SJU Writing Studies Blog

Tackle – Funny in Less than 500 Words by Ryan Latini

Photo Courtesy of the Author

Photo Courtesy of the Author

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of



Thank God it wasn’t hunting season,” was the last thing I could remember saying to Officer Bill before I blacked out. Usually, he wakes you with a clipboard smack to the forehead, but this morning it was the tapping of a No. 2 pencil. As I stirred, I could feel the eraser keeping beat out of time with the inherent beat of my hangover.

“What’s that song you’re tapping out?” I asked.

“Ain’t no song.”

Officer Bill stood and smiled, looking down as I rubbed my eyes. I squirmed on the floor of the holding cell, stretching toward the fluorescent lights. “

It’s Morse code for, you’re a goofy asshole. Your mommy is here to pick you up again. We’ve got another public intoxication award for you.”

“What do I win?” I asked, rising in the cell, rubbing my right eye.

“A court date.”

“A while since I’ve been on a date,” I said. “Who punched me?—Is it bruised? Feels a little swollen.”

“Murph did,” Officer Bill said. “In fact, he said you were trying to get a date with him last night. Want to see my rod, is what you said. It’s all in the report.”

“Oh!” I followed the officer down the hall toward booking. I remembered. “Fishing.”

“What?” He said, sitting down behind his desk with a squeaking swivel. I couldn’t see my mother standing two feet to my right, but I could smell her “out-and-about” perfume. My eye was swollen and nearly shut.

“It was a fishing rod. I have a new one. For catfish.” Officer Bill rustled paper. My mother sighed. I couldn’t look at her—literally or figuratively. “Graphite composite rod. Three bearing reel. Ergonomic design. Two-piece construction,” I said.

I didn’t see it coming, but pain suddenly blinded my good eye. My mom flicked the side of my head with her finger. “You’re a dumb boy. Fishing in the street?”

When the pain subsided, I remembered the night before, out front of the Spread Eagle Tavern, casting my fishing rod into the street. I remember the police approaching. I remember slowly reeling in, jerking the rod to bounce my jig worm on the asphalt. Officer Bill had asked for my license. “My fishing license?” I asked.

Officer Bill was gentle with me—the way he’s been since I was a teenager. My mother—not so gentle, but she has to “keep up appearances.” That holding cell is home for her just the same. We’ve left notes to each other carved on the rail of the cot.

After signing my rod out of the evidence room and placing it carefully in her sedan, down the center and out through the trunk, we sat in silence.

“What kind of bait were you using?” She laughed and slapped the dashboard. “Want me to drop you at the Spread Eagle?

“No,” I said. “Drop me off at the river. That jig hasn’t seen water yet.”

“You got your license?”

Ryan R. Latini is a freelance and fiction writer living and writing in the Greater Philadelphia Area. He received his M.A. in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph’s University, and is currently on the editorial staff of The Schuylkill Valley Journal. Contact him on Twitter, @RyanRLatini, gmail:, and check out his website, The Narrative Report at

Twelfth Night – by John M. Rafferty, SJU Writing Studies Student


John M. Rafferty







Twelfth Night is a flash fiction piece inspired by the work of Raymond Carver. It is concerned with a man’s struggle to find work, and the unexpected place his search takes him.

I went on the audition as a favor to my friend, Cole. I’m not an actor and neither is he, but I used to work full-time on his construction crew. His wife, Maria, is an actor, and as Cole related to me over the phone, Maria had told him that they “were really very desperate” for more actors, just for small parts. I had been struggling so hard to get consistent work, I figured Cole might help me if I tried out for this community production. He told me it was Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

I practiced the lines they had sent me. I felt nervous, sick, the whole day of the audition. I drove to the church in the rain, about forty minutes. It was a medium-sized theater. Bright, clean, wood floor, royal-blue stage curtain. The director, Simon, and two other older people–one a man, one a woman–sat at a table. Simon had a grayish-white beard and was paunchy, friendly and relaxed. The older man and woman, late sixties, early seventies, were a little fragile in how thin they were. They both had white hair, too; the older woman, glasses. They all smiled as we said hellos and shook hands. I filled out a sheet with my basic information and walked up onto the stage.

I read for three small parts in total. At first, I felt it was going fairly well–and then better –but I had to do an accent next, which I fumbled: I was having so much trouble with the lines that I forgot to keep up the accent; the last character I improved, I thought, but it was all overwhelming. It appeared they were not impressed when it was over. I walked down off the stage and they thanked me for coming out and I thanked them for the opportunity and was courteous and well-mannered.

When I left, it was still raining, driving home, and I felt unbearably strange: I didn’t want to act and I never wanted to be in the production, but I felt like a failure now that it seemed as though I would not be offered a part. At home, I sat in the kitchen and felt worse. I was tired. Maybe if I did some leg work, found other actors to recommend, that would help. That might count for something.

I never heard from the theater. I got a gig, full-time, selling alarm services door-to-door. I hated it, but I had to stomach it. I went and saw the play. I was a little worried I might run into Simon or the older man and woman (it would be embarrassing), but I didn’t. I saw Cole watching Maria up on stage and wondered if there was any point in talking to them when it was over. But really, I focused all my energy in understanding what was going on upon that stage: Who was playing who and what the characters wanted, and if it worked out for any of them.

Thanks to John for sharing his work with us!




Writing Studies Spring 2017 Course Offerings are Here!

Without further ado, here are the courses being offered in spring 2017 for the Writing Studies program.


ENG 560: Rhetoric Then & Now/CRN 10565

Dr. Grace Wetzel

 This course will consider various histories and theories of rhetoric as a means of developing our own capacities to think and write rhetorically. We’ll begin our exploration with rhetorical theories from ancient Greece and Rome (e.g. Aspasia, Plato, Aristotle, Quintilian), proceed to analyze the rhetorical practices of a range of 19th century rhetors and journalists (e.g. Sojourner Truth, Nellie Bly, Ida B. Wells), and afterwards discuss postmodern criticism and feminist rhetoric (e.g. Foucault, Baudrillard, Audre Lorde). We will conclude by considering rhetoric in relation to contemporary culture, digital media, and animality.  Ultimately, we will discover how rhetorical terms, concepts, and frames of mind can transform our writing and critical awareness about the world. (Core Course)

The following course texts are required:

Herrick, James A. The History and Theory of Rhetoric: An Introduction. Fifth Edition. Pearson, 2013.

Course Packet (available at the bookstore).


ENG 600: Poetry Today/CRN 10566

Dr. April Lindner

In this class, we will explore the liveliness and variety of American poetry right now, reading and discussing recent collections by a wide range of poets working in all sorts of poetic traditions.  You will keep a journal responding to our readings and also produce formal writings, including a book review of the poetry collection of your choice and creative imitations of the poets we read, accompanied by brief essays explaining your writerly choices.  Each of you will present your book review to the class so that we can learn from each other’s reading experience. You will workshop the poems you write for class and revise them for a final portfolio. (Area I)


ENG 635: The Writing Teacher Writing/CRN 10567

Dr. Melissa Goldthwaite

The Writing Teacher Writing is a class in which teachers, learners, and writers of all kinds seek to develop and sustain a practice of writing and a reflective writing pedagogy—one that can help students, too, see themselves as writers. We’ll consider personal writing practices, methods by which teachers conduct research in their own classrooms, and funded research on a larger scale. Students will do writing exercises, write response papers, and conduct a semester project of their choice. (Area II)


ENG 668: Creative Nonfiction Workshop/CRN 10568

Professor Eleanor Stanford

In this workshop-based course, we will read a variety of works of creative nonfiction, exploring the various forms the essay can take, as well as the sometimes fluid definition and form of the genre itself. We will consider works from across time and nationality for craft and technique. Readings may include works by Michel de Montaigne, David Foster Wallace, Leslie Jamison, Jenny Boully, and others. We will also experiment with various exercises to generate original writing in the genre. (Area III)


If you have any questions, please contact Heather A. Foster at, or the Director, Tenaya Darlington, at