Tag Archives: WSU English Department

Passport to Adventure: WSU Writers Workshop

On Friday, April 26th, I had the pleasure of joining Lisa Lieberman in presenting the writing workshop “Passport to Adventure” at Worcester State University.  Like me, Lisa writes historical mysteries.  Hers follow the adventures and intrigues of Cara Walden from 1950s Hollywood to England and Italy (special guest appearance by Cary Grant!) to Hungary during the Revolution and soon to Indochina.  Lisa is also Vice President of Sisters in Crime New England.  In that role she’s been working to bring new blood, so to speak, into our organization.  This fun work shop is one means she is rolling out to do so.  I was happy that she asked me to join her.
To give you an idea of how fun and inspirational this work shop is, here’s Lisa’s description: “The Surrealists used to pool their money and buy a one-way ticket to the furthest destination they could afford. They’d send one person off on an adventure and they’d have to make their way back somehow, and tell the others all about it when they returned.  Along they way, they’d collect talismans that helped them navigate the dark places they encountered. In this workshop, we’ll be sending each of you off on an adventure and when  you get back, you’ll have the outline of a short story.”
Of course, we didn’t literally send anyone off ‑ that would be a really long workshop.  More pragmatically, we had a display of all kinds of intriguing objects from which participants could choose for the “talismans” or souvenirs. For a destination for their journey into the mysterious, we had them select one sealed envelope from an array, each with a different noir image to inspire their journey into creativity.  They had time allotted to get started on who one character in the image was and what his/her concern was.  Then, to spice things even more, I got to do individual tarot reading of past, present, and future of their characters ‑ which would aid them in thinking through where their characters had been, what conflict they were in now, and how that conflict might be resolved.  It was fun for me to give vague interpretations of the cards and then watch our writers run with them, already inspired by their images and selected souvenirs.  Wonderfully, the writers all seemed pretty well pleased with what they had come up with and planned to continue their tales.  One fellow even told me he had finished his short story and had submitted it to the Al Blanchard Short Fiction Contest.  Since he’s one of my students, of course, I’m pulling for him to win!
Our faculty liaison, Cleve Wiese was so excited by our endeavors, that he not only now has a story he wants to finish, but asked us to come back next fall to do the session with the WSU writers’ club INK.  Another faculty member wants us to do the workshop with his course The Writers Life in the spring!  And here’s the good news for everyone else out there!  Lisa and I would be delighted to come to schools or writers’ groups to do the workshop as well!  So let me or Lisa know if you would like us to work with you.  Once again, Sisters in Crime is out there making a difference for writers, published and unpublished!  Joining was one of the best decisions I ever made!


English Honors Celebration at WSU

We are fortunate in the WSU English department to have some of the brightest, funniest, talented students.  It’s always a pleasure to honor them at the aptly named English Honors Celebration – where we commemorate students’ scholarly and creative achievements.  And I have been lucky enough to have many of these folks in my classes.  So, I managed to record some of them with my handy digital camera.

Each year we have the Barbara Pilon Poetry Contest and the Kathleen Downey Short Fiction Contest, open to students from the entire campus.  English Honors5 Not all those who took awards in these contests were present, so we have a photo of combined contest winners here.  From left to right are  Mary Schroth (Downey), Grace Cook (Downey), Noah Goldfarb (Downey and Pilon), and Melissa Dognazzi (Pilon).  I have had the pleasure of having Mary in several of my courses.  She is a bright student and a beautiful writer. Though I’ve never had Grace in class, I’ve seen her wonderful performance on stage in the college’s production of Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet.

The English Department also racked up points through the Commonwealth Honors Projects,Picture2 with the first two awards going to Amy Angell (on the right) and Kayleigh Berger and Kasye Wazniak (left to right). Amy’s work was The Goodbyemoon—A Memoir of Loss, with Dr. Elizabeth Bidinger as her advisor.  Kasey and Kayleigh’s was Introducing Elizabeth Bishop, Poetry, and Writing as a Process, with Dr. Heather Treseler as their advisor.  Not knowing Amy well (though I’ve heard wonderful things about her!), I can’t speak to her project.  Maybe one of my readers out there who knows the whole story can add a comment to this post!  I do know that Kayleigh and Kasey did extensive, detailed research on Elizabeth Bishop’s background and writing processes, looking over actual records and manuscripts  to create a paper and drawing on that research to create a lesson plan on writing and revision for their own future teaching as well as for other teachers.

Here is the crew of primo English Majors who are inducted into Sigma Tau Delta.  Not everyone was present. Englishhonors7I’m highlighting the names of those I’ve been lucky enough to have in class:  Melissa Dognazzi, Molly Barrett, Caitlyn Brennan, Monica Valente, Sean Scannell, Lily Curtis, Kasey Wozniak, Danielle Grimaldi, Margarite Szezepanek, Anna-Lisa Norman, Heather Cameron, and Kayleigh Berger.

And here are just some shots of the students as their names are called out for induction.  Please forgive the fuzziness.  Between my having to jump up to get the picture and my not being able to avoid having the sun in front of me, some shots came out a bit fuzzy or a bit dark.  I still think you can see these guys’ intelligence and genuineness shining through!

Here’s Lily Curtis, Englishhonors1who braved Shakespeare and Witchcraft in Medieval and Renaissance Lit with me.  A beautiful writer, a sharp wit, and a good kid.

Next is Kasey Wozniak. Englishhonors2 I always look forward to reading what she has to write, and her comments in class hit the nail right on the head.  Students are going to be so lucky to have her for a teacher. Look at that beautiful smile!

So will be Kayleigh Berger’s students!  She’s lively, bright, funny.  I can still remember how Englishhonors3energetic and excited she was when I had her in class freshman year for Creative Thinking and Critical Writing.  And like Kasey and Lily, she’s a good kid, as my Mom would say. Both Kayleigh’s and Kasey’s guidance in the writing center has been invaluable to  all my students that they’ve helped.

I don’t really know Danielle Grimaldi Englishhonors4(picture 1) or Melissa Dognazzi (picture 2), but I’ve heard great things about them.  I do know that Danielle is already writing news stories professionally.  WSU English majors are accomplished!Englishhonors9 Again, any reader who know them, chime in and sing their praises!

Finally, Lily Curtis was sweet enough to want to take a picture with me!  Englishhonors8This girl even gave me a hug after the agony of taking a final for the class I team taught with MaryLynn Saul (I’m not taking that rap alone!).  I’m so excited because she also wants to write a paper for next year’s Undergraduate Shakespeare Conference!

We’re tremendously lucky to have students like these guys, and so many others.  I know it sound corny, but these moments kind of make up for the agony of tracking down plagiarists, slogging through grading papers that make you want to cry out, “Lord, take me now!, or getting up to perform in the classroom when an assault by the flu has you dying to crawl into bed and sleep for a decade.  I’m going to miss these guys who are graduating, but I’m happy that they have hopes and plans to carry them into a life that fulfills them.

P.S. please forgive typos in here.  I’m doing this with my eyes still dilated from an eye exam!)