How a Food Writer Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil? 


Favorite word?


Favorite place to write? 

This little hermitage I rented from some Franciscan nuns in Wisconsin.


Tenaya Darlington, M.F.A.

Professor of English, Director of the Writing Studies Program 


SJU Writes: What kind of writing are you doing right now? 

TD: I’m near the end of this book I’m writing called The Cheese Lover’s Guide to the Galaxy. I have a draft. One half of that draft is finished and submitted, and the other half of that draft is still under construction. I do a lot of writing for a restaurant group—all of their menu notes and their cheese training information—so I’m always thinking about the next cheese I need to write about for them.

SJU Writes: What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever written?

TD: This book called Movie Night Menus, which my brother and I wrote together. It involved watching hundreds of classic movies, looking for the cocktails in people’s hands, determining what the cocktail was, creating the recipe and providing a whole meal around it. It was difficult [because] there were so many movies to watch. Literally, I would leave class, go home, put my laptop on the toaster oven and start making dinner, and I would be watching a movie non stop. We only had nine months to write it. At the same time, my brother was opening a restaurant, so his life was haywire and I was trying to hold down this book project.

SJU Writes: What’s your writing process like?

TD: I’ve written three books with my brother, and our process would always be to hop on a Google document, open a Google hangout, and we would write together. His cursor would be moving over my cursor. Now, I’ve been working on a book of my own, and the process has been very scattered. Mostly I wake up, open a new document, and just go. 

SJU Writes: How did you get into food writing?

TD: Accidentally. I grew up in a family where we cooked every night together. We loved to cook our way through cookbooks. That’s what we did for entertainment. I went on and got a degree in English, then got a degree in fiction writing, and when I graduated, I [did] some work for a newspaper as a book reviewer. I started reading the food section and getting excited about that, so I asked to do a profile on a chef. From there, I decided I loved being around food, going into kitchens and restaurants, and it came really naturally. I told the publisher of the newspaper that one day I wanted to be the food editor at the newspaper, and he looked at me and laughed. Two years later, the food editor left and I applied for the job. The publisher went to bat for me [and] gave me my first break. I did that for five years and ended up coming to St. Joe’s, [thinking] I was going to leave that life behind and that I’d return to writing novels, reading stories and poetry. When I moved to Philly, the food world here was really interesting, and that’s how I ended up writing this blog, Madame Fromage, going where food seemed accessible. 

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students interested in food writing?

TD: Become passionate about some niche in the world of food. It’s a vast world, but there are so many communities within that community. Get to know people, develop a curiosity, hop around from thing to thing for a little bit, but then become known as the person who writes about agriculture or eggs or fermentation. I’m a big believer that when you get really passionate about something and you stick to it, doors will naturally open and the path will become clear. Don’t panic. Just dive in.

 -Alexandria Hargrave ’20

How a Professor of Education Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?


Favorite punctuation mark?

Exclamation point.

What are you reading right now?

Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming.


Shoshanna Edwards-Alexander

Professor of Education


SJU Writes: What role does writing play in your life? 

SEA: Writing gives me clarity. Even in small things, it allows me to put my thoughts to paper, to look at them, to really think about what I’m trying to say. In a formal process, it allows me to communicate with people and it helps me to think more critically about things, whether it’s personal or professional.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?

SEA: I used to just sit there and get so stressed out about it, especially depending on what it is. Life is just not that deep. What I’ve found myself doing more recently is I’ll think about the topic, and I’ll just free write. I don’t care about spelling or punctuation.  Then, I’ll walk away from it, think about something else, go back to it, and I’ll figure out how to group those ideas. Then, I’ll start to really put it together as a formal piece. I just put everything out until I can’t come up with anything else. Usually if I do it that way, it doesn’t become overwhelming to me.

SJU Writes: Tell me something about the ideal physical environment in which you like to write.

SEA: I love a “Starbucks” type of environment that’s outside. I don’t like writing in my home. I find that’s the most distracting place for me. I used to go to the sunrooms over in Campion. I like the aesthetics of being able to drift out mentally every once in a while, do my people-watching. It allows me some tranquility. The calmness allows me to better deliver my thoughts on paper.

SJU Writes: Do you seek advice as you write?

SEA: I don’t do a whole bunch in terms of asking people ahead of time for ideas, but I tell people I am not thin-skinned. Take a red pen to my stuff. Go ahead and chop it up. I don’t mind. If it’s all wrong, chop it all up because I’d rather you do that and I end up with a really good piece of writing. If somebody who is not in my discipline can understand what it is that I have said, then I feel like I can move forward with it.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students learning to write in your discipline?

SEA: Find something that will make you inspired to write. Write something every day.  Something you observe. Just something that you might think about as an educator going forward, something that you read, or a piece. Just write a paragraph a day.  Free writing is a great way to just mentally dump it out of your head. Once you start to make it a regular part of your day and a regular part of your process, you become more comfortable with it. The more you do it, the better you get.

 –Amanda Roldan ’22

How a Classical Studies Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil?

Both, I’m a Gemini.  

Favorite word?


Favorite music to write to?

Italian opera

Maria Marsilio, Ph.D.

Professor, Director of Classical Studies


SJU Writes: What kind of writing do you do within your discipline? 

MM: I’m essentially a classical philologist, meaning I work principally with literary texts and publish scholarly articles for a number of journals. I also publish pedagogical texts in An Online Companion to the Worlds of Roman Women, where I write Latin text commentaries. Classics is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating Greek and Roman literature, gender studies, social history, material culture, religion, philosophy, law, economics. And so, when classicists are asked, “What is it like to write as a classicist?”—where do we start explaining? I team-teach a class with Dr. Robert Daniel, and we like to say we’re always playing in other people’s gardens. We love to explore other disciplines and learn from them.

SJU Writes: When you have a writing task, how do you approach it?

MM: Approaching a writing task means I don’t want to simply repeat what everybody else has said and say it in a different way. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t be advancing the conversation, so I try very hard to present a truly innovative argument. It’s hard to do with classic texts that have been read for thousands of years. But that’s where the interdisciplinary approach can help illuminate otherwise hidden aspects of a text. I won’t write something unless it contributes to the discussion. Writing is not solitary, for me. I can’t write in a vacuum. 

SJU Writes: What’s your revision process like?

MM: I’m always revising, even as I compose. One of my favorite resources to have while I’m writing is a thesaurus because I get stuck in the “spin-cycle” and I don’t realize I’m using the same word or the same expression repeatedly. So, the thesaurus comes out. And when I revise, I become more articulate, but I also think in terms of economy. How can I make this piece of writing more concise, direct, and to-the-point? 

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students who are learning to write in your discipline? 

MM: The more you write, the better you get. Keep writing. I think the other thing that’s important to learn is that—and I was not so good at this when I was younger—you can’t be thin-skinned. You have to accept that if you’re going to ask people to read things, you’re not asking them to return it with “Swell! Everything looks perfect! I wouldn’t change a thing!” Seek assessments from people outside the discipline. I try to write in a way that would satisfy the specialist but also in a way that was comprehensible, engaging, and thought-provoking to somebody who is completely outside the discipline. To me, that’s great writing.



Olivia Giannetta ’22

How an Accounting Professor Writes

Quick Facts

What’s your favorite word?


What are you reading right now?

A lot of James Patterson books.

What is a word you always misspell?



Frederick Teufel



SJU Writes: How much writing do CPAs actually do?

FT: A lot of my writing [in my job] was messages to my team. In my last role, I had 450 employees on my team, and I had to write to them often about things that were going on. I had to make sure my writing was clear, concise, and direct. You always had to create a story. Even though the writing is supposed to be specific and non embellished, the writing has to be a story people are going to be able to read and understand.

SJU Writes: Is writing more valuable in business than some people may think?

FT: The more advanced you are in your career, the more important communications become, and the more time you spend doing them. The numbers are the easy part. It’s telling the story where it is difficult. You also have to recognize who your stakeholders are, who your constituents are that you’re communicating with, and understand what their motivations and their role might be.

SJU Writes: You’ve said Jack Bogle, the founder and CEO of Vanguard, is a mentor. Why?

FT: The words that came out of his mouth, and the way in which he used them, were incredible. I never really valued communication until I started to spend more time with him. He was very deliberate in what he communicated and how he communicated. It was very important to him to get the right message across.

—Lauren O’Brien ’22

How a Political Scientist Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil?


Favorite place to write?

My home, mostly.

What are you reading now?

Temp by Louis Hyman


Laura C. Bucci, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Political Science


SJU Writes: What are you writing right now?

LB: I’m working on one article about why states adopt certain types of labor policies, and which states do. Another is about financial donations in political parties, how groups donate money and whether that moves them to a place of more power in the party or further out—and how that varies across groups. And then, with Dr. Scola and Dr. Baglione, we’re working on a piece on pedagogy about gender diversity in introductory readers. We’re [arguing] that the way we introduce political science to a lot of our first-year students is to say that women don’t write all that much and women aren’t central to the discipline, which is a really big problem. I’m also working on a book, so I’ve really overcommitted myself. A lot of pans and fires.

SJU Writes: What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever written?

LB: Dissertation. The idea of thinking about a big project means that you know its flaws but you care a lot about what you’re doing, and caring a lot makes it harder to do it imperfectly. By definition these projects have to start off imperfect. There’s a lot of trial and error and a lot of stuff you think is going to work but doesn’t. That’s been hard for me to deal with emotionally: that it can’t be perfect and it won’t be perfect and that’s okay. Even after a bunch of edits, if what I’m doing is important, and someone comes along and says, “Actually, it was garbage,” it’s going to hurt. But it’s actually a good thing, too, because it meant it mattered to someone enough that they would critique it. It doesn’t feel super nice, but it’s a mental check.

SJU Writes: How do you approach the writing process? 

LB: I’m a big fan of drawing pictures, so that’s my first tendency. I ask myself, “What is the relationship that I’m expecting?” and just draw a simple stick figure drawing of what I think leads to what. I encourage students to do this, too. What are you arguing? What is happening? What do you want to tell people? Write that down first, then build the rest of your essay off of that. 

SJU Writes: Is there a skill or skills you consider most important in political science writing?

LB: Some of the skills that are very important are describing relationships. We’re trying to say clearly what we think patterns should look like, given evidence that we have from other venues. And studying people means that you need to at least, in some way, like people. So we have to talk about people in such a way that is fair to them and what they’re doing, even if we don’t agree with them. I think political science writing, when it’s done well, talks about power in consistent ways and lets us know what the stakes are, what things are important, why all of this matters. Good writing in general tends to do that. It lets you know why you’re here, because otherwise no one wants to read your essay. Things like democracy, or justice, or law, or power—all of those things are hard to measure, hard to talk about. They’re all super important, but they’re a lot of things. How do we think about them consistently and clearly so that other people know what we’re talking about? 

—Margaret Brennen ’22

How a Film Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite music to write to?

Radiohead or Nick Cave.   

What are you reading now?

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin.

Are you writing anything right now?

A feature script I set aside over the summer.

                         What’s a word that you always misspell?

                                                                   Usually one with two letters that could be doubled, like Cincinnati.

Deron Albright
Associate Professor of Film 


SJU Writes: What’s your favorite aspect of the writing process?

DA: Occasionally those moments when you have gotten lost in what you’re writing and it’s flowing well. You know when you’re writing, and you’re so in the groove with the characters that you laugh out loud, or you start to cry?  It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s certainly the most enjoyable thing, being in that flow and having everything work, and then sometimes discovering something.

SJU Writes: Do you seek advice as you write?

DA: When I have a completed draft, I will definitely seek advice. I generally don’t show a draft halfway through unless I’m completely stuck, but when I have a finished draft beginning to end, then I will absolutely go and seek advice in any number of directions. I try to mix between professionals and nonprofessionals.

SJU Writes: What is more helpful to you: advice from people in the industry, or advice from people not in the industry?

DA: They’re different. With industry things, it’s all about marketability, you know?  It [screenwriting] has to be competent, it has to not do certain things and it has to do other things, and I feel very comfortable with those technical baselines.  From those bigger picture questions about story and characters, like “Do they make sense?” and “Do you like spending time with them?”, things like that, almost anyone can respond to those if they take the time.

SJU Writes: Do you have a particular genre you like to write in, or a subject you like to write about?

DA: I think one of the things I learned with the last scripts that I did was that I’m a drama writer who likes to include different elements from different things. This last script, the “blind composer” script, it’s ostensibly a thriller mystery movie, but I did try a version where I was writing it as a genre thriller, and I was far less comfortable with that. So drama is the broadest of the groups but beyond that then, I’ve been all over the place.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students who are learning to write in your discipline?

DA: If you have an idea, just sit down and write it. Reading lots of other scripts helps, and it just helps immensely to get the feeling of how to translate images, because you’re really writing in images. The trick of it is putting words on the page that gives this image to a reader to create a visual experience. So for new writers: read as many scripts as you can, find a film you love and find the script to it, see how that writer did it.  Don’t worry about the rules so much. There’s plenty of time for that. 

—Rae Davies ’21

How an Art Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Cellar door   

Favorite place to write?

A cabin on the beach, alone.

Oxford Comma, or no?


Martha Easton, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Art History 


SJU Writes: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

ME: Coming up with an idea to write about.

SJU Writes: What is your least favorite part of the process?

ME: The first draft.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?

ME: I often work things out in my mind before I put them on paper.

SJU Writes: What is your revision process like? Do you revise you’re writing, or after you complete a draft? 

ME: I kind of do both. If [my ideas] are flowing, I’ll just write. But, if I notice something right away that doesn’t make me happy, or that what I’m writing makes more sense somewhere else, I’ll revise as I go.

SJU Writes: Do you like revising? 

ME: I don’t enjoy it, but I realize that it’s necessary. I think I don’t enjoy it because I know that something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t sound right and I could say it in a better way.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students learning to write in art history?

ME: Writing in art history is really like writing in any discipline. You need to write clearly. You need to have an argument. You need to demonstrate what you’re saying. The writing skills for art history are universal in terms of clarity, organization, and telling a story that’s interesting. If it’s not engaging to your audience, it’s kind of a meaningless process.

—Natalie Nguyen ’22

How A Campus Minister Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?


Favorite music to write to?

Soft meditation music

What are you reading now?

Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan


Father Dan Ruff
Campus Minister


SJU Writes: What kinds of things do you write day-to-day?

DR: I suppose something I do regularly that’s closer to the heart of my career is writing homilies. I often do preach from a full text, and even if I don’t, I tend to write a full text version before I kind of boil it down. And then, when I was pastor at Old Saint Joe’s, I used to also write a weekly column for the bulletin.

SJU Writes: When you have a writing task, what is the process that gets you your first draft?

DR: I start “writing” my homilies on Monday morning, and that just starts with reading over and praying with the scriptures. So I carry those scriptures around with me in my head and my heart for the whole week, and I keep thinking about “Alright, where does this connect?” or “How do I make this communicate to people like the college student audience?” or “Are there stories I can think of that will introduce or illustrate this subject?” By the time I sit down to actually write, I usually have a pretty solid outline in my head of what I’m planning, so it usually goes fairly easily.

SJU Writes: Did you have a teacher who was the most influential to you in your writing?

DR: I’d say my fifth grade teacher when I was in public grade school because she strongly urged us to read at least a book a week and to write about the book. I think it was the first time that I had a pattern or a rhythm or a habit of writing. She’s actually also the teacher who taught us how to break down and diagram sentences, so I think it probably illuminated my understanding of grammar and prose and how it’s put together.

SJU Writes: Do you have any advice for a seminarian who is learning how to write his homilies, or for someone who is learning to write like you?

DR: I teach preaching at St. Charles. The first thing I tell them is always that it starts with prayer. Prayer is where you get the inspiration. I also strongly recommend that they start a week ahead, as I try to do, because if you don’t give yourself that time, you don’t have the time for the second thought. When I write a homily, often my second inspiration, a couple days in, will be different than the one I started with. And often the second one is the better one.

—Grace Schairer ’22

How a Spanish Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite Word?


Favorite music to write to?


Favorite place to write?

Outside in nature 

Professor Colavita-Jacyszyn
Spanish Professor


SJU Writes: What kinds of writing do you do right now?

ACJ: I do emails, occasionally social media, but emails every day. And I’m doing journal entries for yoga. I’m doing a course on sensory mastery. I’m journaling about my behaviors. Sensory mastery is about understanding and mastering the senses, and that’s what I’m working on at the moment. It’s a lot of writing and a lot of essays. I’m journaling to develop a meditation practice for myself and eventually for others.

SJU Writes: Tell me a bit about your experience learning a second language. What was your writing experience like as a child with your first language being Italian?

ACJ: My first language was not English. I probably started learning English in kindergarten. What I remember was being very quiet and very shy. That’s not my personality, but I was [shy] for those first few years, especially in first and second grade. The experience was I listened a lot, I observed a lot, and I listened to other people.

SJU Writes: How does knowing four languages [Italian, English, Spanish and Portuguese] impact your writing?

ACJ: I try to categorize the languages in my head, but I also do comparisons and contrasts with the languages. That helps me keep them in some kind of order. For example, between Italian and Spanish especially because they are very similar when it comes to writing. I’m thinking in Spanish more these days and writing more in Spanish, so I switch into modes, but sometimes it creeps in because Italian and Spanish are so similar. I think culturally, knowing the different languages and having the cultural awareness has definitely helped my writing.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students learning to write in your discipline?

ACJ: Do your best to not think and write in English and then translate it to Spanish. You’re doing yourself a great disservice because you’re not going to write, not at this point, not yet, the way you write in English. I always tell my students to visualize what it is that you’re writing about. It’s really important to try and think in the target language, and that’s a challenge because I know a lot of students write in English and then they go and translate it. That’s where they mess up or they end up suffering. You have to start training your brain. I say train your brain to think in Spanish, to look at something and then expand on it.

—Maya Jacyszyn ’22


How a French Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil?

Pen, fountain pen. 

Favorite word?

All the words that end in “-ouille.” Like “Ratatouille,” “Rouille.”

Favorite punctuation mark?



Kristen Burr, Ph.D.
Professor of Modern and Classical Languages  


SJU Writes: Do you mostly write in French or English?

KB: Most of what I’m doing for conferences and publishing is in English.

SJU Writes: When do you write in French?

KB: Sometimes for other publications and other conferences and reports for general assemblies. Everything obviously in class I do in French.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?

KB: Always brainstorming firstjust putting everything down on paper. Sometimes there are things in my brain that I don’t know are there until I put it down. Sometimes I don’t know how it’s all going to come together, either, until I see it all on a piece of paper. 

SJU Writes: What’s your favorite part of the writing process? 

KB: Seeing how things come together. They’re all ideas that I have, but watching how they take shape as I’m working on them, I realize other things, and I see them in different ways, too. I love that, and thinking about how to form my thoughts into a coherent and cohesive argument.

SJU Writes: Is your writing process different when you’re writing in French? 

KB: It kind of depends on what it is. The hard thing with French, though, is that you’re always super aware of the fact that you’re probably not saying everything quite like you would if you were a native speaker.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students learning to write in your discipline? 

KB: Honestly in French, the only way to do it is to write. The more you write, the better you get at it. It makes sense to brainstorm, to outline, to do a rough draft, and to get feedback from different people. 

—Devin Yingling ’22