Four Questions for Dr. Aisha D. Lockridge

lockridge

Dr. Aisha D. Lockridge

We have absolutely the best professors in the Writing Studies program!  Read on for Dr. Lockridge’s take on our four questions:

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?)

Much of what I write springs from common practices: teaching, participating in Black popular culture, and reading widely. Currently I am working on a manuscript chapter which examines the limits of racial passing set against the potential relief available in the vexed relationship between strategic essentialism and Afro-Pessimism in Matt Johnson’s Loving Day and will debut part of it at the 2016 College Language Association (CLA) Annual Conference. Initially inspired by Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, I am also completing a Revise and Resubmit article for Palimpsest on the performative possibilities of ignorance and ratchetedness as strategic tools for survival.  And finally, I am providing a link to an article, “Practice and Performance: Teaching Urban Literature at the Less than Liberal Arts,” published in Hybrid Pedagogy on my experience discovering the real value of, and methods for, teaching difficult texts in inhospitable environments for the good of students, teachers and institutions of higher learning: http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/journal/practice-performance-teaching-urban-literature-less-liberal-arts/

What are you reading, for work or pleasure?

I just finished Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and am making my way through Margo Jefferson’s Negroland, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, and a stack of undergraduate essays examining the gendered and technological connections between Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and Alex Garland’s film, Ex-Machina.

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

Last download: Erykah Badu’s But You Caint Use My Phone. In current heavy rotation: Adele’s 25, Sza’s Z, Alice Smith’s She, B.O.B’s Strange Clouds, Bryson Tiller’s Trapsoul. I regularly listen to, and liberally quote from, the weekly podcast “The Read”.

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

Today, it’s reading a good book, completely undisturbed, in bright, natural light.

Website: aishalockridge.com     Twitter: @AishaDamali_PhD

Thanks for participating, Dr. Lockridge! Think I’ll check out those books you mentioned.

 

Ryan Halligan’s Parting Words for Writing Studies

Ryan Halligan is our next volunteer for the Parting Words questionnaire.

halligan

Ryan Halligan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any parting words or shout-outs to share with current students and faculty?

Thanks to the director, faculty, and administrative staff of the Writing Studies program—all of them top notch. Thank you as well to my classmates who dedicated thoughtful responses during workshops and raised the bar by sharing their fantastic writing.

A special thank you to Father Brennan for his guidance and valuable input as my thesis advisor.

Which Writing Studies course or course reading was most interesting or useful to you? Why?

Creative Nonfiction with Dr. Spinner and Poetry with Professor Stanford. Both were workshops, and both invaluable. The genres share a real kinship: writing as a journey to discovery.

How do you plan to use your Master’s Degree in your career?  

I plan to teach as an adjunct for a part-time second job. Coursework like The Writing Teacher Writing with Dr. Green has motivated me to consider teaching again. Also, I’m going to keep up my practice of writing and submit, submit, submit.

Do you have any tips for future students about choosing classes, juggling the workload, or writing a thesis?

If you work full time, go easy on yourself and maybe take one or two classes at a time. Working inside of your available time and space allows for getting the most out of the course. The program’s catalogue offers a good range, so choose the classes that suit your needs/tastes/career goals. Don’t forget to try something                   new, as well.

Thanks for your input, Ryan, and congratulations!

Parting Words by SJU Writer Don Philbrick

Don Philbrick (Nice beard)

Don Philbrick
(Nice beard)

Uglyville Cover

Don published Uglyville under the name Sawney Hatton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any parting words or shout-outs to share with current students and faculty?

I didn’t know what to expect from a graduate writing program—besides the degree—but I can honestly say all my classes were engaging, enlightening, and enjoyable. This can be attributed to the outstanding professors in the program. Every one of them deserves commendation of the highest order.

I would like to spotlight a couple of folks: Tenaya Darlington, Graduate Director of Writing Studies and a damn fine professor, for all her guidance throughout my time in the program; and Dr. Paul Patterson, my thesis advisor, who helped me polish my novella UGLYVILLE into the shiny opus it is today. Both deserve extra credit for putting up with my nonsense. (As do all of my professors, come to think of it.)

Which Writing Studies course or course reading was most interesting or useful to you? Why?

The most invaluable part of my classes was the feedback from my instructors and peers, a talented bunch who really contributed to improving and encouraging my work. I hope I was able to return the favor in equal measure.

How do you plan to use your Master’s Degree in your career?

In addition to earning a living wage writing and editing, I would also love to teach. Pursuing my Master’s Degree has already opened more doors for me in all these arenas.

Do you have any tips for future students about choosing classes, juggling the workload, or writing a thesis?

Choose the classes that interest you. Don’t procrastinate about getting assignments done. Write the best thesis you can. Eliminate anybody who gets in your way.

Any advice about writing in general?

Pay attention. Pay attention to everything you read, everything you watch on TV and at the movies. Pay attention when you are strolling down the street, driving in traffic, or eating at a restaurant. The world—all the people, places, and things you encounter—is your source of information and inspiration. Greedily accept everything it has to offer.

Write. Write fearlessly. Write powerfully. Write diligently. Write.

Be your own cheerleader and champion. Successful writers put themselves out there. After you have your work thoroughly critiqued and edited, submit it to literary magazines, query agents and producers, self publish (gasp!) it. Whatever you have to do to get people to read your writing, do it. Do not be afraid to promote yourself. Do not be afraid of rejection. There are many great writers out there who are floundering in obscurity, and many not-so-great writers who have become popular and prosperous. The difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful one often lies in how they sell themselves. Shine your light as far as you can cast it.

Thanks, Don.  Congrats on getting Uglyville published!

 

Director Tenaya Darlington & the Four Questions

An Interview with Writing Studies Director Tenaya Darlington

Photo by: Jason Varney

Photo by: Jason Varney

 

The Aviation Cocktail Photo by: Jason Varney

The Aviation Cocktail
Photo by: Jason Varney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 spend a lot of my time off campus writing about food – especially for Edible Philly, a magazine devoted to the local restaurant scene and to the area’s food culture. My focus until recently has been cheese — my last book was The Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese, an artisan cheese guide with recipes. It came out in 2013, and I hosted more than 60 tastings and book signings to promote it. After that, I was approached by my publisher, Running Press, to write a guide to cocktails. Luckily, I have a deep affinity for mixed drinks!

I’ve spent the last year and a half writing The New Cocktail Hour: The Essential Guide to Hand-Crafted Drinks, which will be released in April, 2016. My brother, Andre, and I co-authored it; he lives near Chicago and writes a cocktail column. Since we live 900 miles apart, we spent a lot of time on Skype with our cocktail shakers, testing recipes. We trained with a Chicago bartender and tested more than 250 cocktails to create an ultimate guide that’s organized by eras – so you can try pre-Prohibition cocktails or explore WW II cocktails. Cocktails are an American invention, so we wanted to put their incredible history into context.

My favorite cocktail of the moment is an Aviation, invented in honor of Emilia Earhart. It contains Plymouth gin (1 ¾ ounce), Luxardo (1/4 ounce), lemon juice (3/4 ounce), crème de violette (1 or 2 teaspoons), and simple syrup (1/4 ounce), plus a lemon twist.

What are you reading, for work or pleasure?

Susan Orlean, who writes for The New Yorker, is one of my favorite journalists – I love her curiosity and her painterly line-by-line writing. This semester, I’m teaching her book Saturday Night in my Practice of Writing class. In it, she investigates Saturday night rituals, and she travels around the country to profile people doing their Saturday night thing, from polka dancers to small-town cruisers to suburban babysitters. I love writers who can capture everyday stories and make them feel extraordinary.

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

On my way to work, I listened to Kishi Bashi on Spotify. I’ve become obsessed with podcasts and usually listen to a couple a day, too – most recently, I’ve become infatuated with Home of The Brave and Local Mouthful. The latter is a new podcast by one of our Writing Studies graduates, Marisa McClellan.

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

At a cheese counter, sampling a salty blue.

 

Cheers, Tenaya!

 

 

 

 

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