for the better, of course, and I thank her.”

Oka concluded her visit with a public reading during which she read new, never before published work surrounding Indonesian history and culture, specifically the mass killings that took place in the 1960s which the Indonesian government and citizens now act as if did not happen. She utilized documents once deemed to hold classified information on the killings to formulate a narrative, bringing to light the tragedy of what happened as well as the integration of Indonesian culture. After the reading, Oka took time to answer questions regarding politics and poetry, sign copies of her book, and speak to students.

Domenic Gaeta, senior Anthropology major, found Oka’s new poetry on the tragic killings in Indonesia to be powerful, rich in detail, and attention grabbing.

“I would have never though to use classified documents as the general vocabulary makeup of a poem, nor would I think to write about such tragic events,” Gaeta said. “Still, I knew each time she was telling a story that needed to be told.”

Oka also sat down with me for an interview with The Blue Route during her interview. The full conversation will be featured in our 21st issue set to be published in the next couple of weeks. For a preview of the interview, read below!

I was reading some of the reviews on Salvage and some of the descriptions were that it is almost as if you have “one foot in time, the other in timelessness”, that the poems exhibit “mythical depth, civic outcry, and lyric inventiveness”, and that the collection is almost as if “entering a dream world”. This is what other people have said about your work. I’m curious as to how you view this collection and what your vision was in building it.
Every project I’m working on is an effort to grow and transform. That is the superpower of creative writers. We get to remake ourselves. For me, Salvage is an enactment in life, it was happening parallel with life. What was happening on the page was an attempt to sort of recuperate, to integrate a lot of the worst things that I’ve seen or have been through.

My first book, Nomad of Salt and Hard Water, was really an affirmation of strategies of survival. Part of the process of surviving difficult or traumatic things in our lives is that we end up having to bury a lot, so you can keep moving. Salvage was an effort to actually unearth those things and to bring them back into conversation, to reintegrate them, to repurpose them, to make them useful again.

I think of the structure of the book like an onion where you’re looking at the most external forms of violence, war, displacement, gentrification. Then you move inwards to the family, the legacies, and the exchanges that happen in that space. The final layer is intimacy, relationships. That was the vision. It is a trajectory moving inward.

I find that if I’m writing something from a darker place or something that is slightly out of my comfort zone, a little less like me, it takes me a bit to get into that headspace. Are there any poems in Salvage where you had to remove yourself and get into another headspace? How did you get there and then how do you shake it off?
For me, it feels less like going somewhere else and more like being your whole, true self at a given period of time. I give space for all that I am, everything I shut out to arrive when I’m writing.

I tend to be one of those people where, if I finish something, I’m like, “Okay, on to the next thing!” Salvage really taught me that I can’t just do that. A rest period is important. For example, when I finish working on a poem, I can’t necessarily switch out of it. There has to be a transition period where I’m slowly moving back into the pace of my daily life and I think it’s good to plan for that rather than feel cut-off. This is why I stress it is so important to have a writing practice, because then we learn what our tendencies are and what is optimal for us in how we take care of ourselves after we finish. It’s labor, so much labor when we write, and we need sustenance after it. If you’re an extrovert, your sustenance might be from surrounding yourself with people, whereas introverts need alone time. We have to build that into our writing practice so that we don’t becomeat least for meso that I don’t become a terrible person to the people that I love.

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by Carlie Sisco

The Blue Route Attends 2018 FUSE Conference on Resilience

Susquehanna University hosted the sixth annual Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) conference at the beginning of November 2018. 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 resilience within the publishing and editing industry in “an age of political disparity, mass digitalization, and hyper-information.” Each workshop was dedicated to speaking out about challenges in our members’ publishing and editing endeavors and exploring solutions to rise above, whether it be through UCLA’s “Finding and Emphasizing Character Resilience,” Gettysburg College’s “Politics for the Apolitical Literary Magazine,” or SUNY Geneseo’s “Resilience in Writing: How to Keep Writing When You Feel Stuck”.

Poet and activist Martín Espada return2018110195195432951541788035627ed for the second year in a row, kicking 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 identity where he encouraged students to write and present their own poems on reclaiming identity, the literal meaning of their names, or the differences between their names and what they represent.

Andrew Ciotola, managing editor and book review editor of West Branch, Bucknell University’s nationally distinguished literary journal, joined FUSE along with Jessica Hensen and Caitlin Friel for a panel and Q&A session regarding West Branch, the publishing industry for online and print publications, and the editorial profession. During the panel, Ciotola stated “literary magazines are a service for the writers” and assured books are as popular now as they have ever been and they need editors.

Dr. Cheryl E. Ball, director of the Digital Publishing Collaborative at Wayne State University and editor of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, also gave an engaging lecture on “Digital Publishing and the Liberal Arts”. During her lecture, Dr. Ball shared her journey, the relationship between creative writing and digital writing, and reminded those in the audience that “getting things done is not the same as having a vision.”

2018110195205609951541788043357Widener University was represented by Kelly Bachich, Sarah De Kok, Carlie Sisco, and Rohan Suriyage along with several of their professors. Below are reviews from Widener representatives regarding the 2018 conference:

Kelly Bachich
The FUSE conference this year was a much needed reminder of the importance of having a community for undergraduate writers and editors. It was my first year attending and I was lucky enough to be afforded the opportunity of presenting on a panel with fellow Widener senior, Carlie Sisco. This experience was invaluable in what it taught me about public speaking and sharing my journey. The support we received from attendees during and after the presentation was a much needed pat on the back for us as we press on for bigger and better things for our campus literary journals. While the other panels and workshops were wonderful, my favorite part about the conference was the camaraderie between the students having just met from all over. At the student-led open mic, everyone wanted to share their journey with us and trusted us with it from up on stage. It’s important to feel like you are a part of something and, at FUSE, we did.

Sarah De Kok
Hearing Martín Espada read his work was a magical experience. I had the pleasure of sitting in the second row, right in front of the podium where he was reading. His voice was deep and passionate. If he were to record an audiobook of his poems, I would listen to it in a heartbeat. I felt a sense of inspiration at the poetry workshop he held the next morning. We were instructed to write a poem about our names in forty-five minutes. Everyone spread out to different corners of the room or even left the room to find a comfortable place to write. I took a few minutes to think about what I wanted to write, then started writing. I tried not to concern myself with whether or not it was “good”. I just wanted to get my thoughts down. After the forty-five minutes, we all regrouped back into the conference room. Some people read what they had written. It was amazing to hear what people were able to create in forty-five minutes. I will remember this experience every time I think I don’t have enough time to write. All I have to do is set a timer and start writing.

Rohan Suriyage
I typically feel like I’m pretty comfortable reading in front of people, but it was something about that Friday morning at Susquehanna, reading a poem I wrote about myself in 30 minutes to a full room of people and Martín Espada sitting behind me that had me near shaking. Looking back, I think it was being a newcomer to the conference scene for things regarding the English major. As a whole, I was pleasantly satisfied with the conference and the experiences of other schools with their respective literary journals, seeing students like me construct panels and presentations to communicate their knowledge and research. By the end of the conference, I left with a more substantial appreciation and understanding of student writing, editing, and publishing. I even feel like my desired career path with research and education is more concrete as well. I’m still interested to see how other schools and their English and Creative Writing programs operate and, after my conference experience, I’m craving another opportunity to interact with those like me.

Carlie Sisco2018110295121618951541788090798
Attending the 2018 FUSE conference felt very much like reuniting with old friends, but I think that is bound to happen when you surround yourself within a positive environment of talented, passionate, creative individuals. I had the opportunity to attend FUSE for the every first time in 2017 where I got to run a workshop with several of my peers on writing resistance monologues and experience the community I am so proud to be a part of. This time was no different. Fellow editor and senior, Kelly Bachich, Professor James Esch, and I had the chande to present the topic of institutional support at our own panel, creating an open discussion bout challenges, trials, and ways to persevere as well-respected literary journals within our colleges and universities. Each panel at the conference did just that: start a dialogue between like-minded individuals, faculty members, advisors, and students alike. I think that is the most important and valuable part of FUSE. This is a place where creators can freely generate, share, and discuss new ideas, where you can be vulnerable with complete strangers and only feel the upmost support. You leave a conference like this with prompts, tools, ideas, suggestions, sometimes new conent, perhaps a new friend, and a renewed sense of love and hop for the writing world.

 

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by Carlie Sisco

Submissions Closing October 1!

Just a reminder to all undergraduate students, our submission period for Issue 21 will be closing October 1, 2018.

We accept poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction from all students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program. Our goal is to find good, highly imaginative writing about contemporary life as you see it!

We do not accept previously published work, but we do accept simultaneous submissions. We also pay twenty-five dollars upon publication.

Get your submissions in to The Blue Route before it’s too late!

For more information, please check out our submission guidelines.

Social Media For Readers

Hi everyone! As we all know, social media plays a big role in a lot of people’s everyday
lifestyles. If you’re anything like me, you go on social media every day! Recently I discovered that there were a lot of social media-based reading opportunities. These are just a couple of fun pages that I have found and enjoy keeping up with in my feeds! If you have some free time, be sure to check them out!

New York Public Library
Instagram: @nypl
Twitter: @nypl
Facebook: NYPL The New York Public Library
These guys post “insta-novels” on their story and in the highlights of their page! It is a fun way to read a quick, classic tale on your social media! Their blog also has great content and insight from librarians, curators, and staff posted daily!

Belletrist
Instagram: @belletrist
Twitter: @belletristbooks
Facebook: Belletrist
This is an online book club! I stumbled upon this page one time and I love it. Even if I’m not able to keep up with what books they are reading, it is awesome to see the titles that are picked and add them to my list of “Must-Reads.” Also, if you go on their website you can sign up to get newsletters from them! They send out book recommendations, author interviews and even quotes of the week!

Lifewire also has a list of 6 Great Book Social Networks and Josh Sterns from Medium compiled 43 Great Literary and Library Twitter Accounts if you are still in need of some awesome literary content!

Do you follow any social media accounts that share literature or art? Let us know so we can check them out too!

Also, don’t forget to check us out!
Instagram: @wutheblueroute
Twitter: @wutheblueroute
Facebook: The Blue Route
Tumblr: theblueroute

See you online!
by Allison DeHaas

Our Submission Period Is Open!

Starting August 1, 2018 The Blue Route will be reading submissions for Issue #21! 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!

58 Years of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Today marks 58 years since the publication of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

58 years since the world was introduced to Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch. 58 years since we walked through the streets of Maycomb, Alabama for the first time. 58 years since we learned “You never really know a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

To Kill a Mockingbird, a “magnificent, powerful novel of the people of a quiet southern town—rocked by a crisis of conscience,” has maintained incredible relevancy in its 58 years, touching the hearts and minds of its audience.

Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch in the 1962 film adaptation landed Atticus Finch as #1 on the American Film Institue’s “100 Greatest Heroes & Villians” list, recognizing characters that “have a made a mark on American society in matters of style and substance” as well as continue “to inspire contemporary artists and audiences.”

In 2015, Harper Lee released Go Set a Watchman, a novel set after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird in which Scout returns to Maycomb, Alabama. Aompanion to the American classic, Go Set a Watchman adds “depth, contex, and new meaning” to the story we’ve grown to love.

In April, the Monroe County Heritage Museum hosted its production of To Kill a Mockingbird for the twenty-ninth year. The museum, located in Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, held its first play of the timeless novel in 1991 as a fundraiser. Since then, the play has attracted a wide audience, captivating students, community members, and even travelers eager for the experience.

On December 13, New York will see opening night of Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird starring Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch.

For whatever reason, this book, this story, and Harper Lee as an author has resonated with me throughout the years. I find myself bringing this book and these themes into projects or conversation whenever possible. Whether it be a comparison of Frankenstein’s monster to Boo Radley a tribute to the late Harper Lee or an analysis of Annette Lemieux’s Mise en Scene exhibition featuring contemporary art pieces from the filming of the 1962 film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird such as Spin and Area of Refuge, To Kill a Mockingbird has played a critical role in my academic career and personal self.

Two years ago, I spent a great deal of time sifting through my grandfather’s book collection as he prepared to move. Among the collection of classic titles was a tiny, paperback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, a title I’ve been longing to add to my own collection since reading the novel as a sophomore in high school. My copy is slightly tattered with yellowing pages and that old book smell, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Written by Carlie Sisco

 

 

Issue 20 is live!

Our special 10th anniversary issue features undergraduate writers from Central Michigan, Franklin & Marshall, John Carroll, Swarthmore, UNC Wilmington, Ursinus, and Vassar. Plus an interview with author Catherine Zobal Dent and a 10-year retrospective: former editors pick favorite pieces from past issues.

Thanks to all the writers, artists, and staff members who helped to make this issue a great one. Also, a special thank you to all of the editors, past and present, that contributed to this special edition. This issue means a great deal to all of us here at The Blue Route. We hope you enjoy reading!