In our new “Parting Words” column, we ask recent and emerging graduates to share a few words about their experience in the Writing Studies program at Saint Joseph’s University.
Do you have any parting words or shout-outs to share with current students and faculty?
The late Francis F. Burch, S.J. was my friend, mentor, and invigorated in me a sense that even if everything has been done already, written already, it is my job to get out there and do it better—write it better. This was all during my undergrad at SJU. He wrote one of my letters of recommendation to the writing program after I met with him at end of 2011 or early 2012 for our last dinner together at the Jesuit Residence. He would tell me stories, and who knows if they were true, but we deal in fiction, and I feel I inherited from the man a tradition of storytelling.
My ever-patient thesis advisor Tom Coyne for not holding any punches in his insistence on rewriting and rewriting again, and his respect of writing as a craft—showing me how to couple impulse and craftsmanship.
Dr. Jo Alyson Parker for putting together probably the most interesting reading lists I’ve encountered. If you want to explore the dynamic forces behind narrative and the fictive dream, then she should be your go-to. Our exploration of temporal elements in her course inspired the structure of my thesis.
Dr. Jason Mezey and Joe Samuel Starnes for their kindness to me over the years.
Which Writing Studies course or course reading was most interesting or useful to you? Why?
Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. I read both in Dr. Parker’s class: “Experiments in Narrative: Narrative and Time.” Amis’ novel turns chronology on its head, but at the same time, a simple narrative twist in temporality can turn good and evil on their heads as well. The book gave me chills. Mitchell’s novel stuck with me because—aside from being a pleasure to read—it created a world so vast in space and time, the likes of which I don’t think have been seen since Tolkien. It was inspiring.
How do you plan to use your Master’s Degree in your career?
I’d like to throw my hat in the adjunct professor ring. Once I complete my course work, I’m going to pursue freelance gigs in my free time.
Do you have any tips for future students about choosing classes, juggling the workload, or writing a thesis?
Cancel your cable. Delete your Facebook account. Do the work. Do all of it. Then do it over. There is time enough, and if you want to write, you will make the time. Read as if your life depended on it—your life might not depend on it, but the quality of your writing does. Steal style, follow the steps of the greats, and then, when your legs are strong enough, take off on your own path. Listen to the men and women teaching the classes, because if you (or I) truly knew what we were doing, then we would do it at home and save a buck. It’s a favor to yourself to leave your ego at the door.
Thanks for contributing, Ryan!