SJU Writing Studies Blog

Seven Things You Can Do with an SJU Writing Studies Degree

Our illustrious director, Tenaya Darlington, put this piece together.  Read on.

Writing Studies Students and Alums

Writing Studies Students and Alums

 

 

 

 

 

Every year, we follow up with our Writing Studies graduates to find out how they are using their skills from our M.A. program to further their careers. Below you can read about some career options that our students have pursued, from editing to writing for businesses to teaching classes and writing grants. If you’re a current student, consider exploring a position in one of these areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Become a writer or editor at a magazine or publication. Many of our recent graduates edit or write for trade publications, including a law magazine, a health magazine for the nursing sector, and a university alumni magazine. Writing Studies graduate Pete Sanchez is a staff writer for The Catholic Star Herald in New Jersey.
  1. Write grants for organizations and university research centers. Our Grant Writing class taught by professional grant writer Maureen Saraco partners students with nonprofit organizations around Philadelphia to gain hands-on experience writing actual grants. Writing Studies graduate Clare Dych started with a city nonprofit and worked her way up to the position of Associate Director of Development for Penn Medicine.
  1. Teach writing. Our graduates work in a variety of teaching fields, from leading workshops for kids at Mighty Writers in Philadelphia to teaching in private high schools, colleges, and universities including Neumann University and Philadelphia Community College.
  1. Write for digital publications. Our graduates write or have written for such publications as Food Network Magazine, Vogue, Huffington Post, and Serious Eats.
  1. Work in the Communications sector. Our graduates are employed by start-ups, PR firms, advertising agencies, talent agencies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, universities, city organizations, foundations, and financial firms. One Writing Studies graduate, Mark Chalmers, was recently promoted to Vice Provost of Jefferson University.
  1. Run a Writing Center. Students who gain experience in our Writing Center at Saint Joseph’s University learn valuable one-on-one communication skills, plus management experience. Two of our graduates now run writing centers at major universities.
  1. Become an author. Our graduates author novels, cookbooks, and collections of poetry. Marisa McClellan, of the popular canning blog foodinjars, will soon release her third cookbook. Since graduating from our program, she has started her own freelance writing business and is now a full-time food writer. She also has a new podcast, Local Mouthful.

 

Tenaya Darlington is the director of the Writing Studies M.A. program at Saint Joseph’s University. You can reach her at tdarling@sju.edu.

Note Change to Course Number for Spring 2016

Sorry for the confusion, people!  ENG 679 is the correct course number for Writers at Work.  The cross-listed course on Writing for Digital Platforms will use ENG 675.

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

ENG 679 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.

Five Things You Missed at the Oct. 13 Authors Showcase (presented by The Avenue)

By Writing Studies Student Ryan Latini (ryan.latini856@gmail.com and on Twitter @RyanRLatini)

  1. Civil War dreamscapes of voodoo and pistol fire

  2. Passion, cadence, and activism from an open mic up-and-comer

  3. Blaxploitation, Black Panthers, and the fashion sparked by the movement

  4. The sonic surrealism of heavy metal hidden in nature’s underbelly

  5. A delusional, dysfunctional, golden-era obsessed YA heroine as read by a grown man

Oh, you also missed the readings from the five published writers behind these ideas—all current or graduated Writing Studies students: Don Philbrick, Elishia Peterson, Dan Rousseau, James R. Sanders, and Don Corcoran.

The Authors

The Authors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reading was put together to get an idea of what’s getting published by writers in Saint Joseph’s University’s Graduate Writing Studies Program.

I sat down with each of the writers to gain some insights into the works they read and their tips for success.

Dan Rousseau

Dan Rousseau

 

Dan Rousseau: Editor-and-chief of The Avenue. Dan’s piece can be found in the literary magazine, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society.

 

 

 

What are you reading tonight? It’s a piece you wrote in Owen Gilman’s Nature Writing course?

Yes. Sanctuary in the Shadows: Finding Extreme Metal in Nature.

It was published in The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society. What is their niche? Weirdos who look like Midwestern youth ministers, but are actually dark, terrifying human beings? (Dan was polite and laughed at my joke.)

It’s an online magazine. Their niche is weirdo stuff, some surrealist stuff—very visceral. My most recent piece is darker and crazier.

Where was that published?

L’Allure des Mots. I got a piece published in there about eating my eyeball—it’s a fictional piece (Dan says, pointing to his eyeball), and I have a piece coming soon in One for One Thousand about real estate racism

Why is this character so special in the piece you’re reading from tonight? What made you combine heavy metal and nature?

The character is essentially me. I’ve got a huge interest in metal. I played in metal bands growing up, and I played jazz in college—ensembles and stuff—but the metal is huge. I go hiking a lot out at Green Lake Park by my house, and there’s a lot of kind of decrepit stuff. I found a dead deer there that was rotting and the idea that nature is all happy-go-lucky is a false idea.

Why do you write? What gets you to sit in a chair and do it?

I like to research things endlessly—politics, sports, religion—so when I lock onto an idea, I can’t stop thinking about it. Writing is a way to stop thinking about it.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing now is publishing. Rejections come.

How do you cope?

I can’t help but see it go somewhere. If I’ve worked so hard on something, I’ll take what they say to me, if they respond beyond, “We don’t want this.” I just have to have it somewhere. I don’t know. It’s an obsessive thing, and if it’s a piece especially that deals with my morals and ideology, I don’t take it personally. I’m obsessive.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I listen to music. Watch documentaries. I like to go out and hike. I was reading an article recently about procrastination and they said, you know, for this writer, there was no such thing as procrastination—there’s only brainstorming time, and for me that’s true. I might go two or three days without putting pen to paper, but when I do get there and have all the ideas, it just comes out in a solid chunk.

(We both smiled, refraining from making a constipation joke)

How do you relax?

I started doing mindfulness meditation. I studied psychology for a little while before I got into writing, and they talked about it but I didn’t do it.

What advice would you give your younger writing-self?

Writing is pretty new. I’ve only been writing for a year. I would have started sooner. I started in ministry, then psychology, and then I spent some great time working with autistic kids, and that was important stuff especially for what I write about.

Favorite books?

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison, and The Sacred Journey by Frederick Buechner.

James R. Sanders

James R. Sanders

 

James Sanders: Fashion editor, stylist, with magazine credits in Vogue, GQ, Glamour, and L’Officiel

 

 

 

Where can we see more of your writing?

I am writing consistently for Vogue—Italy and America—GQ, and Glamour, so just Google James R. Sanders and any of those three publications, and my stories will come up.

I know your successes have come in magazine writing, so what writers inspire you?

A majority of them are fiction writers: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is still just the most important piece of literature that I’ve ever read. Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and on the journalism side, Hunter S. Thomson, Andre Leon Talley, Anna Wintour, from Vogue magazine.

Why do you write?

I write because I feel as though my voice is very unique. My perspective is very unique. A lot of writers come from adversity, and a lot of them come from poverty but—and I’m no different in that respect—but I feel as though the things I’ve been able to accomplish, the way that I think, my approach with things, is different. I don’t like people telling me what I can and can’t do. I don’t believe them to begin with. I do what I want. And anything I want I can have. And very few writers believe that. Most writers who come from the poverty and from the bottom—if you want to refer to it that way—they write from that pain, but I use that pain to write stories of triumph when I’m writing fiction or creative nonfiction. When I’m doing journalism, it’s for a check, because I’m broke. I’m going to spend the rest of my life letting the world get to know me because I’m worth it.

Tell me about the piece you read from tonight—how the black panther’s sparked a movement beyond their own movement, a fashion movement—where did this piece come from?

Foxy Momma. It’s a popular phrase from the Blaxploitation genre, and the shortened version appeared online for Vogue magazine, but there is a longer version that is part of my thesis. It was actually one of the samples that got my literary agent interested in the project. It’s important to me. When reading tonight, I tried to beef it up a bit and give it some color, some flare, because journalism can be dry. I don’t care if you’re describing a dress with 1000 sequins, it can still be boring, especially to those who aren’t into fashion as much as I am. I tried to make it interesting.

You certainly did James. Any tips on what to do and what not to do as a writer?

As a writer, my biggest tip is to decide whether or not that’s really, truly, what you want to do, because a lot of people will say they want to do it because of Sex and the City with Carrie Bradshaw who lived in this fabulous brownstone and just wrote and went to lunch and had sex and wrote about it. If you come from a background of nothing, like I did, and all you have is your skill or your talent or your inspiration, then you should take that and let that drive you to get each thing that you want to get. Somebody, somewhere, will read it. This program especially has some unique voices, but there is a place for everyone and no one can really tell you what you can and can’t do, unless you let them and unless you believe them.

What advice would you give to your younger writing-self?

You need to be more prepared, you need to be saving more, and you need to be working. I know you know what you want to do, and that’s great, that’s even fabulous, but you have to prepare for the future because your future is going to get rough, so bitch get it together. Start working in McDonald’s while you’re in college. I understand it’s not fabulous, but look, you don’t have anybody, it’s going to be hard, so you got to do what you got to do.

How do you relax?

Lately I haven’t been relaxing. However, I’d like to think that me relaxing looks like me not worrying about anything, and maybe watching something really stupid and mindless where I don’t have to think. Like maybe one of the Real Housewives franchises, or something with the word “Kardashian” in the middle.

Elishia Peterson

Elishia Peterson

 

Elishia Peterson: Poet, open mic up-and-comer, read Open Season, out of her new collection of poetry, Black Listed.

 

 

 

Give us an insight thematically to the collection.

What I see in my own neighborhood, the things that I write about are either from experience, the things that I observe, or things that I hear. Even if I’m on the trolley or driving, I hear something out the window, or in the mall, I catch those things and that’s how I relate in my writing.

What made you sit down and write Open Season?

It was probably something I saw on the news, some other black man or boy who got shot, and I was just like, “Wow are they hunting for them—are they looking for them?” Something that I saw on social media said it’s open season out here, so that’s where it came from. While you may be educated or have a family, it doesn’t matter. Obviously, it doesn’t matter if you’re educated, poor, wealthy, whatever, you’re a target, so I just had to get this out. I actually read it at the open mic back in July, and I got nice feedback from people. It felt good.

You do open mics?

I’m not quite a newbie, but I’m definitely getting a lot of practice, and I’m more comfortable with speaking in public. I’ve been going to the World Cafe Live for almost the last year. They have a good crowd. They have a jazz night before it, and it leads up to the open mic, so a lot of people come out.

Why do you write?

I write because it’s always been a release for me. Ever since I was a child, I was very shy and quiet, and I found writing as a way for me to express myself. It’s always been a tool for me to say what I wanted to say without any kind of prejudices or problems. So writing for me is just—free.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

It used to be, for me, being critiqued. When I first started here at St. Joes, in the workshops, I’m like, “Please like it.”

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Sometimes I make up songs. I like to sing, so sometimes I’ll make up a catchy song, and be like, “Maybe this could be a poem.”

Any tips for writers starting out?

Take the chance. It’s tough, so take your own initiative to do what you want to do for yourself as a writer, and just try it out and see where it goes. If I didn’t try to put this together myself, this would still be sitting in my computer, or still sitting bound in my thesis. Nothing would have happened, so you’ve got to kind of start it up yourself.

What advice would you give your younger writing-self?

I would just say, trust yourself. Don’t second guess yourself, because I’ve done that a whole lot, where I think maybe I’m not really good enough to do this.

What have you written, and where can we see it?

Well my chapbook, Black Roses: Five Women and Their Mental Breakthrough, which was my thesis, is a chapbook now and it can be purchased online at twopensandlint.com, and I also do open mics at World Cafe Live on Monday nights, 7pm.

Follow Elishia’s blog at www.lablesloveandliving.wordpress.com

Don Philbrick

Don Philbrick

 

Don Philbrick: (pen name: Sawney Hatton) read from his new novella, Uglyville.

 

 

 

Tell us about Uglyville.

It’s a noir-inspired YA novel. Dark comedy. It was also my thesis project and it’s now available on Amazon. It’s out there and ready to be purchased.

What made you sit down and write Uglyville?

I was living in LA for 8 years and doing a lot of work for hire screenplays. I also did a lot of spec screenplays. I had pitched an idea to my agent, which was Uglyville, and he said, “Yeah, write the script.” He thought it was too dark. I think he wanted something a little lighter. But I loved the story, and I thought it deserved to be told. So instead of taking the screenplay and forgetting about it, I decided to adapt it into a book. It worked out really well. I started the program here, and I had just started writing the novella of Uglyville and it just fit into the whole thesis, because it’s not a super long story.

Why do you write?

I’ve always loved story telling. I don’t even call myself a writer—I call myself an author I guess—but really I like calling myself a storyteller because essentially that’s what I love doing. I hope I tell them well, obviously, but I have to get these stories in my head, out, otherwise it just drives me nuts. Cleansing myself if you will.

Like an enema?

Yes, very much like an enema. Put that down—writing is like an enema.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Actually sitting, putting your butt in your chair every day, and putting words on paper. I always have stories to tell, but actually disciplining yourself—it’s so easy to get distracted by Netflix, Facebook, going to get coffee, but the hardest part is just sitting down. It’s intimidating. The blank page, or partially written piece, so to really discipline yourself to sit down in a chair and pump out words is probably the most daunting task of any writer.

What’s the skinny on self-publishing?

So, I have my own publishing company. I just started it in 2013. I put out my first novel called Dead Size through that. It was a learning process.   I wanted to learn the best way of doing things in terms of marketing, printing, all the logistics of it. It really was a trial by fire. It worked out really well. It’s got 35 reviews on Amazon, I have fans, and there are people actually interested in what I’m writing. I want to start releasing works from other authors. That’s my next goal. I think marketing is a lot of fun. Even a traditional publishing company, they have very small marketing budgets, so all the onus of promotion falls on the author.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do in writing and self-publishing?

When it comes to marketing your own stuff, it’s nonstop. You can’t stop. You can’t ever say, “You know something, I spent a month marketing this book, so I’m done.” You can’t think that way. As soon as you stop, you fall off people’s radar, so marketing yourself is constant. If you want to be a writer these days, you have to know how to market yourself, and you have to do it effectively and efficiently, and nonstop.

Favorite authors?

Joe R. Lansdale—he’s kind of the master of Texas noir. They’ve been adapting more and more of his stuff. There was a movie called Cold in July.

Robert McCammon—Swan Song, Speaks the Nightbird. Generally considered a horror author, but he’s more than that.

What advice would you give your younger writer-self?

Start sooner, but I try not to lament.

Where can we read more of your work?

Sawneyhatton.com, and I’m also on Goodreads, Facebook, and all my books are available on Amazon.

Don Corcoran

Don Corcoran

 

Don Corcoran read from his novel, A Road Paved in Iron. He is the first Iron Writer Flash Fiction Champion. He has been published in several anthologies including Urban Harvest.

 

 

For the piece you read from tonight, A Road Paved in Iron, give us an insight into your main character. What do they do that is so special?

Noah is a black Union soldier in the early part of the Civil War. The search for his mother in the heart of the south forced him to face persecution from northerners and southerners alike. In this hotbed of cultural conflict, Noah is at its confluence. He becomes the Wandering Stranger archetype of the Spaghetti Western tradition, only to discover his spiritual inheritance.

What made you sit down and write this work?

I believe we write from our subconscious and gather our best details from what’s had time to percolate in our heads. For my first series I wanted to delve into subjects with which I had a lot of knowledge and experience. I wanted a story that was subtly spooky. The Civil War, institutional racism, and Voodoo seemed like a natural fit.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Getting it done. There are a great deal of distractions, pieces of life that get in the way. It takes a lot of discipline and support from friends and family to focus on writing, to put to paper enough words to be successful.

Why do you write?

It’s less about what I like and more about what I have to do. I need to write. My head gets filled with the voices of my characters. I have to get them out, let their stories be told. Don’t worry, they don’t tell me to do anything dangerous.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do in publishing / self-publishing?

Most of my experience has confirmed the advice written on countless blogs and books. Promote yourself. Hire an editor and cover designer. Write every day. I believe what the writing community isn’t up front about is to trust yourself and don’t waste too much time and money on books, conferences, and advertising. The writing industry is filled with people who are looking to make ends meets and exploiting new writers has been a recent pastime. I’m not saying you can’t trust anyone, there are lots of really supportive folks out there, but be discerning about what really propels your craft forward and what may be a waste of resources. Nothing makes you a more successful writer than writing and revision regularly. There are no short-cuts.

How do you relax?

Cinema and reading are how I get out of my own head and into the ideas of others. I love film and I am enjoying what seems to be a renaissance of film-making, especially through the medium of a series. We are experiencing such depths of storytelling with groundbreaking feats such as HBO’s The Wire. We can explore deeper social lessons and develop more complex characters. I’m also a big nerd. I spent an enormous amount of time involved in game design and how to tell stories in a huge array of media.

What advice would you give your younger, writing self?

Streamline. I am a generalist – a good quality for most writers – but you can’t do all the things you want to do all at once. Choose something and stick to it. And quite frankly, get rid of the people in your life who are impediments to your dreams.

Where can we buy or see your works?

http://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/110336/A-Road-Paved-In-Iron

http://www.amazon.com/Urban-Harvest-Tales-Paranormal-York-ebook/dp/B00FCLSMOS

http://www.amazon.com/Ironology-2014-Writer-Championship-Anthology/dp/1502745054

Head’s Up – Another Course Added for Spring 2016

 

jana llewellyn

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

ENG 675 Writing for Digital Platforms

Professor Jana Llewellyn

Writing for Digital Platforms is a new course that explores the changing role and style of writing in our digital age. In addition to practicing multiple genres of internet writing (journalistic writing, marketing writing, business writing, personal writing), students will develop a theme-based blog which they promote through social media. The end of the course will require an open-ended project where students submit to one or more digital publications based on their mastery of various forms of online writing.

Note: this course is cross-listed with our Professional and Liberal Studies (PLS) program – 5 seats are open to graduate students. Professor Llewellyn is a blogger for Huffington Post and the editor of the online literary journal, The First Day. She also teaches at Temple and Rowan University.

 

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

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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.