SJU Writing Studies Blog

Interview with Dr. Paul Patterson – SJU English Professor


Paul Patterson



Dr. Paul Patterson is an Associate Professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University, as well as the director of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation Studies Program. His first book, A Mirror to Devout People, will be published on May 17, 2016.






Can you tell us a little bit about the history of A Mirror to Devout People?

The Mirror to Devout People is part of tradition of medieval religious “lives of Christ” that told the story of Christ’s life in Middle English, the language Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in and spoke. It was against the law to translate the Bible into the vernacular, so the Church created these lives of Christ to give parishioners access to biblical accounts. The Mirrorwas initially written for a sister of the Order of St. Bridget of Sweden by a monk of the Carthusian Order. They had religious houses south of London that were located across the Thames from each other. Eventually, a copy of the Mirror made its way into the hands of the Scrope family, wealthy parishioners whose family helped bring the Bridgettines to England.

How did you become involved in this project?

The project began as my doctoral dissertation. My dissertation director, Professor Jill Mann, suggested I edit the Mirror since it was an important text but there was no edition.

What did the process of editing this book entail?

There are two hand-written manuscript copies of the Mirror, one at the University of Notre Dame and one at Cambridge University in England. The most important thing was to transcribe both manuscripts and compare the variations. Than I created a base text-based on the Cambridge manuscript and began tracking all the differences between the two texts. That meant a lot of trips to England! Finally, I compiled notes on the two manuscripts, on the text itself, wrote an introduction, and created a glossary or dictionary of the important words. The entire process from the beginning of the dissertation to its publication took eleven years.

What audience do you think this book will attract?

The audience will be those interested in medieval religious history, professors, and graduate students. It is published through the Early English Text Society by Oxford University Press, which is a series. A variety of people subscribe to the series and they will each receive a copy.

Do you have any advice for aspiring editors at Saint Joseph’s University?

Editing a critical edition is very different from the kind of editing one might do at a publishing firm. If a student is really interested in editing critical editions, then she should pay close attention to critical editions that are currently in print. How do editors organize them, what decisions do they make when choosing what variations between existing texts to include, and how do those decisions change the text? And read. Read everything from textual and editing theory to works of literature. The best editors are the best readers.

This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2016 English Department Newsletter, edited by Sarah Sutherland, ’16.

Congrats to Mary Beth Peabody ’15 On Her New Job!


Courtesy of the Catholic Star Herald

“I’m still pinching myself about this job. It’s quite a departure from the corporate world I left when I came to SJU, but it enables me to transfer a lot of the skills I developed along the way. I have often thought I missed the boat not being in education, especially after taking Ann Green’s Writing Teacher Writing class, but I couldn’t really see my way to another degree at this point in my life. So this is perfect. Maybe I’ll get that next degree after I retire.” – Mary Beth Peabody



Read on for more about Mary Beth and her new position.

On March 21, Mary Beth Peabody joined the Diocese of Camden as communications and marketing manager for Catholic schools. In this capacity, Peabody is responsible for developing and implementing communication and marketing strategies to support the ministry of Catholic education.

This new position is an important element of the long-term strategic plan for schools in the Diocese of Camden, which was detailed in the report commissioned by Bishop Dennis Sullivan, “Forming Minds and Hearts in Grace: A Plan for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Camden.”

In this new role, Peabody will leverage years of experience in corporate communications, where she specialized in managing change through effective communication. A former consultant with two national firms, her experience spans the early phases of strategy and planning through branding and media selection, copy writing and production management.

“Mary Beth’s experience will have a significant impact on elevating the public awareness of the good work being accomplished in diocesan schools,” said Superintendent of Schools Mary Boyle, who noted that Peabody will work collaboratively with the diocesan Office of Communications.

Peabody is excited about focusing her efforts on a single mission, the future of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Camden. Her mother, Anne McBride, taught at Camden Catholic High School, and her three sons attended Catholic schools in Pennsylvania.

A graduate of Clemson University, Peabody recently earned a master’s degree in writing studies from Saint Joseph’s University. She is a member of Saint Denis Parish in Havertown, Pa. and an associate with the Sisters of Mercy, with whom she is active in efforts designed to promote social justice.

Article courtesy of the Catholic Star Herald.

Well done, Mary Beth! Keep us posted on how it goes.



SJU Writing Studies Fall 2016 Course Offerings


Tenaya Darlington



ENG 550: Practice of Writing/CRN 40587

Professor Tenaya Darlington


This course is designed as an Introduction to the Writing Studies Program, and it allows students to explore a variety of genres while they explore career options within the writing/publishing world. Students will literally “walk in the shoes” of different writers, playing the role of columnist, reporter, editor, poet, and fiction writer. At the end of the course, students will reflect on these different roles and begin brainstorming a possible thesis project in one area. (Core Course)



ENG 673: Screen Writing/CRN 40590

Professor Tom Coyne


In this class, we will learn how to present story in a specific, challenging, and rewarding format that may be unknown to you, but the fundamentals of good screenwriting are the same as all good creative writing — detail, dialogue, character, voice, precision, and imagination. We will develop and locate our most cinema-ready narratives, and learn how to tell them via camera and microphone. We will read screenplays, write screenplays, and discuss the craft and conventions of professional screenwriting. We will study three-act structure and the fundamentals of dramatic storytelling, and we will look at a number of professional screenplays to guide our discussion of form and craft.  Each member of the workshop will develop his or her own screen project from an initial concept/pitch to a full-length, feature screenplay.  The class will also look at the business of screenwriting and discuss the overall development of screen projects. No screenwriting experience required. (Area III)



ENG 636: Writing as Empowerment/CRN 40589

Dr. Ann Green

In Writing and (as) Empowerment, we’ll explore how writing can be used as a tool, a method, and a means of empowerment. We’ll consider how the ability to tell one’s story can be empowering and what the risks of telling one’s own story are. We’ll also consider what an author might choose to leave out of her telling of a particular tale. Finally, we’ll research a story of empowerment and write our stories of empowerment. Each participant will complete two projects in different genres, including fiction, nonfiction, pedagogy, poetry, and academic prose.  Lots of writing and intensive reading.  (Area II)

 owen gilman


ENG 615: Road to Revolution in the 1960s/CRN 40588

Dr. Owen Gilman

 A study of the American cultural scene during the 1960s with particular focus on the contribution of writers as agents of change in movements to break existing stereotypes and to challenge racial discrimination, gender discrimination, sexual repression, environmental degradation, and war. Writers may include: Jack Kerouac, Harper Lee, Rachel Carson, Nikki Giovanni, Eldridge Cleaver, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Betty Freidan, and some Beat poets. Films were also consequential both in propelling and in reflecting revolutionary changes in American life through the 1960s. Several key films that may be considered include In the Heat of the Night, Bonnie and ClydeThe Graduate, and Easy Rider. (Area I)

5 Tips for Budding Music Bloggers

Krisann Janowitz

Krisann Janowitz

Writing about music can be difficult, particularly when you are someone like me who never took up an instrument (unless you count that one year of guitar). So how have I become a music blogger writing reviews for the awesome website, Independent Clauses? First off, I write often. Through writing personal blogs for years, reviewing albums just for fun, and writing nearly every day, I was able to hone my writing skills. Self-editing is also a very helpful practice. I certainly am no expert at writing about music, but I have learned a lot through writing for Independent Clauses.

Enough about me. If you are at all interested in furthering your writing, particularly in the area of music journalism, read on! Here are a few tips for any budding music blogger.


  1. Listen to music well. If you foster active music listening, you will improve in how well you write about it. Pay attention to everything. Notice each instrument in the overall sound. Consider the texture that the vocals provide and the voice parts of each singer. Think about the lyrics and how they add to the song and album. Even in good ol’ rock n’ roll music– harmonization, dissonance, and repetition can all be present. Pay attention to these things and more.
  1. Don’t be afraid to look things up. If you have never taken music classes growing up, don’t fret– you, too, can write about music. All it takes is listening and writing. If you can do those, you are in good shape to blog about music. If you don’t know all of the musical terms or genres, just look it up! I have been writing about music for years now and I still have to look things up. If a musician is listed on Facebook as belonging to the genre of “psychedelic folk” and you’ve never heard of that before, look it up on Wikipedia! Wikipedia is not the enemy.
  1. Write about music you enjoy. When I started reviewing albums for Independent Clauses, I was surprised to learn that we only review music we like. Positivity is in, whiny criticism is not. Particularly if you are reviewing independent artists like we do at Independent Clauses. What these newer artists need are good sound bites, not negative commentary. When writing about music, you really have to think about how your words can affect the musician. A good review does wonders and a bad one could negatively affect an artist.
  1. Free-write, then compose. This rule applies to all writing. I used to stress too much about beginning a piece, until I allowed myself to free-write before the actual drafting. (In fact, this article itself looked very different when I started writing.) But if you just write, you will find yourself at a much saner place to begin drafting up a blog post. With my music reviews, I often find it helpful to first write notes about each track as I listen– quotable lyrics, the instruments I hear, the overall feel, etc. Then, I write my first impressions of the album, my favorite parts, what it reminds me of, and any other thoughts. Finally, I am ready to listen to the album again and begin drafting up a review. Good writing takes time to come together, so don’t rush the process.
  1. Let your writing sit. I’m sure we can all use improvement on this one. From my experience, a blog post is exponentially better when it has sat for a bit. In our fast- paced culture, we always want to get things done and move on, but writing about music should not work that way. Especially if you are reviewing an album. Take notes as you listen. Draft a review. Let it be. Then come back after some time and revise. If you follow that process instead of trying to bang out a review in two hours, I’m sure you’ll find it will make for much better writing.


Thanks for the great advice, Krisann!

Four Questions for Professor Eleanor Stanford

Here are Professor Ellie Stanford’s responses to our four questions. (Sorry about the delay, Professor Stanford).

Courtesy of Bartram's Garden

Courtesy of Bartram’s Garden







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?)

I’m currently working on poems that come out of my recent Fulbright experience in rural Bahia. Ostensibly the poems are about traditional midwifery–but they’re also about questions of marriage, the female body, birth, and death…with a few folk remedies for snakebite and toothache thrown in.

Here’s a link to a recently published (unrelated) poem:

What are you reading, for work or pleasure?

Poetry by Adrienne Su, Sarah Blake, Louise Gluck, and Pablo Neruda; essays by James Baldwin; Patti Smith’s new memoir, M Train.

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

Music: Hank Williams, Gillian Welch, bossanova, Gilberto Gil, whatever jazz standards my kids are practicing (currently Night in Tunisia and Blue Monk)

Podcasts: This American Life, Radiolab, Longform, Dear Sugar

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

Before it gets too cold: at the park, playing frisbee and practicing handstands with my kids.

After it gets too cold: hot yoga studio!