Four Questions for SJU Writing Studies Professor Carmen Machado

So… What do they do when they’re not teaching class?

Many of you have asked about the people who are teaching you to be better writers.  In an effort to satisfy your curiosity, our illustrious Director, Tenaya Darlington, came up with four questions for the faculty currently teaching Writing Studies courses.  The first to volunteer is Carmen Machado, who is teaching Speculative Fiction this semester.  Thanks, Carmen, for your input!

Carmen Machado Headshot

Professor Carmen Machado











What is your current writing project? (Or do you have a link to a recent publication you’d like to share with our grad students?)

Right now, I’m working a book of experimental essays, a handful of short stories, and a novel. (I always have more than one project in progress!) My most recent publication is the reprinting of my story “Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead” in Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015, edited by Joe Hill & John Joseph Adams.

What are you reading, for work or pleasure?

I’m always reading! Some recent favorites have included Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, Annie Liontas’ Let Me Explain You, Lincoln Michel’s Upright Beasts, Heather O’Neill’s Daydreams of Angels, and the Saga series.

What are you listening to (music/podcast/radio program)?

I listen to a lot of NPR. I’ve also been loving the new albums from Lana del Rey, Florence & the Machine, & Chvrches.

When you’re not on campus, where’s your happy place?

My front porch, with a mug of coffee and a book.

My Twitter account is here and my website is here.

Writing Studies Spring 2016 Courses Offerings

Tenaya Darlington


Mondays 6:30-9:15 p.m.

ENG 675 Special Topics: Writers at Work (Area III: Professional Writing) Professor Tenaya Darlington


This course is designed to set your professional life as a writer in motion. Over the course of 15 weeks, you’ll meet a series of working writers from around Philadelphia who will visit our class. During these visits, you’ll have the opportunity to network with professional writers and learn about possible career paths, from public relations to publishing. Each writer’s visit will tie into a different writing assignment so that you can begin building a portfolio of professional work (likely assignments will include: a press release, a review, a book proposal, an edited manuscript, plus a professional resume and bio.) At the end, you’ll develop an online portfolio that you can use as a calling card.



Photo Credit: Howard Dinin


Tuesdays 6:30-9:15 p.m.

ENG 642 Style (Area II: Rhetoric & Composition)

Dr. Melissa Goldthwaite



From the words and figures of speech you choose to the sentence lengths and punctuation you use (or don’t use), style is central to writing. In this course, we will study the history of style from a rhetorical perspective and then move to the work (nonfiction, fiction, and poetry) of 20th and 21st century writers to explore the use of style in contemporary writing, including your own. A discussion-based seminar with a workshop component, this course depends on a high level of preparation and participation. In addition to reading, you will write a series of short papers and conduct a semester-long project of your choice. Your project can be creative or analytical.


lockridgeWednesdays 6:30-9:15 p.m.

ENG 620 Special Topics: 21st Century Black Literary Imagination

(Area I: Writing & Culture)

Dr. Aisha Lockridge 


Working in tandem, the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement sought to free Black people as a whole from the terror of white law while the leaders of the Black Arts Movement sought to free Black artists from the tyranny of white editors. The mark of their respective successes, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the significant number of Black writers holding forth a Black Aesthetic, suggested that these successes would usher in a radically different era of freedom and opportunity for all Black Americans, ultimately improving their collective quotidian experiences. Over 50 years later, African American literary critic Michelle Wright argues succinctly: “There is no progress; there is only the infinite possibilities of the present.” Taking up this challenge and resisting a purely progress narrative, we will anatomize literature and literary criticism written after 1964 identifying common themes, styles, imagery and artistic strategies emerging at the end of the 20th century and into the 21st, focusing particularly on newer areas of African American literary inquiry including: Afro-Pessimism, and Post-Soul Memoir, and Contemporary Narratives of Slavery. The question consistently framing our inquiry: How are Black writers in this era articulating concepts of freedom and citizenship as raced and gendered subjects despite the consistent pressure of monolithic ideas of Blackness and ethnic absolutism on their work? Likely primary texts will include: Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Percival Everett’s Erasure, Mat Johnson’s Loving Day, Kiese Laymon’s How to Kill Yourself and Others in America, Thylias Moss’ Slave Moth, Suzan-Lori Parks’ The Red Letter Plays, and Jay-Z’s Decoded.




Thursdays 6:30-9:15 p.m.

ENG 560 Rhetoric Then and Now (Core Class)

Fr. Tom Brennan

In Rhetoric Then and Now, we will consider the origins of rhetoric (with particular focus on the classical system as defined and influenced by the Sophists, Plato and Aristotle) and then move to the work of 20th and 21st century writers and rhetorical theorists to consider the ways classical rhetoric’s concerns about persuasive practices (such as the relationship between language and knowledge and theory and practice, as well as ethical considerations, theories and practices of education, and the importance of style) have been transformed but are still very much alive today. Students will write a series of reading response papers and conduct a semester-long project (which will be workshopped by the class) exploring the relevance of rhetorical theory to their own area of interest.

Gonzo Girl Coming to SJU

Cheryl Della Pietra, former assistant to Hunter S. Thompson, has written a novel based on her experiences while working for him.

Cheryl Della Pietra Flyer




Check out some of the reviews for her book, Gonzo Girl:

Gonzo Girl is a thrilling fictionalized (just barely) account of working with a true genius—until the celebrity-filled, drug-fueled partying becomes too much.” (Entertainment Weekly (Must List selection))

“A margarita-fueled, miniskirt-clad cautionary tale of lost literary innocence.” (Vogue)

“Gonzo Girl is good, fast fun, like a thrill ride in a red convertible. A 1973 Chevy Caprice Classic, to be exact. You know the one.” (Newsday)

“Full throttle from page one, this bildungsroman is a unique and mesmerizing tale about a young woman who must test her own limits and find her own voice to actualize a certain version of the American dream.” (

“Fascinating.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“While the novel dishes out plenty of illicit good times, Della Pietra also manages to bring moments of poignancy to the narrative. . . . Della Pietra ultimately steers her story to a believable, satisfying, and moving conclusion.” (Publishers Weekly)

This is a not to be missed event!  Sponsored by the English Department.



Emily Czerniakowski (’08) Gives Us an Update

Emily, an alum of our esteemed Writing Studies program, was gracious enough to provide an update on what she’s been doing since graduation.



Great to see all the exciting stuff coming from the SJU Writing Studies program. Just by way of update from my world since I last emailed in February of 2014:
I’ve enjoyed building a career in children’s media and entertainment – as a co-founder of nationally recognized youth dance company CaRu Entertainment, as a host for Radio Disney Philadelphia and as a host for Wilhelmina Philadelphia’s Philly Kids Got Talent. When I received the exciting news in August 2014 that I was going to have a little one of my own, I started Modern Mommie – a lifestyle blog geared toward non-traditional families. It has received upwards of 400 page views a week and has been retweeted by published authors, a major cosmetics brand and media outlets like WHYY. One of my posts was also featured in The Blended Family Digest. It is a project that I still consider in its early stages so I look forward to continuing to grow its content and its reach.
My career has seen quite a few twists and turns, but I am excited that this latest venture has brought me back to what I love to do most, to write.

 Congratulations on your continued success, Emily.  Thanks for keeping in touch!