November 23, 2009
November 20, 2009
Many thanks to all who attended, including our featured writers and artists as well as faculty members and supporters from other student groups.
Congratulations to those whose work is showcased in this edition. Your readings last night were wonderful.
Here's to many more semesters with even greater success.
November 18, 2009
November 17, 2009
Major(s): Chemistry (MS)
Year of Graduation: 2011
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009, Spring 2010)
Tell us a bit about your education and work experiences. How do you see these experiences connect to writing as an art; how do they impact your writing, specifically?
I have a B.A. and M.A. in English & Creative Writing, a B.S. in Biochemistry & Forensics, and right now I’m working on an M.S. in Chemistry. As for work experiences, I’ve been a manager at a movie theatre, taught kindergarten,worked in a laboratory, and right now I’m an editorial intern at a local newspaper and I’m a Physical Chemistry T.A. Everything I do adds experiences I can draw from when I write. I meet new people, learn new things, go on wacky adventures, and it all rounds out my writing.
You have both a poem and a prose piece in the Fall 2009 edition of The Independent Scribe. Which genre do you prefer? What inspired you to write these two, different pieces? Do you see them having unique functions based solely on genre, or do they function uniquely for different reasons?
Prose, definitely. Specifically short fiction. Very short fiction. Microfiction. In fact, I prefer to think of both pieces as short fiction, even though the "Ode" is undeniably poetry. "7 O’clock News" was inspired by a radio newscast I heard while still half asleep, and the Ode was written when Iwas reading a collection of Neruda for the hundredth time for fun while reading a forensic text for work. I think the styles of the pieces are well suited to the subject matter, but I don’t think the styles alone define the pieces' functionality.
If you could wear any writer like a giant body suit from head to toe for a day, who would it be? Why? Would you act like them and trick everyone into thinking you're actually him/her, or act completely different? Why?
That’s kind of weird and creepy, so I’d have to go with Stephen King. I think he’d appreciate it the most. We could both probably write about it afterward, and his version would make me hide under my bed for a week I’m sure.
What do you like to do outside of writing and academics? Have any exciting hobbies?
Wait, there’s something outside of writing and academics? Are you sure?
If you were to design and build a home based on a literary work, what would your home be like? Look like, smell like, feel like? Why do you chose this text as your architectural inspiration?
My first instinct is a house based on The Old Man and the Sea; basically I just like the ocean. It’d be white and have huge windows and be on stilts on a cliff, and have cathedral ceilings. My second choice would be the house from the Haunting of Hill House, but I would not live in it. It’d be great for Halloween, though.
Is there any piece of fiction you just can't stand? Why?I wish to God people would stop telling me how awesome The Lovely Bones is. Don’t get me wrong, maybe it’s great, but as long as everyone is telling me about it, I have no reason to read it.
If you were to teach a creative writing course at URI, what would the course be like?
It would be awesome. You’d wish you were in my class. Trust me.
What is your favorite part about being involved with The Independent Scribe?Being a part of the writing culture. It is great to go into a room once a week and be able to talk with students who are interested in literature and writing. Working with the everyone on The Independent Scribe is a great experience, and I really do enjoy every minute of it.
Name: Samuel D. Aboh, Jr.
Year of Graduation: 2010
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009)
Coming from so far away, how did you end up at URI?
Because Brown did not accept me and Bryant came to seem boring.
How much of your political past plays into your writing?
A lot! Coming from Africa I have seen a lot of corruption, a lot of which has to do with our own countries’ leaders but also from foreign influences as well. I never had a voice as a child but my conscience has become something of a nag as an adult and so a lot of what I have seen and endured politically - civil war, shabby and corrupt elections, etc plays into my writing. I write so that I can also nag and beat at someone else’s conscience.
Is there anything about "How to Make Palava" specifically that you'd like to share?
Indeed! Don’t get me wrong, I love my African people, but so much of what is going on in Africa today is the fault of the African himself (even though we would like to blame others, foreign corporation and powers and such )- we (I say “we” because I am African) are not each other’s keepers. We seldom stop to think about the welfare of each other, which blinds us to how much influence we can have if someday we can unite as one - if someday we can think about how to serve our fellow neighbors (we are neighbors for Christ’s sake - Africa is what, 53 countries strong?) instead of trying to fulfill our own personal agendas. It is the greed and vainglory our African leaders; the strife and conflict that surrounds every African, the indifference we harbor when we see things going wrong but don’t care to do anything (simply because it not affecting one country yet) about it even though we share he same continent, that drove me to write this poem.
The word "palava" has many different usages, as we see in your poem feature in this edition of The Independent Scribe. Are all of these definitions common, or is one more prevalent than the others?
Yes. To use palava to refer to trouble or some sort of problem or disruption is more prevalent where I come from. Palava could happen in the market place when women fight over space to sell their food stock, when people fight about the last drop of water in the well, the nosy neighbor refuses to mind his/her own business, etc.
Do you have any other creative outlets? Do you write prose as well, or solely poetry?
Indeed. I am currently working on a book, a memoir of some sort to chronicle my life from civil war - Liberia to Ghana, to America. I have tried writing songs, since I am a singer as well, but let’s just say that it needs more work.
After you graduate, do you plan on continuing to write?
Yes, I plan to continue to do just that.
What was your first introduction, formal or otherwise, to poetry?
My first introduction to poetry was when I took an ENG 205 course, about one year ago. I really loved the course. I always left the class with a smile on my face and hungry for more.
I'm sure you know by now that everyone who hears you speak is entranced by your accent. Given that, it has to be asked-- can we expect to hear you read at the November launch event?
Yes, I would Love to read. Will I be reading just one or can I bring other poems I have written?
Is there any methodology to your writing? Is there a particular place you need to be in, physical or otherwise?
I am very nocturnal. Ideas seem to rush to me at the early hours of the morning. I like to lie quietly in bed with my note pad on my computer desk and every now and then, when I receive a vision I will rush over to the desk and write it down. It is such a thrill.
If you had to pick just one literary figure to accompany you to a week-long retreat, who would it be? Why?
John Milton, were he alive. He is simply marvelous. I would also like Morgan Freeman to accompany me. Yes, I know he is not a literary figure, but I thought I’d add that in just in case you guys are in the business of making dreams come true, like Oprah.
Name: Mollie Bergeron
Year of Graduation: December 2009
Position: Layout Manager, Featured writer (Fall 2009)
If you could spend one afternoon getting to know 1 of the published writers featured in the upcoming edition of The Independent Scribe, who would it be? What would you do?
Lars Nelson and I would spend the afternoon together. We would make toast, for sure (stay tuned for the upcoming edition of the Scribe for that reference).
What program do you use to layout the publication? What are its vices? Virtues?
I use Adobe InDesign CS4. As for virtues, it allows a standard file format to send out for printing, which is great. It also offers a wide array of fonts, strokes—check out the Spring 2009 Table of Contents! - along with other nifty features.
Its biggest, most terrible vice is that it does not wrap text. So, when putting all of the text into the program, it’s a guessing game as to where the page will cut off… this often involves word-by-word insertion to make things “easier.” Also, after putting in page numbers manually so as to avoid numbers showing up unwanted, I become terrified of gridlines for weeks.
How long does it take to layout a 100-page publication? Where did you go through this process?
Surprisingly, this edition came together rather quickly—altogether getting everything into InDesign took about forty hours of squinting at a computer screen. After spending hours losing our minds in various rooms of the Memorial Union, we (our lovely Editor in Chief, Kate Stone, and fantastic President Gillian Ramos) finished the tedious process over bagels at Kate’s house… to the lovely soundtrack of Wanda Syke’s standup.
After that I put in about ten hours of reading, reading, and re-reading the “finished” manuscript, making edits and hoping to catch any and all typos/ misplaced text.
To anticipate the question, yes, I do wear glasses.
In addition to layout director, several of your poems, including "Violence & Nudity" are featured in the upcoming edition. How did you come to title this poem specifically?
After being unhappy with my previous title, it came down to Googlemachine. The first interesting, semi-inappropriate, and fitting collection of words included “violence” and “nudity.” The poem is about the violence of having someone torn out of your life, and how bare and alone that leaves you, so though seemingly irrational, there is a definite connection to the poem.
There is a rumor that the Scribe encourages people to "pet their paper." Why don't you tell us a bit about this.
Oh, absolutely. You have to pet your paper. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming there has to be paper somewhere around you. Go touch it. Now! This came about when we received copious cover stock options from our publishing contact, Bob Oscarson at Signature Printing. After narrowing down the hundreds of options, each Scribe member was instructed to pet the paper upon entering the room. When you hold a book, you want to like how it feels. Any good bibliophile knows what I’m talking about… it’s not only the words that matter; it’s the texture, the color, the weight. The entire object matters. Next time you pick up your favorite book, pet your paper. I bet you will find that it is a phenomenal sheet of paper.
Do you have a favorite text or visual piece in the Fall 2009 edition? If so, which and why?
My favorite visual piece is definitely our cover. We received a lot of great artwork, but I just can’t get over the way the publication looks! Last year’s edition was wonderful as well, and we have Eric Slade to thank for our black and white lithograph on the cover, but something about the vibrant color is just great. It stretches across the full cover, which is something we haven’t done before, and I think it really showcases what a big change we’ve gone through this semester in opening up to various departments around campus.
As for a favorite text piece… I think it would have to depend on genre. I mean, how do you choose between the linguistic analysis of Patricia Weisenseel’s critical essay and the haunting lines of Laura Tetreault’s poetry and the scandal of Dylan Thompson starting a piece with “anywhere but between the legs?” I just can’t do it! The entire edition is full of amazing writers.
What poets have you been reading recently, and in what ways have they influenced your process and/or poetry?
Lately, I have only had time to read what I’ve been assigned in class. Luckily, this means I’ve been reading a lot of avant garde poets with Professor extraordinaire Peter Covino. Specifically, in his class we just finished reading Donald Revell’s selected works Pennyweight Windows. Excitingly, Revell just came to URI recently to give a poetry reading. It was dazzling and hysterical and sad and fantastic all over.
Avant garde has given me a new perspective on poetry. I’ve never been one to stick to a form, but I tend to cut myself off and write short pieces, or constrained lines. I’m learning to lose the prose aspect of my poetry. In terms of process, every day is process. I think it’s about expressing what you really mean rather than what someone expects you to mean.
You know many of the writers in the URI community. Who are your favorites to talk to? Drink with? Vent to? Etc. Feel free to list in fun categories.
Oh god, all of them. I love that the writing community is small enough that it is actually a community. Even those writers who I don’t know all too well I have had a class or two with. I enjoy talking to nearly anyone, so long as they are not hostile, but I guess to narrow it down a bit I’ll say (in alphabetical order by first name) Bryan Smith, Dylan Thompson, Gillian Ramos, Kate Stone, Laura Tetreault, Marisa O’Gara, etc. etc. …Several of those names also fall into the “favorites to drink with” category.
The Independent Scribe is moving in a new direction with regard to what texts it considers, calls for and publishes. How do you feel about this progression?
I love it! I’m so glad to see all sorts of writing in this edition of the Scribe. We have poets, critical essayists, art, travel writing, we have it all. We have also grown departmentally—apart from the traditional English majors and Writing & Rhetoric majors (they’re still here, don’t worry!), the Scribe has been lucky enough to include several Visual Arts majors, Biology majors, an Engineering poet; the variety is astonishing. Hopefully more and more students will become interested in the Scribe and either submit or get involved… hint hint!
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the Scribe event? What are these events like? What was it in the past? How will this year’s be different and/or the same?
I think that all of us are hoping that Samuel Aboh will be able to come and read! Keeping my fingers crossed that Joe LiVolsi will be able to make it as well—his poem “House of Hosts” is set up wonderfully with a nearly consistent meter, which should make for a good read. I’m also looking forward to hear Dylan Thompson read an exerpt from the aforementioned “Thérapie” aloud.
If you were to create a cocktail inspired by one of the pieces published in the Fall 2009 Scribe, which text would inspire you and why? What ingredients would be in the beverage? What would you call it?
Seeing as "House of Hosts" has a creepy-crawly-Halloween-y feel to it, I am going to go in that direction. It would consist of Vampire (brand) Blood Vodka (type), blood orange slices for both flavor and brilliant attractiveness, and a bit of seltzer water for bubbles… cauldron-esque, no?
November 16, 2009
Name: Linda Langlois
Major(s): English (MA)
Year of Graduation: TBA
Position: Featured Writer (Fall 2009, Spring 2010)
Tell us a bit about yourself: Your life, your experiences, and all that has contributed to your development as a person and fabulous writer.
I started first grade at 5 years old and that was the last time I was ever younger than my peers. I’m a late-bloomer, in graduate school when I should be in a retirement home. I have nieces and nephews who have babies older than my child. I had my only child at 40 and she and I are in separate (graduate) schools together.
My first honeymoon was spent on the back of a motorcycle touring England, Scotland and Wales for 6 weeks. The marriage didn’t last but the wanderlust did. And always, I wrote.
We've had the pleasure of reading much of your poetry, and particularly love a particular poem written about your husband and your car breaking down in the rain. What does your family think about your writing? How participatory are they in your process or overall content?
My husband and daughter are very encouraging and supportive though in different ways. My daughter is more of a reader than my husband and tends to be more critical of my approach to topics.
Who have you been reading recently? Tell us about your thoughts on the reading and the writer.
I am reading The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, first as an audio book till it had too many blank spaces. I was intrigued by the title and I love it. I read several books at once, depending on my mood and how long I can stay awake but do not always finish them. I am still trying to get through Night by Elie Wiesel but need a special mood for that. I gave up on Eat, Pray, Love.
I love people stories about the war (WWII) and, no, I was not alive then. I am excited abut the Reading Across Rhode Island selection coming up, about the German occupation of the Channel Islands and a book club the local women created as an excuse to the Germans to get-tog.
A little birdie told us you plant to read at the Launch Event. How do you feel about reading your poetry? What advice do you have for other writers with regard to putting a voice to their work?
I am scared to death to read aloud but think to myself, if not now, when? The advice I have for others and am trying to learn myself is how much I enjoy hearing a person read their work Loudly, Slowly and with Feeling. These three things make “Readings” so enjoyable.
If you could spend one evening with any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why? What would you do together? Where would you go? Would wine, arrests or headlining new stories be involved?
Oh definitely wine…so I think, F .Scott Fitzgerald. Or maybe Kate Stone. And we’d definitely travel to new places if only in our minds and we’d laugh and laugh and laugh.
At what time of day do you write most? Why do you think this is so?
I do most of my writing while I’m walking (usually the beach) or driving, especially when I’m “stuck.” I have words, phrases, thoughts written everywhere, mostly the backs of envelopes. I have notes from years and years ago that I come across at odd moments and think, Oh yeah, I never did finish that thought. I daydream all the time and this produces my best writing. I’m constantly running scenarios through my head and writing them down. I never sit down at the computer to “write.”
Tell us a bit about any recent projects you're currently working on. We love knowing you're producing more wonderful writings!
Well, I spent my summer with DH Lawrence in Taormina which was certainly more enjoyable than the rainy summer we had here in South County. Of course his wife was there but we ignored her. I had two lovely rejection letters, one from a British professor who said he was “intrigued with my idea.” I’ve been working on some memoir pieces but my main goal is to find a home for DH.
Name: Mercer Smith
Year of Graduation: 2010
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009)
When did you first start writing? Which creative genre held you interest first? Which do you find most compelling today and why?
I first started writing, really writing, when I was in the 8th grade. It was first based upon a prompt that my 8th grade professor had given me to write about "What I was made of." Most people in the class took the essayistic approach to attempt to write exactly, and literally what they were made of. I, on the other hand, decided to write a poem. From that day on the poetic genre has held my interest most strongly. Recently, however, I have begun to branch out into Creative Essayistic Non-Fiction, and I have been finding that amusing, and fascinating to write. I do believe that both poetry and essays have aspects that are intermingling which is what made my progress from one to the other (and vice versa) so easy.
How did you decide to become involved with The Independent Scribe?
I decided to become involved in The Independent Scribe because most of the students in my majors whose opinions I valued most were involved. I was interested in furthering my own experience as a writer as well as being able to see what kind of writing the students of URI were capable of.
Tell us a bit about your invention and revision processes. What details are you willing to share about the process of writing?
I am definitely more of a "swooper" when it comes to writing. I have to wait until an idea is right upon me. For example, my iPhone is filled with notes about poems or stories, or even great lines that I came up with. Most of the margins of my journals have small scribbles of words or lines that I find inspiring. Poetry and writing to me are not something that I can sit down and intentionally write, because when I try to do that the lines come out overwrought and exhausted. As for revision, that is something that I usually wait a few days and then go back to, or shoot the piece of writing over to someone who hasn't read it before. I find the best way to revise something is to look at it with completely clear eyes. There is no way that I will be able to fix something if first I haven't cleared my head of what I was writing about to start with.
What is your favorite aspect of publication, whether that be being published or working on a journal?
I enjoy both aspects honestly. I love the pride that comes with being published, but I also enjoy the pride that we see in other people that we are publishing as well as our own pride at putting out a great publication.
November 10, 2009
Name: Holly Tran
Year of Graduation: 2013
Position: Featured artist (Fall 2009), Scribe member
Rumor has it you're a poet and a photographer. How did you get involved in these mediums? Do you see a connection between photography and poetry?
I was always an avid reader. As a child, you would frequently find me under the covers with my face in a book. For those nights when my mom declared it bedtime, I would stuff the unfinished adventure under my pillow, where it laid as my companion to accompany me into dreamland. I started writing short stories early in middle school—most of which remain unfinished. From my recollection, my first surge into the poetry medium occurred in the sixth grade when my teacher introduced the unit. For some reason, I already had background knowledge on his lecture of the week—rhyme scheme. That feeling of comprehension served as motivation, encouraging me to explore the ability to express in the form of poetry. My acquaintance with poetry grew into a solid relationship. I found gratification in being able to expose my thoughts in ambiguous metaphors. I found immediate relief in being able to subdue my internal torment by the mere act of assembling succinct lines. To me, these words that came together were more than letters—they were powerful emotions materialized upon paper.
My first notable involvement with photography occurred in high school. Being denied of the drawing course to fulfill my fine arts requirement, I chose to go with my alternate choice of photography. This semester course introduced me to the SLR camera—a simple device that had the capability to produce the most striking black and white images. I started to see everyday surroundings in a new light. Art was everywhere. I had found a medium that could visually evoke emotions. I had found a way to make the world stop in time. I had found a way to give voices to objects that could not speak.
Both of these mediums have the ability to tell a story, evoke an emotion, or relay an underlying message. The beauty of these mediums—and any kind of art—is that the underlying message is open to individual interpretation.
Which of your photographs are you most excited to see printed in the Fall 2009 edition of The Independent Scribe? Why?
Honestly, I have no clue which of my photographs will appear in The Independent Scribe. I think not knowing builds up the excitement. It’s like waking up Christmas morning to open presents that you were unable to find the night before because your parents wised up to your yearly sleuthing.
You're a biology major. Tell us a bit about that! How do you balance science and creative writing - is it a struggle, or does it come naturally to you?
Science keeps me grounded. Creative writing sets me free. They both keep me sane and alive. There is never a struggle to balance science with the arts/creative writing because they coexist. They always have.
What is your favorite part about being involved with The Independent Scribe?
The people, the ideas, the process—everything. The members here are incredibly accepting. Their open minds are not limited to the myriad of genre that flood their inbox each semester, and unlike Ebenezer Scrooge, these fine folks jump at the opportunity to share their wealth—of knowledge, that is. In my time with the Scribe thus far, I have realized that this is a gathering of thinkers, writers, artists—all of whom seek to push your limits and ideas. You can’t join The Independent Scribe and expect to leave as the same person. Be prepared to learn and grow.
If you could throw a huge party with any writer, who would it be and what would the soiree be like? Details, please!
Kate Chopin. Since I tend to be a reserved person, I would probably scale the ‘huge party’ down to a day out in town. Perhaps a conversation about her feminist views over tea and then the rest of the day dedicated to enjoying nature. Emerson and Frost could even join us. Besides, throwing a huge party with an acquaintance seems a tad bit strange…
How do you feel about rhymed v. free verse poetry? Do you have a favorite poem in rhyme? A favorite free verse poem?
I enjoy either, as long as the author keeps the format uniform throughout the entire piece. It’s irksome to hear an arbitrary rhyme right in the middle of an engaging free verse. That being said, I am very fond of Emily Dickenson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” and T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. The poems that stick with me are the ones I can see come to life. Those images never leave.
If you could travel anywhere in the world to take photographs and write poetry, where would you go and why? What, specifically would you love to see and write about?
I would preferably like to visit a place where the majority of the architecture held historical roots. Somewhere not too popular and somewhat quiet. Somewhere I can feel the wind and see the coast. Somewhere over the rainbow… I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but add that last bit.
Back to the question: It wouldn’t matter where I went, as long as it was outdoors and some place I had never seen before. As for the poetic theme—that would have to be a surprise. Why? Why not?
November 9, 2009
Name: Marie Ventura
Year of Graduation: 2004
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009)
You graduated from URI before most members of the Scribe even finished high school; how was your undergraduate experience? Was there a creative outlet like The Independent Scribe in place at that time?
This will probably sound corny but, to tell the truth, my undergraduate experience was pretty fantastic. While I was at URI, I was lucky enough to get an amazing on-campus job that let me combine my passion for history and my fascination with video production. I worked as an undergraduate assistant with ITMS, where I learned non-linear editing and computer animation. I helped professors with their video projects and even had the opportunity to work on my own – in particular a short project on the women who fought in Vietnam and a half-hour documentary on Hadrian’s Wall.
Perhaps the brightest highlight of my undergraduate experience was when I studied abroad in England for a semester. I gained a whole new perspective on history and historiography and, in addition to my class work, I had the chance to travel all over England and Scotland, riding the trains and walking around historic cities and sites I’d only ever read about before, like the tunnels cut into the chalk cliffs under Dover Castle, the spot where Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral, the exhibits at the British Museum in London, and the Roman forts and leather and wooden artifacts at Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England. I even took the London Beatles tour and walked across the crosswalk at Abbey Road. I was so inspired by my experience abroad that as soon as I got back to URI, I started the process of applying for URI and RI Foundation grants that would allow me to go back to Hadrian’s Wall and create a documentary. I wanted to investigate how the presence of that ancient Roman wall affected the local people of the area, from the time it was built all the way to the present day. Being awarded those grants gave me the opportunity to meet and interview archaeologists, museum curators, tour guides, re-enactors, and other Hadrian’s Wall experts, then share what I’d learned from them with others in a direct, colorful, and interactive way thanks to the URI Film Festival. So, I really did have a fantastic experience while I was a URI student.
As for whether there was a creative outlet like The Independent Scribe in place at that time…overall, no, there wasn’t. There was a literary magazine and I did send a few submissions to it, but it was on its way out by then and my submissions never saw the light of day. Instead, I directed my writing energies toward my documentaries and other independent projects.
After graduation, what did you do, either for work or in terms of furthering your education? How have those experiences informed or otherwise impacted your writing?
After URI, I was offered a free ride to PC and a graduate assistantship at the PC Publications Office. I earned a double master’s degree in European and American History from Providence College and, while I was there, I began work on another documentary project, this one on Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown. I have a 20 minute version completed, but I’m still searching for the funds and resources to expand that “rough draft” project into a full hour documentary film. My goal is to one day enter the completed work into the RI International Film Festival.
After graduating from PC, I got a position as an adjunct history instructor at CCRI, where I currently teach Western Civ. (very much a learning experience, as well as writing intensive since I have to do a lot of research to prepare for classes and keep my information up to date). As for furthering my education, I’ve recently begun the process of researching and applying to British universities with the aim of earning my PhD in British history. My career goal is to be a university professor and a prolific author, kind of like Isaac Asimov, and eventually to create a series of historical documentaries aimed at middle school/high school age kids.
In your introductory e-mail to the Scribe, you mentioned your participation with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI); what is the mission of the organization, and how do you feel that you fit into that mission?
According to the SCBWI website: “Founded in 1971 by a group of Los Angeles-based children’s writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing organizations for writers and illustrators. It is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals working in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia.” SCBWI supports children’s authors and illustrators and hosts national and regional conferences where authors and aspiring authors can meet each other, editors, and publishers and attend informative lectures given by experts and celebrities in the field of children’s literature. As for me, I like children’s literature. Its simplicity is deceptive, which makes it incredibly difficult to pull off well. Most of my favorite books – The Little Prince, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Neverending Story, The Lorax, Flatterland, Watership Down, To Kill a Mockingbird, to name a very few – usually show up in the children’s section, even though they tend to deal with very complicated matters. The challenge of children’s literature is that it must tackle those difficult matters from unique and quirky angles, presenting engaging, truthful characters and themes in creative, energetic, and thought provoking ways. I’m drawn to children’s literature because of the challenge and because of the freedom, and I think the responsibility inherent in being a children’s author compliments my career goals as an educator.
Well, since history has been defined as the written record of past events, history and writing are inseparable. In a sense, they sort of created each other. The human drive to keep records, organize thoughts, and share stories led to the development of writing systems, and the records and stories that were written down have been preserved as history. Writing is the breakthrough innovation that separates the historic from the prehistoric.
I happen to think that written sources are the closest things we have to a working time machine. Whether they’re personal diaries or financial records, works of fiction or historical narratives, written works have the unique ability to put us in almost direct contact with individuals from the past. These sources let their readers climb into their author’s mind and view the world through his or her culture, values, and experiences. The historian’s job is to read these sources and draw conclusions, to reconstruct past events like a detective investigating a crime. The historian’s goal is to write down and publish those conclusions, furthering and enhancing the historical record. Therefore, to love history is to love writing as well as reading the writings of others. You can’t have one without the other.
Your piece in this edition of The Independent Scribe is historical fiction, but are there other genres or styles you experiment with?
My studies encourage me to write historical non-fiction while inspiring me to write historical fiction. But, I’m pretty obsessed with science fiction, and that’s mostly what I write when I’m not writing history stuff. I also play with nonsense poetry and surrealist fiction, and I enjoy mysteries and fantasy/adventure as well. Aside from academic stuff, most of my writing would probably be considered middle-grade and young adult fiction.
When you’re writing historical fiction, do you begin a project with a specific time period in mind, or do you devise a basic plot and try to fit it into an historical period?
Well, I think the theme comes first, or even the characters. That determines the time period, and then the time period informs the plot. I don’t really think a plot can be squeezed into just any historical period. It has to belong there first, or it’ll sound anachronistic.
Theme definitely came first in the case of “Dandelions and Doodlebugs.” That story first started simmering in my head while I was reading a book on genocide for a class on the politics of mass murder. The book was called The Key to My Neighbor’s House, and it focused on Bosnia and Rwanda. I think “Doodlebugs” ultimately became my way of dealing with the raw, appalling reality exposed in that book and discussed in that class, kind of like an emotional outlet or a mental-health exercise or something. After that class, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the kids involved – not just the victims who died but the witnesses, the survivors who had to go on living with those horrific events as they grew up. I began thinking about Western European history and re-reading stories about children who were growing up during the World Wars – books like The Diary of Anne Frank, Number the Stars, All Quiet on the Western Front (although it’s about soldiers, the main character is essentially a kid when he starts out) and even the Narnia series where the main characters are children who are sent away from London to avoid the bombs. I re-read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and Farewell to Manzanar, books that had deeply affected me when I was little. I read Flight by Sherman Alexie about a kid who becomes detached in time and experiences first hand the violence between Native Americans and American soldiers as they expanded West. I read about kids during the American Civil War, and then I started reading about the experiences of kids in the Middle East, fiction and non-fiction books about Israel and Palestine, then about Pakistan and India and Afghanistan. As I read, all these thoughts and emotions kept swirling around in my head until one evening I heard an old British song about the London Blitz and everything just fell together. I knew my characters, I knew their story, and I knew what I wanted that story to say. I went to my computer and I don’t think it took me more than two hours to write the story, but I knew it was the result of several months of thinking and research – not specifically research for that particular story’s plot, but done in the spirit of its theme.
”Dandelions and Doodlebugs” is about the illusion of safety parents carefully craft for their children or, rather, the moment that illusion is cracked. The primary setting is WWII London because I figured the experiences of two British, Western European kids would kind of help to highlight the parallel experiences of kids around the world who have similarly lost their childhoods to war and adult violence. It would make the experience seem closer, less foreign, in culture at least if not in time. The secondary setting, a more nebulous present somewhere in suburban America, brings home the fact that a kid doesn’t need to have direct exposure to war and violence to experience that same loss of innocence and security. It’s an epiphany all children experience: the chilling understanding that their parents aren’t immortal, and neither are they. Death is real, and we’re all vulnerable.
To extend a metaphor, and without going into all the political philosophy of the thing, in wartime, the state can sort of be seen like the parent and the citizens sort of like the kids it shelters. When the state breaks down and the protection of rational civilization is lost, the emotional effects on its citizens are shattering. I mean, look at The Tin Drum—the main character there is so disillusioned with the adult world of Nazi Germany that he wills himself to maintain a child’s stature. That emotional effect, that fear and disillusionment and pessimism that accompanies the loss of childhood safety, is the same whether the bombs were dropped on London or Germany or Japan during the World Wars, or exploded in Kabul or Baghdad or in Gaza yesterday afternoon. How can a little kid deal with that kind of loss? If we’re very lucky, it’ll be with dandelion wishes and stories and hope that, one day, the words of peace and security will be more than a sweet-sounding lie. The alternative is…well, we don’t really have to look much farther than the nightly world news report to see the alternative played out. So, yeah, for me I guess I generally start with a certain theme which helps me get to know the characters, then the theme and characters lead me to the correct time period which then informs the story’s plot.What’s next for your writing? Any new projects in the works?
Yes. The truth is, I have more ideas and projects than I have time. Lately, my life’s been filled to the brim with school stuff, writing conferences, and researching PhD programs, but whenever I get a moment I do have a special project in the works. It’s a YA sci-fi novel I’ve been seriously working on for the past two years. It started out as a short story, and I’ve been gradually expanding it and expanding it. I’ve nearly finished the rough draft, but it needs a lot of work before it’s ready to be sent out to editors. I really, truly, deeply hope to see it published, though. Then there’s my Quonset Point documentary – I’ve been turned down for a few grants, but I plan to keep trying. Then there’s all the short stories that need my attention. I keep sending them out to magazines in the hope of a bite, even though most of them get tossed back to me. Most magazines have a very specific sort of story criteria and unless I start out by tailoring a story specifically for that publication, my stuff doesn’t always quite fit. That’s why I started an actual novel. Even though all this is a lot of effort with little to no guarantee of success, I keep working on all this stuff and attending writing conferences and asking questions of universities in the hopes that this time next year, if someone asks if I have any new projects in the works, I’ll be able to say I’m getting my first novel published and I’ve started work on my PhD thesis. It’s still something of a distant goal, but I’ve got my fingers on the keyboard and my eyes on the prize, and with any luck I’ll be able to pull it off.
November 8, 2009
Name: Britany Taylor
Major(s): English/Secondary Education
Year of Graduation: 2010
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009, Spring 2010)
What about poetry draws you to the craft over prose or another artistic form?
Poetry is a way to express meaning through short and sometimes simple phrases. I find poetry to incorporate more freedom than any other kind of writing. Nothing is limited, prescribed, or desired. Everyone has a different reaction, as well as interpretation. Poetry is diverse, and you’ll never read a poem the same way twice.
When did you get that creative spark that said to you "I need to write poetry?"
I’ve always written, but mostly in a journal where I wrote every night before I went to bed. I had written poems in high school, but they were more rigid in there construction and general meaning. I suppose my creative spark came when I entered college. My first time being away from home and “outside of the bubble” allowed me to experience more, both negative and positive. Thus inspiring me to write poetry more; it just felt natural.
Do you have a specific method to writing your poems?
No real method, other than I carry a small notebook with me through my classes and I jot down random thoughts that sometimes eventually morph into a poem. I usually just write what I feel, and then if I feel confident enough I’ll have someone read them and then give me their opinion. Usually, people just say “it sounds good but I don’t know what it means!” But that is significant in the fact that they receive some type of pleasure through my writing, just through a different sense.
Is there anything specific you'd like to say about your many published pieces?
I have just enjoyed writing and I was initially uncomfortable with submitting some recent pieces because I was unsure of the quality as some of the messages conveyed were intimate and personal. Now I am confident in my words and know that someone will relate to them, and if not, I hope they sound good!
What is your favorite word?
Right now, caballero.
Your particular style tends toward shorter poems with precise, often pointed, language. How much of this comes naturally vs. takes time through editing?
I would have to say that I don’t do much editing on my poems. I like the spontaneity of writing poetry, and everything that you write has meaning. So other than grammatical errors I generally keep the poem the same as it was when I first wrote it.
If you could pick one poet to sit down to cocktails with, who would it be? What effect has this person had on you?
Peter Covino, He is one of the reasons why I write the way I do. Until his writing class, I never thought of writing a poem that was loose, for instance “Citrus” that was published in last semester’s Independent Scribe.
As a graduating senior, how do you plan on keeping writing alive in your life after college?
I hope to keep writing in my journal and to always carry a small notebook around with me, even if I am not inspired because the simple though of knowing that you have a space to write your ideas in alone makes you want to contribute more. It is nice to know that I have the support from my boyfriend as well, who also loves to write. We sometimes have writing dates where we just sit around and invent poems. If I end up teaching right after college, I will teach my students everything they want to know about poetry, and encourage them to write, and write freely.
November 5, 2009
Name: Laura Tetreault
Year of Graduation: 2010
Position: Featured Writer (Fall 2009, Spring 2010)
Word on the Creative Writing Street is you're applying to graduate school MFA programs. How is that going? What does your application and portfolio process entail? How is your process unique from other writers'?
Yes, word on the street is correct! It is a long and complicated process because I am applying to twelve schools. It is also terrifying because MFA programs are so competitive (depending on the school, usually anywhere from 0.5% to 5% of applicants are admitted). I routinely have panic attacks about my applications. That said, however, I really want to be accepted into an MFA program. I love poetry, I love other poets, and I love school, so it seems like the perfect thing to do.
I've become obsessed with revising my portfolio almost daily. Eleven out of the twelve schools want around ten pages of poetry, and one of them wants twenty. I don't even want to know how many times I have read those ten to twenty poems...
But I am trying to make them as good as they can possibly be before submitting them. Other than that, the main source of stress is the personal statement and all of the different programs' requirements for it. All I want to say is that I want to write, and I want to be surrounded by writers, so please accept me into your program so that I can do so (a generous funding offer would also be nice). The problem is turning that into 500-1500 words...
I'm not sure that my process is unique from other writers' - we allhave the same requirements. My process probably involves quite a bit more episodes of panic than other writers because I'm a very anxious person - but aren't many writers supposedly neurotic? In writing thestatement of purpose, I wished that I had some super-exciting nontraditional background to draw from, but I really don't, so I'm just writing it honestly and hoping my enthusiasm carries it.
When did you start writing poetry? How has your verse evolved overtime? Did you ever, say, rhyme in your work, or have a momentary obsession with concrete poems?
I started writing poetry when I was sixteen. I had written creatively before that, but my junior year in high school I took a creative writing class with a wonderful teacher who rebelled against the strict by-the-book teaching methods of our Catholic school and encouraged us to think in ways we hadn't been encouraged to think before. This class was my first creative writing workshop, where I really started exploring poetry. I loved the class so much that I took it over again my senior year.
I have always been fond of experimentation, even then, so my earliest poems (while certainly not very good) have a lot of playfulness in them and a sense of trying a lot of things - every time I learned about a new poetic concept I would try to create something out of it. I was actually really interested in form when I first started writing poetry. I would write a lot of pantoums and sestinas, play around with different rhyme schemes, and for a while I was quite attached totrochaic quadrameter... But I always felt a need to experiment beyond what traditional forms could do, especially since my favorite poets were ones who broke traditional forms (I fell in love with Whitman's work in high school, for example). I am still interested in form - I think that meter is important to my poetry, just not strict meter.
My poetry has evolved an enormous amount since I started writing it;it's been helped enormously by taking lots of creative writing workshops (thank you, English department, for letting me take ENG305 five times and keep getting credit). It is also constantly evolving -I have this huge desire to just try things, as I discover poets whose work I didn't formerly know, new ideas.
You're trapped on a desert island with one poet. Who is it? What do you talk about for eternity?
I have a lot of favorite poets so I considered a lot of options for answering this question, but eventually I decided to pick a poet notonly because I admire his work, but also because I think we would have a lot in common. So I chose e. e. cummings. Along with Whitman, he was one of my first poetic influences. His poetry is magical to me; it causes that particular ache that I feel when I read something that really captivates me. I mean, look at this: "until out of merely not nothing comes / only one snowflake (and we speak our names." What can you say to that, other than that it is enchanting? I think that he is one of the best love poets around (I'm frightfully romantic). I also love how most of his poetry can't be read aloud - how things appear on the page is very important to me, more than how poetry sounds when read aloud. I love his use of parentheses so that each poem is ever-unfolding, thoughts and images happening simultaneously and within each other.
While on the desert island, we would probably talk about how "this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart / i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)" and how "the coolness of your smile is stirring of birds between my arms." And about poetry, and our shared transcendentalist leanings, and punctuation. Yeah, we'd have a pretty good time.
You were the 2nd place winner of the Academy of American Poets contest last Spring. What was that like? Your winning poem appearsin this upcoming edition of The Independent Scribe. Tell us a little bit about this poem and what it means to you.
It was very exciting! I was grateful to get the recognition and to be in the company of the awesome writers who also won awards. It was also pretty neat that the Academy gave me a year-long free membership; they sent me a copy of the latest American Poet Magazine the other day,which I've been enjoying very much. The poem that won, "The Noise Behind Locked Doors," is very important to me. It's about a friend who was very dear to me as a teenager - she also wrote poetry, and my first experiments and investigations into poetry were shared with her. "The Noise" is quite a sad poem because it's about how this friend has had many struggles with mental illness and substance abuse, and it broke my heart - since she was always such a beautiful person, creatively. She moved across the country and I don't even know where she is or what she is doing anymore. But the poem is about this magical unique connection that we had as awkward sixteen-year-olds madly scribbling poetry in our notebooks in the backs of classrooms, and how this connection was unfortunately destroyed.
What is your writing process like for poetry? For other genres? Do you situate yourself in any strange places, need to be sipping any particular beverages... what really gets your writing juices flowing?
I always have ideas for poems floating around in my head - an image, a word or phrase, a rhythm, anything really. Usually the ideas are kind of in the background, but then invariably one of them starts jumping about and yelling at me and that's when I have to sit down and write apoem. I usually write at home at my computer desk. One thing I'm particular about is that I hate writing by hand - I have to type. This is because I think must more quickly than my hand moves, so the only way I can keep up is by typing. When I have an idea that I don't want to forget (and I will forget, being very absent minded), and I don't have access to a computer immediately, I scribble it down - usually on whatever's handy, like an old receipt. Then I get myself to a computer and try to discern the scribbles. I'm so annoyingly particular about needing to type rather than write by hand that I bought a mini laptoptop take around with me... Oh and also, I'm very fond of drinking hot wintery beverages while writing - hot chocolate, chai. Even in summer (but I like to pretend it is always fall or winter).
A crazy poetess has offered you a million dollars to stand on a soapbox in Times Square and read extremely loudly, over and over, one poem for one whole day. Do you take the money? If so, what poem would you read over and over?
I would do it! The crazy poetess sounds like my kind of person. And Iwould be getting rich while exposing the world to poetry (something that poets sadly do not usually get to do...). I would read "What the Living Do" by Marie Howe. In addition to being one of my favorite poems, I think it's a poem that many people walking through Times Square would connect to and benefit from. I would love to have someone read this poem loudly to me while I'm walking around, because what it's about is just what the title says - what people do daily, the small routines, the mundane, the ordinary - but it's really all a celebration of being alive. Go read it, it's beautiful.
If you could rewrite any famous poem and make it your own, which poem would it be and why? Would you alter a title, change one word, or hack apart the whole thing?
Yeats' "The Circus Animals' Desertion." After all, doesn't every poet wish they had written this: "Old kettles, old bottles, and a brokencan, / Old iron, old bones, that raving slut / who keeps the till. Nowthat my ladder's gone, / I must lie down where all the ladders start /In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart." I know I wish I had written that. I am tempted to say that I would redo it in free verse, but that feels kind of sacrilegious - Yeats is sacred and part of that sanctity is in the meter. I don't know if I could rewrite any famous poem - I admire them too much.
While we know you submit to contests and publications on campus, what other activities do you participate in that keep you involved in the URI writing community?
I try to go to the Read/Write events as often as I can - I really love getting the chance to attend readings given by visiting writers, andthey also bring the writers at URI together. Also, I have very recently started to get involved in the Pier Poetry Project, which was started by some URI alumni and other local residents who want to bring together a community of poets in Rhode Island. I went to a reading given by them last week in Westerly. Other than that, I am a writing tutor in the URI Writing Center. I wish I could be even more involved in starting a strong creative writing community at URI. I'm not really a leader type and I lack initiative, though (aka I'm lazy). But I really love the activities that I do participate in, and I love the community that is growing at URI.
November 4, 2009
Name: Katie Walsh
Major(s): English/Secondary Education
Year of Graduation: 2012
Position: Featured Writer (Fall 2009)
Your nonfiction piece "To Be Catholic" is featured in the Fall 2009 edition of The Independent Scribe. Is this your first time being published? It seems extremely personal and is therefore an intense pleasure to read. Are you willing to share a bit about the situation that inspired this text?
Thank you and yes, of course I am willing to share the inspiration. It came from my Uncle who died of alcoholism. However, it is more than that. The quote I weaved into the text is something that is said at the start of all AA meetings; my uncle religiously attended AA meetings. I tried to convey many feelings in this short piece. I wanted the reader to get an idea of my uncle’s death and its impact on my family. Also, the religious way people attend AA meetings in order to beat the disease because I truly believe that alcoholism is a disease, and my uncle tried very hard to fight it. This piece was written for him, my family and all people that battle alcoholism.
If you were to throw a party inspired by your favorite piece of writing from any genre, what would the party be like and why? What would it look like, sound like, what would we eat or drink, or be required to wear?
If I threw a party it would be inspired by The Great Gatsby. The entire party would reek of the 1920s. All the girls would wear hats and flapper dresses. All the men would wear fashionable, gray and black suits. We would listen to jazz music such as Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith. I don’t actually know what foods were popular in the 1920s. However, I assume that champagne and cheese and crackers would be fitting.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Any unique places or spaces you need to be in? Any particular time of day cater to your creativity?
My writing process varies depending on the assignment. However, I do have a unique space where I go to write. Many will find this repulsive but I love to write in a notepad on the floor of my bathroom. My roommates are insane and always distracting me. I get away from them by going into the bathroom (we have a washer and a dryer in there) and doing laundry, sitting on the floor scribbling into my notebook. My best writing always comes to me on cold bathroom floors, usually around 12 at night. How many people can honestly say that?
Sarah in Ireland, Summer 2009
Name: Sarah Payne
Major(s): English/Writing & Rhetoric
Year of Graduation: 2010
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009)
You're one of the few critical essay writers featured in the 2009 The Independent Scribe. Do you write any other genres?
I haven't really had the chance to write in other genres. I've somehow managed to avoid taking any sort of creative writing or poetry class at URI. I think part of me is afraid to try something new. I've got the critical analysis thing pretty covered at this point. I'm taking a Travel Writing class next semester, so hopefully that will help me to extend my writing into other genres.
What kind of 'work' do you like to do in your critical texts? We loved the work you did with language-level analysis in your published piece. Is this a common thread in your works? If so, why do you make this choice?
My interest in language-level analysis definitely started in my English classes in high school. AP English stressed the use of literary terms in theses. When I got to college, I had a few really great English professors that pushed my analysis. Professor Marty Rojas is one of those. She gives OED assignments--where you trace a word in a text and research the etymology of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary. That sort of assignment forces you to think about how themes are crafted down to words and punctuation.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Is it long and planned, or short and spontaneous? Do you work at regular hours, or love the 4AM scribble race to the finish? We love details regarding how writers compose!
Especially with critical analysis, I usually start a little less than a week before the paper is due. If I'm not sure which book to work with, I go through everything I've underlined or starred and write down patterns or themes that interest me in each book. I have to start early because this takes a while. Once I pick the book, my process is pretty spaced out. I come up with a thesis a few days before the paper is due and work on it a little bit every day--which gives me time to flesh out new ideas as they come along. I can't work late at night. I've never pulled an all-nighter for school nor plan to--gotta have the beauty sleep!
Were you to rewrite Thoreau's Cape Cod, what changes or alterations would you make in your rewrite? Why?
Hmmm... I'm not sure if I would even attempt to change Thoreau's words! My favorite parts of the book were where he discusses the physical and emotional damage the shipwrecks caused. I also enjoyed when he is obviously making fun of the townspeople. Thoreau can be pretty funny with his perceptions of people.
As an English/Writing double-major and work in the Writing Center, we can presume you're pretty involved in the URI writing community. What is you favorite part about this community? What makes URI writers unique to you?
Being a "writer" (not sure I can call myself that yet) at URI is really cool. I feel pretty good about being a part of a community of writers. A writing community is a lot different than communities of other majors. We get to create and reflect together; other majors just study together. There's a lot more interaction and exchanging of ideas and motivating in the writing community. I love being surrounded by writers because it always pushes me to challenge myself.
Speaking of community, do you plan on attending the November Launch Event? If so, how do you feel about reading an excerpt from your essay? How do you feel about readings in general (attending, performing, etc.)?
I do plan on attending the November Launch Event! I've never read any of my work, so maybe this will be a first for me. I love going to readings and listening. I usually attend most of the readings sponsored by the English Department.
We understand you've read tons upon tons of novels in your English major. If you could be any character from any of the texts you read in your major, who would it be and why? What would you do for this day?
Well, I've got Thoreau on the brain; maybe I would be Thoreau. I would just travel all over New England and write my thoughts in my journal. I would stop by my cabin on Walden Pond. I'd have my weekly dinner at Emerson's house. We'd talk Transcendentalism. As Thoreau, I'd like to hear Emerson talk about his essay "Self Reliance." I guess I would surround myself with all those Transcendentalist thinkers for the day.
Are you currently working on any new writing projects? Rumor has it your considering a pretty neat Honors project!
Why yes, I am! I am currently writing a proposal to complete my honors project next semester. My idea is to write and illustrate a children's book--one for the 4 - 7 (ish) year-old audience. I love children (at least the ones I know). It will be my first time illustrating and writing creatively, so I am very excited. If I finish the project early enough, I'd also like to host readings at local libraries.
November 3, 2009
Name: Dylan M. Thompson
Year of Graduation: 2009
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009)
So Dylan, as an English major you presumably had many outlets for your writing. Now that you've graduated, what are you doing to keep up the creative process?
I'm sleeping a lot. I am currently unemployed, surviving on Diet Coke and cigarettes. I don't like to physically exert myself, so I try to keep my mind going -- listening to music, watching a good movie, reading, trying to remember the villain for each season of "Buffy."
Speaking of the process, do you have a particular ritual for your writing? As in, a specific place you like to write or a mood that strikes you?
It doesn't matter what time of the year it is, but I need to have the closest window open. Something about being cold, I think. Also, I feel that I am more productive at night, after ten p.m.
One author, one poet. Greatest influences?
J.D. Salinger -- the subjects of his stories aren't amazing or inventive but the characters are. Salinger's characters drive the story -- he could write them eating ice cream or trying to save a sinking ocean liner, it doesn't matter. The characters are so well written that they can drive any story idea.
And poet...oh, I don't know. Wayne Miller. His poems put you in a very specific place and mood.
Even though it's somewhat taboo to ask about inspiration... we can't help ourselves in your case. If you don't mind sharing, please tell us more about the stripper in "Thérapie!"
Last spring I went to Canada and experienced my very first strip club. I met a woman named Angela and she started dancing and stripping and the whole situation was very odd. And yes...she did say "anywhere but between the legs."
We'll let you in on a secret-- within this edition of the Scribe, "Thérapie" starts a page with "g-string." Do you have any reactions to this? How does it make you feel?
Whenever I am trying to write a romantic scene or a sex scene in a story, I feel like I can never deliver -- either it's too boring or too pornographic. I think "Thérapie" is a good mix of romance and pornography. So to answer your question, who doesn't like a page to start with "g-string"?
In your poem published in this semester's Scribe, "Madrigal," you juxtapose the art and work of writing poetry with the making of a madrigal, and similarly robots and birds. Can you explain the trajectory of your thinking, and how the path went from robots to birds or vice versa?
The whole poem is about trying to fit yourself into different roles that don't belong to you. A robot will never be able to write poetry -- I took that to an extreme in this poem. And a bird will never be able to sing you a Zevon song -- birds don't work that way. They make up their own songs. The idea of "madrigal" came from Donne's "Passionate Shepherd" poem. The shepherd in the poem promised his love that he'd have the birds sing her madrigals. But that's impossible.
Along these lines: You are one of the only people published under multiple genres in this Scribe. You are the sole writer published under two genres. How did you become interested in both prose and poetry as forms of creativity? Do you have any other specialities we should know about?
I've always been more interested in prose than poetry. There's more room with prose. But when I got to URI, I took a few poetry classes and was hooked. Poetry is trickier than prose -- you can't bullshit anything. Prose always has its dips and low points. A poem has to perform throughout.
Can you tell us about any other projects you are currently working on?
I'm working on a story with one of my friends about a town plagued by forces supernatural and not, and how the townspeople respond to said forces. It should be interesting if we ever get through it. One of my main characters is a two hundred year old entity in the body of a four year old girl named Betty. So...I've got that going for me. I'm also working on a nonfiction piece about my summer working with a teen who was developmentally disabled...that's going to be called "God's Work." Catchy title, no?
Do you have a favorite phrase, writing-related or otherwise?
"I will use this earth to scratch your back." It came to me in a dream.
November 2, 2009
After countless hours of reading and discussing, we compiled a list of writers and artists we felt represented the best of our entire submissions pool. I'm excited to share with the University community everything these fine writers and artists have created; as a group, the Scribe is privileged to see so much student-produced work, and every semester, it becomes clearer that URI is home to a tremendously talented student body!
Enthusiastic congratulations to the writers and artists who were accepted into the Fall 2009 edition. To everyone who submitted but was not selected - keep working! There is still the Spring 2010 edition to look forward to, and we're always happy to see what you've been working on during winter break. You're a talented bunch, and we'd love to work with you.
Right now, we're in the planning stages of our launch event. Invitations will go out in the near future with more information. We're looking forward to being able to introduce all of our featured creative folks to each other and to the faculty and administration that have been so supportive of our efforts.
We're in the midst of the printing process, after...wow, easily over 20 hours of proofreading, layout, and ordering. Special thanks to Kate and Mollie for their keen eyes for detail - it's their relentless pursuit of perfection that helps the process go so smoothly. And thanks to Marisa, our treasurer, for keeping the paperwork flowing.
Props to our entire board for their dedication. It's been a long, tiring month, but our hard work has paid off. You've got so much to be proud of - let's have an awesome event and get ready to do this again next semester!
November 1, 2009
Name: Kate Stone
Major(s): English/Writing & Rhetoric
Year of Graduation: December 2009
Position: Editor in Chief
If you could spend one uninterrupted hour chatting with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I'd adore the opportunity to chat with Sandra Cisernos -- perhaps over sangria, or over the whiskey and cigars that so often appear in her fiercely wonderful poetry. Cisneros' Loose Woman changed not only the trajectory of my writing, but also a number of immeasurable facets of my everyday life -- from the strut I stomp out in too-high heels to the secret pride I savor in staying up too late and writing too much poetry, as detailed in Loose Woman's insomniac "Night Madness." I'd inquire for all the details of San Antonio, Mexico and her many pets. Perhaps during our chat, I'd uncomfortably sit on a personal secret: That my "Vitruvian Women," a poem featured in the Fall 2008 edition of The Independent Scribe, doubles as both an homage to my best friends and to her stunning, thoroughly feminine "Las Girlfriends." Would I tell her about it? Read it to her? I suppose I'll have to decide over sangria.
Same question, but out of The Independent Scribe's Fall 2009 lineup?
Dylan Thompson. Dylan is a lovely friend and peer I haven't had the opportunity to see in ages. I was floored -- no, scandalized (in the best way, of course) -- by his prose printed in the forthcoming edition of The Independent Scribe. I blushed numerous times while reading the piece aloud during a meeting, and I am by no means "a blusher." Rock on, Dylan Thompson. Make us all pink in the cheeks.
What excites you the most about good writing? What irks you the most about bad writing?
I don't believe in bad writing, I believe in writing that simply hasn't evolved or matured to its full potential yet. I once had a teacher that frequently quoted a mentor he deeply respected; upon reading a piece of writing that wasn't "good," this mentor energetically exclaimed "It is not lovely yet, but it soon will be!" I have faith in this ideology. I don't believe in bad writing, only writing that soon will be lovely -- with a bit of time, and a reasonable dose of dedication and energy.
What excites me about good writing? Risks. I love witnessing the courage of others, whether that courage be embodied in one's risque imagery, effective vulgarity, heart wrenching subject matter, unconventional structure or one's choice to "go public" by, say, submitting to a publication. Risks are exciting. Risks are good writing. Risks propel writing forward.
Political humorist Christopher Buckley often claims credit for great pieces of literature in his book jacket blurbs (he's being facetious...we hope). What piece of literature do you wish you had written?
Lolita. Who doesn't wish they'd written Lolita? Or Closely Watched Trains.
If you could spend one day in the life of a fictional character, who would it be? Why?
I would spend one day as Billy Prior, from Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy. Specifically, I'd live one of his days from The Eye in the Door. Prior's history, illness and sexuality are so fascinating; his attitude is nothing short of irresistible. He is an embodiment of my curiosity and I'd love to live his life, momentarily... not to mention how awesome it would be to strut about WWI England in a uniform! I think I'd look cute in one of those hats, no?
Scenario: You lost a bet and the person who won gets to take away all your books. But this person is feeling generous, and is letting you keep 5 of them. Which 5 are you keeping, and why?
- D.H. Lawrence's Birds, Beasts and Flowers. I open this book of poetry at least once a day.
- William Shakespeare's Complete Works. No life is complete without the jealousy of Othello, the quick tongue of Beatrice and the absolute absurdity that is Titus Andronicus.
- Peanuts. I've adored these comics since I was a kid.
- Dante's Vita Nuova. The first poem in this book is so gorgeously, frighteningly strange. I read it over and over, wishing someone would want to eat my heart!
- Stephen King's Salem's Lot. I just can't go on without vampires!
What pearl of wisdom do you wish you could impart on all young writers?
Read. Write and read, everything. Literature, newspapers, nutritional facts, sidewalk chalk. Keep reading. Keep writing.
In addition to The Independent Scribe, how do you stay involved with writing and the appreciation thereof?
I'm blessed to be in two majors that keep me 'in the loop:' Writing & Rhetoric and English Lit. I'm also blessed with two lovely roommates and a fabulous boyfriend who don't mind listening to the thoughts of my crazy poet mind nonstop. As much as I am a writer, I'm definitely a talker; I talk writing even more than I write writing!
Name: George C. Whaley, Jr.
Major(s): Writing & Rhetoric
Year of Graduation: December 2009
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009, Spring 2010)
So George C. Whaley, Jr, what does the "C" stand for?
The "C" stands for Carder. I was named after the old man, of course, who was in turn named after his great-uncle, George Carder.
Aside from your awesome name, we heard you live on a farm. Is it the same farm featured in "A Vicious, Pretty Cycle?" What is farm life like in southern Rhode Island?
Yes, the farm featured in "A Vicious, Pretty Cycle" is in fact my family's farm in South Kingstown. Farm life is, in a word, busy. There is always something to do, no matter the time of year. Though there is down time of course, particularly in the winter months, the cattle and other animals need to be tended to every day. It can be monotonous, though excitement is often added to the daily grind in the form of minor disasters: racing out into the field to cover a hay stack at two in the morning as a surprise thundershower rolls in, being woken up by a neighbor's call that a cow is running down the road again, putting a tractor through a wall and then trying to put it back together before anyone notices, etc.
We're so happy to feature your travel writing in our Fall 2009 edition. When and under what circumstances did you write these texts? Would you be willing to tell us a bit about your writing process, for these pieces specifically or with regard to your writing collectively?
I wrote both of these pieces earlier this summer as assignments for an online travel writing class, WRT 305 to be exact. One such assignment required me to attend a cultural event, with the text "Clam Bake" being the result. My other piece, "A Vicious, Pretty Cycle" came out of an interesting prompt which required me to follow a specific set of directions and observe my surroundings at every stop. Since this was all originally for a writing class, I completed several drafts of each piece, and received quite a bit of valuable feedback from my fellow students. I also did a lot of my writing in the wee hours of the morning right before due dates; I find that the pressure of a deadline looming over my head improves my productivity. I really don't recommend it, but it works for me.
How do you milk a cow?
Well that depends whether you are milking by hand or with a machine. To milk manually, you make a loose fist around the teat. Then starting at the base of the udder, squeeze slightly with your index finger and thumb, and pull your hand down the length of the teat, keeping the pressure on the whole way. Essentially, you have to pull down the milk. With a milking machine, regardless of the model being used, you just attach the cups to the teats, and wait until the cow's dry. In either case, you may also need to keep an eye on the hind legs, depending on the irritability of the individual animal.
Is this your first time being published?
Yes, this is the first time I'm being published, and I am honored that my work will be featured in the pages of this fine publication, The Independent Scribe.
So what have you been reading lately? Any fabulous poetry or travel writing you'd suggest for our readers? Any specific writers you'd recommend?
Unfortunately I've been reading little outside the assigned texts for my classes this semester. However, a friend and associate of mine has recently introduced me to the poetic works of D. H. Lawrence. I'll admit I don't have much experience in the field of poetry, but so far I'd say this is definitely an author that's worth looking into.
Are you working on any new projects? Care to share?
I'm in the middle of my final semester at URI, and am currently working on creating an electronic portfolio, the capstone of the Writing & Rhetoric major. I've been sorting through everything I've written throughout my studies here at URI, looking for the very best of my work to revise and include in my final e-portfolio. Writing aside, I still have to figure out how to put everything online in an effective, aesthetically pleasing manner, so it's definitely a long ways from being done. It doesn't look like I'll be able to knock it out on the night before it's due, no matter how much I want to.
Tell us one thing about yourself we'd never guess from reading your published pieces in The Independent Scribe.
When I was in the seventh grade, I consistently flunked each and every assignment in my Language Arts class. Back then, I sure as hell didn't see myself majoring in writing!
October 28, 2009
Name: Ray Mathieu
Major(s): Writing & Rhetoric
Year of Graduation: 2010
Position: Featured writer (Fall 2009)
This is your second time being published in The Independent Scribe. Which of your poems are you most excited to see in print? Why?
So They Say" would have to be the poem I am most proud of seeing in print. The restricted form in which it is written creates a unique visual design that adds an extra level of intrigue to the piece. Of the many attempts I have made at creating such a piece, this one was by far my most successful.
Your poem "The Steps to Stumblin'" reads like a personal account. Is this the case? What's the story there?
"The Steps to Stumblin'" is in fact a personal account, though some holes are punched out of the story as to allow me to blur sequences together a bit for rhythm's sake. What really happened was I drank White Russians all afternoon with my roommate, a Russian, one day. Later that evening, a bunch of us decided to go bowling, so we had a few beers and headed to the bowling alley. After a few games we grew bored of bowling so we walked across the street to the bar where we ordered up several Tidal Waves, a guaranteed ticket to Blackoutville, U.S.A. After a couple of drinks I decided to hit the bathroom, but through a misunderstanding of the bartender's directions, I ended up in the kitchen, where I eventually stumbled into the walk-in refrigerator stocked with beer. I was only in there a couple of minutes before they found me, surprisingly NOT drinking any of the beer. Needless to say, I was thrown out of the bar, and I woke up half naked on a couch the next morning. Blackouts happen, I guess. Like poetry.
Its is rumored you and The Independent Scribe's editor in chief Kate Stone are dating. Any truth to that rumor?
Absolutely no truth to the rumors. Kate and I are simply Non-Sexual Lifemates.
We know you write poetry, but what other genres do you dabble in? Are you working on any other projects currently?
If it's in the creative genre, I'm all over it. Currently I've been working on putting together some song lyrics which really puts a whole new set of tests of my poetic ability. I am also currently assembling my Electronic Portfolio as a graduating senior. So far, making my non-creative works appear as appealing as my creative has been the biggest struggle in that process.
Your poems published in the upcoming edition are very different from the other texts featured, both aesthetically and structurally. What poets sparked your interest in form? Why do you prefer to write in form rather than free verse? With the popularity of free verse embodied by our Fall 2009 edition, what defense would you like to make in favor of more formulaic verse?
"So They Say" is written in a form that I first discovered used by Edwin Morgan in his poem "Message Clear." Morgan achieve an extremely level of success in not only writing a poem start to finish within the restrictive guidelines of the form, but also by keeping the content closely relevant to the subject of the founding line of the poem. I have always been a fan of formulaic verse because of the challenge presented in the actual composing process. Finishing a formulaic verse such as a pontoum or paradelle feels like you have completed a puzzle of sorts and it's in that personal success that I get the most joy out of poetry.
Everyone has their own unique writing process. For poetry, what is your like?
When I'm writing poetry I'm usually also doing one of 2 things: either I'm sitting somewhere where I have to wait for something i.e. the doctor's office, or I'm reading poetry and I see a form that I feel the need to tackle. One of my favorite things to do is ride the bus from U.R.I. to Providence (about a 50 minute ride) and try to write a paradelle before reaching my destination.
While we know you're writing poetry here at URI, what do you plan to do after graduation? Do you believe your poetic skills will come in handy?
My plan after U.R.I. is to go to law school. If life has taught me one thing, it's to never rely on plans. I don't "plan" on having to rely on my poetic skills after college, but we won't know what the future holds until we get there.
Some writers feel a good deal of anxiety when it comes to submitting to publication. Is this the case for you now or was it ever? What advice would you give anxious submitters?
Submitting for publication has never made me nervous because, well, I always keep my expectations low; makes those moments of success that much more exciting. My advice to those of you who are reluctant to submit is: Expect the worst and hope for the best. That way you'll never be disappointed.
The role of President goes so far beyond administration and leadership. I'm still not sure I have the firmest grasp on everything, because I always believed that I would just be approving paperwork and going to Senate meetings. Turns out, I also get to singlehandedly destroy the rain forest with the amount of paperwork we generate during submissions review! I don't know if that's good or bad...
The hands-down least enjoyable part is finding out that everyone suddenly knows who I am. Networking is so important, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to make connections with so many other students I wouldn't ordinarily meet, but it always surprises me (a major introvert) when people recognize my face and name.
How long have you been a part of The Independent Scribe?
Are there any interesting/fun/surprising subtle details of your job description that one wouldn't hone an understanding of from simply your title?
Being the President basically makes me all things to all people. I approached the job with the belief that I would be playing a largely administrative role, overseeing activities rather than being up to my elbows in them. The one role I've found most surprising and rewarding is that of ambassador; by reaching out to more established groups, I have been able not only to garner more attention for the Scribe, but to build support. There are so many creative people at URI, and we can't reach every single one of them - we're only one group, but the wonderful thing is that we're one group out of many. By bonding with the leaders of other arts-oriented groups, we form a larger, more connected and cooperative creative community.
What is the best part of being the President of The Independent Scribe?
I think the best part is also the worst part - power. Or more specifically, balancing power with the desire to maintain as democratic a process as possible. This is probably where my political science background gets the biggest workout. I swear, this isn't a creepy social experiment! What I find so enjoyable, despite the challenges, is the opportunity to blend the skills acquired through my English and Political Science majors in a practical way.
The Independent Scribe members put in a lot of time. What makes all the time and energy sacrificed to the publishing God worth it for you?
I love books. Always have, always will. I love how they feel in my hands, and I almost always have one in my bag for leisure reading. Being able to participate in the creation of a book is a huge thrill. I love exploring all the work that is sent in for our consideration, and planning the flow of our final product. When we finally get to hold the finished publication, it's indescribable. So much love and attention went into its creation, and being able to share that love with others is equally thrilling.
How was the business of The Independent Scribe different this semester from previous ones?
Money, honey. We have it.
What do you think sets The Independent Scribe apart from other publications of its kind?
My stance on remaining insular to the URI community has been controversial, but I believe that there is such a wealth of talent that deserves to be showcased. I believe that growth can occur in a small environment and still be significant. URI boasts such diverse student and alumni bodies, basically a renewable source of creative energy for the Scribe to channel into a beautiful, powerful publication.
Page 131 of the final product. What are the odds of every single editor misreading the same line the same way?
What is your favorite piece (or top 3) in this Fall 2009 edition? Why?
My top 3 pieces this semester are:
- "House of Hosts" - the sheer novelty of a 9 page poem with a consistent meter and rhyme is exciting, and the fact that it is so well-crafted and compelling shows tremendous skill
- "Dandelions and Doodlebugs" - even just skimming this piece during layout gave me chills, it's so haunting and beautiful
- "7 o'clock News" - I love how much conflict occurs in such a short piece, and in such a wry tone
I had a teacher in high school who told me that applying to college would be a waste of my time. There were times when I thought he might be right, that I wasn't going to be successful, and that's such a hurtful thing to carry around as a young student. But it clearly was not a self-fulfilling prophecy. His doubts definitely stick with me today, but I find my anger toward him to be motivating - it's taken a long time, but I am confident in my abilities and proud of the path my life has taken.
Similarly, I also want to thank all the teachers I had in those same 4 years who believed that I could succeed. The best advice I ever got was from a teacher who told me, "Never stop reading," and that's the prophecy I am to fulfill.
Is it true all those involved in publishing are addicted to caffine?
I can say with absolutely no authority whatsoever that this rumor is 100% false.
If you had to blow up one of the art pieces featured in the Fall 2009 edition of The Independent Scribe into a flashy, fashion-forward dress, which would it be and why?
"Jenn's Wedding Present" would look great as a shimmery mini-dress. Maybe something sort of mod, '60s-inspired. I think Twiggy has crept into my subconscious as an alter-ego, and she was pretty fierce back in the day.
Okay, now I wish it was a real dress, because I do not know what to wear for the launch.
If you had to have a line (or lines) from a piece in the Fall 2009 edition tattooed on your body, what would it be and where would you put it? Why?
The final line of "The Jesus Toast." And it would go wherever tattoos hurt the least. I am completely afraid of needles. If I can be under general anesthesia during the tattooing process, even better.
What do you plan to do post-Scribe?
Tell-all book, talk show circuit...maybe an extended vacation. Preferably to a place with cabana boys and trays of frozen daiquiris.