How English Professors Write

Ann E. Green, Ph.D.
English Professor

Quick Facts:

Pen or pencil?
Straight on the computer or pen

Favorite word?
Yes

Favorite music to write to?
Beyoncé when writing comments

Favorite punctuation mark?
Semicolon


SJU Writes: What kinds of writing do you do right now?
AG: At the moment, because I am president of the Faculty Senate, I write a lot of memos and emails so I would say my work writing is instrumental. For my creative writing, I took a spiritual writing course over the summer and I try to write 3 pages every day, but I’m not always successful.

SJU Writes: What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?
AG: I really love revision. I really love structural revision. I really love, after I’ve written a good chunk, or writing and looking over it, or having someone else look over it with me and I find a new structure for it because it often takes me a long time to figure out what I need to say. So if I write something long, I may figure out that I’m really supposed to start in the middle and I cut a lot and write more.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?
AG: The way my life works right now, I always have to find time to write as soon as I can even if it’s bad. And if I know I have a deadline, I block out time to write.

SJU Writes: What’s the best or most difficult thing you’ve ever written in your life?
AG: I wrote my dad’s eulogy and that was in December and I wrote it really quickly. I wrote it in one draft and I think I was able to do that because I had written a lot about my dad when he was alive so, in that moment I was proud to write that eulogy. To try and capture what Dad was for eighty-two years was also really challenging. And to try to speak to an audience of people who knew him but knew him in different contexts, like people that knew him since he was a little kid, people he worked with at different times and then my sister and my mother—it was difficult.

SJU Writes: Who’s the best or most influential writing teacher you have ever had?
AG:I had freshman studies in fiction writing and it was a year-long course with a woman named Myra Goldberg. She was my advisor, so I met with her every week to talk about writing and about college and she really appreciated what I was trying to do and that I didn’t really fit in at my college because it was an elite place, and I didn’t have parents that went to college. She was the best listener as a writing teacher; She is a great writing teacher.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students learning to write in your discipline?
AG: Read a lot. Read everything—the good and the bad. Get to know what other people are writing about. Find certain writers that you love and read everything by them…and also, just write. You can talk a lot about writing, but if you want to be good at it, then just do it. You have to learn by doing it. And you also have to learn by screwing it up. You’re going to write and you’re going to fail. It’s not going to be the best American novel or an “A” paper all the time, but you just have to keep doing it.

—Dominique Rolle ’18

 

How Campus Ministry Writes

Beth Forth McNamee
Assistant Director of Campus Ministry

Quick Facts

Pen or Pencil?
Pen

Favorite word?
Discernment

Favorite music to write to?
88.5 WXPN

Favorite punctuation mark?
!


SJU Writes: Can you describe the kind of writing that your job entails?
BFM: I like to make connections between Philadelphia and Camden partnerships, students, and faculty at SJU. So I write in a way that is inclusive and mostly through email. I do a lot of social media posting which forces you to distill your message clearly. Occasionally I’ll do journalistic writing for the [Campus Ministry] newsletter and the handouts for the Mass. I’ve also written for the Ignatian Solidarity Network and the Hawk.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?
BFM: Emails, I just write. If it’s a little more formal, like an announcement to the university, I’ll have it sit in my draft folder for a little while. I’ll proofread it a million times. If it is something I have to generate that is more substantial, I’ll keep an electronic document, and I take time to brainstorm. I usually write the piece below where I wrote all of my brainstorming, and I’ll refer back to it. If it is something that’s being published, I will usually have other people look at it.

SJU Writes: So what I’m gathering is, that it’s a continuous process? You don’t simply sit down, and finish it in one sitting?
BFM: No—I taught as an adjunct for four semesters, and I could tell when students sat down and finished assignments in one sitting. It reads like a stream of consciousness. I strongly discourage that.

SJU Writes: Is there a particular book or article that has influenced your writing?
BFM: Reading so much fiction over time really influenced me. I read a lot of journalistic writing and some academic pieces. The more that I read, the more I have a sense of what my writing should look like.

SJU Writes: Do you have a particular favorite book?
BFM: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It talks about writing and about life.

SJU Writes: Is there a particular environment that you do your best writing in?
BFM: I don’t have a lot of writing routines at this point in my life; I feel like having a small child will take that from you. I do love a good space. I do great work in the morning—it’s when I’m at my best. I definitely need coffee. Otherwise, a good table, bright sunlight, and a computer are all I need.

— Jennifer Nessel’20