SJU Writing Studies Blog

Win $500 to Attend a Writer’s Conference


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Each year, AWP offers three scholarships of $500 each to emerging writers who wish to attend a writers’ conference, center, retreat, festival, or residency. AWP maintains a comprehensive list of these events and opportunities in our Directory of Conferences & Centers. Winners and six finalists will also receive a one-year individual membership in AWP. This year’s judges are Xu Xi for creative nonfiction, Matt Bell for fiction, and Sandra Beasley for poetry. Enter via Submittable now until Monday, March 30, 2015.

Reflections on Creativity and Full Bookshelves by Dr. Owen Gilman







Our Thesis Collection – 160 and counting!







“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,”. . . and with that line, Frost got his “Mending Wall” poem started.  He was thinking about a stone wall, and just about everywhere you head off-road in New England, you’re going to find one of those unloved walls.  But the wall I have in mind is interior, the kind that serves to define the rooms in the dwellings we occupy.  I’m tempted here to take that detail and push it one small step further:  “Something there is that doesn’t love a bare wall.”  Our classroom buildings mostly feature bare walls; we don’t want ornamentation to draw student interest away from the subject undergoing development through lecture or discussion.  Still, it must be admitted that the bare walls are boring.

In our administrative areas, however, we can decorate our walls, do all kinds of things to alter the “bare wall” pattern.   In the territory of an English Department, bookshelves are often introduced to add zest to a bare wall area.  Just over a decade ago, the Saint Joseph’s University Department of English bought a new bookcase.  Naturally, at the outset, its shelves were empty, but over time, they have filled.  This bookcase was obtained explicitly to house the completed thesis projects for the M. A. in Writing Studies program that began offering classes in the spring semester of 2003.  By the middle of the next year, one of the shelves displayed a small collection of newly bound thesis projects.  At present, the number has swelled to 160, with roughly 15 new ones having been added each year.  The collection continues to grow steadily.  The growth has been so substantial that we had to purchase a new, larger bookcase last year to accommodate all the output of creativity.

A bookcase with books–now, that’s something to love, the perfect solution to a bare wall.  And we are very proud of the thesis collection.  It contains a wondrous variety of projects.  There are memoirs.  There are novels.  There are short story collections.  There are poetry collections.  There are essay collections.  There are quite a few innovative mixed-genre gatherings.  The Writing Studies program at every turn encourages originality, always looking for new ways to do all the old things, and some mighty fine fruit comes from this approach.  When you see the past represented so splendidly, thesis-by-thesis, you have a very comforting sense of where the future will be taking us.  More shelves will fill.  Another bookcase will be required.  The bare wall problem solving continues apace.  And yes, there is love, abundantly present, word by word, line by line, thesis by thesis.  Something there is that loves a wall, with a bookcase, filled with exciting thesis projects.  Gods from diverse cultures all chime in to add:  “It is good, this creativity.”


Writing Studies Student (Soon to be an Alum) David Jackson to Present Paper in D.C.




Congratulations to David Jackson, who’s paper: “New Century Approaches to Literacy: Engaging the Margins”, has been selected for presentation at the National Council of Teachers of English this month in Washington D.C.

As a first time presenter, we thought we’d have a brief interview with David by one of St. Joseph’s more seasoned students; impending graduate David Jackson.



So, are you nervous about your first presentation?

DJ: Dude, what do you think?  I’m planning on wearing a Depends under my suit and bra pads under my arms to absorb the sweat.

Seems drastic.  So explain what your paper is about.

DJ: Well, this conference is given for teachers of English on various topics.  This year the focus is on using story as a way to explain existence.


DJ: Over the years, it seems that education has favored empirical and objective modes of thought over subjective ones.  But there seems to have been a gradual shift since the 1970’s that appreciates the contribution of narrative as an equally valuable tool in the formation of theory.  It adds elements to non-narrative theories that can make it more fully understandable.


DJ: Women, children, disabled people, gender-nonconformists, and people of color have usually not been included in the formation of theory.  Even so, throughout history these people have contributed to humanity moving forward as a society.  They have kept journals, written poems, sang songs to their babies, made clothing and danced dances that explain our lived existence in ways that more scientific methods do not.

While I seem to be straying off track, all of these things are elements that tell a story, both overtly and covertly.  This conference is devoted to plumbing the depth of these non-traditional forms of storytelling.

Tell us how your presentation interacts with this.

DJ: I have a presentation that tries to turn the challenge of in class cell phone use into a tool to help engage students that are often disinterested in standard teaching methodologies.  If we use texting as a way to create story, we can take advantage of technology to harness the power of telling stories, which all humans do, and create a communal, reciprocal classroom where each member contributes and where all have equal value.

Good luck at your presentation!

DJ: Thanks.  Know where I can get a discount on Depends?