Monday, November 18, 2019

Student Reaction to Poet Maggie Smith Reading at Ashland University (10/23/19)

Student Reaction to Poet Maggie Smith Reading at Ashland University (10/23/19)

By Melan White

Poems packed with grace, pain, power, and nostalgia stuck with audience members long after they were read aloud on a Wednesday afternoon. On October 23, 2019 English department students, university professors, staff, and community members gathered to hear Maggie Smith read her work. Smith’s poems carry us from the corn fields of Ohio to the depths of the blue skies, and are packed with universal truths and the thoughts of a young Midwesterner. Smith writes from her own lived experience-- she writes as a mother, as an Ohian, and tries not to write as an editor (even though she is one). Smith is well known for her poem “Good Bones,” but it is just a sampling of the breadth of her work. The final lines of Smith’s poems leave readers in awe, wonderment, and a simultaneous deep understanding and deep questioning of the world around us.

As a junior, a Creative Writing and Mathematics double major, and a student athlete, it can be hard to find time to attend events on campus like this one. I was grateful to be able to attend, I felt both honored and inspired to listen to Maggie Smith read her work. Towards the end of the reading when Smith was reading her poem “Let’s Not Begin,” I had this moment of deja vu. I focused in on Smith’s words and realized that I had heard her work before. I was a member of a writing community in my hometown and we would open our writing time with Smith’s poems. It was such a great moment to be able to put a face to the words that had moved me so many times before.

What Can You Do With an English Major?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Alumni Update: Alyssa Ferrell (2019)

Alumni Update! 
Alyssa Ferrell, a 2019 graduate of Ashland University, has shared what she has been up to since graduation! "Since graduation, I've made quite a few big leaps into adulthood. I moved to Ashland permanently, renovated my first home, got a teaching job at a great district, and I am preparing to get married on September 21st! It's been a busy summer! I am now working as an 11th and 12th grade English teacher at Crestview High School. I did my student teaching through Ashland University at Crestview in the spring, so I really owe my job to AU! I love teaching American and British literature to these kids, but my favorite subject that I teach is Journalism. We only have four kids in the class, but they are all excited to make their voices heard through school publications. I'm really looking forward to getting to know all of my students and creating an engaging Literature program with some of my favorite texts. Teaching my students how to close read is a large part of my curriculum, and I owe my own abilities with close reading to my professors at AU. I hope we can have stimulating discussions in my class like we did during my time at AU!"
- Alyssa Ferrell

Pictured: Alyssa [standing, second from the right] at the Crestview High School's first football game of the season

Dr. Kelly Sundberg's new publications

Dr. Kelly Sundberg, Asst. Prof. of English has several new publications this month. 
Dr. Sundberg has published a memoir from Harper Collins, Goodbye, Sweet Girl, numerous essays and other works.  These articles are in popular media publications because, as Dr. Sundberg tells us, "I try to keep one foot in the commercial publishing world" as well as continuing to do more academic creative writing work. The first is an interview with The Healthy, which is part of the Reader's Digest family:

The second is one that she is very excited about. The Stylist, which is the UKs leading women's magazine had their 10 year anniversary this year, and to celebrate, they had 10 issues guest edited by 10 women. The current guest editor is Roxane Gay (the last editors were Chelsea and Hillary Clinton), and Roxane Gay asked Sundberg to write the column for the issue. The first link describes the issue (which Sundberg comments "is amazing and features Elizabeth Warren"), and the second link is Dr. Sundberg's piece.

Congratulations to Dr. Sundberg on the publication of these pieces!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Alumni Update: Creative Writing major Garrison Stima (2018)

Alumni Update-- Creative Writing major Garrison Stima (2018)

Since graduating from AU in 2018, Garrison Stima (Creative Writing major) has been busy! He and his wife Jamie moved to Mansfield and he has been working with writing in some capacity ever since graduation.

Garrison worked at McGraw Hill Education in Ashland for several months and then started working on as a ghostwriter and is always on the lookout for new writing opportunities. Other than that, he says he’s trying to get a book series off the ground. His wife, Jamie, is a teacher in Crestline and Mansfield at two different Catholic schools. “Altogether, we’re well, just really busy!"

He gave us a short description of his book, The Lost Voices:

“It’s a steampunk, fantasy adventure that follows four different perspectives during a swelling conflict. Each perspective has their own stake in what’s happening, but also has their own reasons to want the conflict’s conclusion. As the story unfolds, the concepts of loss, purpose, friendship, nationalism, and war-time morality are brought up time and time again.

The story is understandably geared toward anyone eighteen and older.”

A summary of the book is below:

“Malien Kinray has lived a quiet life in the corner of his home country: Terrarin. However, with the recent passing of his father, Malien's old life is uprooted and the political arguments against magic have reached critical mass. With the changing era, a terrorist organization threatens to dismantle his society with bullets and blood.

Soon, a grieving machine-smith, an immigrant to Terrarin with burning memories, a man who knows everyone's secrets but his own, and a foreign agent seeking answers to the mysterious Old World, will intertwine in a conflict beyond them. The world of Regelia is swelling with fear and, as wonder meets peril, no one can ignore what's coming.

The Lost Voices dives into the phantasmal world of Regelia, brimming with new machines, an industrial revolution, magic, and political strife. In this world, what unites people in a genuine, lifelong manner and what can separate them in the end?”

Readers can find sample chapters of the book and keep up with Garrison at:

Reflecting on his time as a student at Ashland University, Garrison notes: "AU did a wonderful job of engaging me in different forms of literature and media, which showed me how each work could be used as a lens or platform to enhance the others and sometimes understand them. It helped me realize that any form of writing can say something that someone needs to hear. Writing can always give the world something new and I love AU for showing me that."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Middle Grades Major on Theater Opening Night Performance

An Enemy of The PeopleAbigail Wilhelm, Junior Middle Grades Education Major

I attended the opening night of Arthur Miller's play An Enemy of The People at Ashland University. I really enjoyed the play and was very impressed by the casts’ compelling performances. Overall the theatre department put together another excellent show, with a very timely message.

I particularly enjoyed how appropriate the themes in the play were for today’s society. The idea of media influence and motivators struck me as extremely suitable for the current political climate. Also, I had read the play before seeing Ashland’s rendition and I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the characters that were originally written as men were being played by women. This changed the dynamic of some aspects, such as a brother-sister relationship rather than two brothers. This gender change also conveyed that women belong in the work force and politics too. Most importantly, it made the play feel more modern, fresh, and relatable to me as a woman.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Dr. Sharleen Mondal Attends Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference As Contributor in Fiction

Dr. Mondal with her workshop group
The annual Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Ripton, VT is the oldest writers’ conference in the United States. Its faculty over the past 94 years have included Robert Frost, Toni Morrison, George R.R. Martin, and Anne Sexton. The conference hosts writers from across the country in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry workshops over a period of ten days. Dr. Mondal had this to share about her experience as a Contributor in Fiction at this year’s conference from August 14-24.

What prompted you to apply to Bread Loaf?

I recently made a switch from publishing literary criticism to writing fiction as my primary work. In the fall of 2017, I did a program through the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity called Post-Tenure Pathfinders, which helps tenured faculty determine their post-tenure focus, rather than simply being reactive to whatever they are asked to do without a clear sense of purpose. Dr. Dawn Weber, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, sponsored my participation in this life-changing program. I was able to make a realistic plan for working on my novel. I reached out to writers who are doing what I wanted to do--write fiction without having earned an M.F.A.--and they helped shepherd me through the steps I would need to take, including finding writers’ conferences that were a good fit for me, which for me meant well-established conferences that had a reputation for either supporting writers of color or making significant efforts to welcome writers of color. I applied to VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation), Kundiman (for Asian American writers) and Bread Loaf. I did not get into VONA or Kundiman but got into Bread Loaf, much to my gratitude and delight, since the acceptance rate this past year was just 26%!

Meadow at Bread Loaf

What did the application process involve?

There was a general application form, scholarship application, and a writing sample. For my writing sample, I selected the fourth chapter of my novel and requested comments on it from a number of colleagues and fellow writers, as well as sharing it twice with the Akron Writers’ Group, once at a Motivating Writers session where we read our work aloud for positive reinforcement (sort of like a community reading), and once at a Writers’ Workshop where I circulated hard copies and got very detailed feedback from extremely diligent and generous readers.

What was it like to be at Bread Loaf? What were some of the most meaningful or memorable moments of the conference?

Bread Loaf was busy! The schedule was non-stop from morning through evening. Each workshop had ten participants, a faculty member, and a fellow who co-taught with the faculty member. We had to submit our manuscripts that we wanted workshopped in advance of the conference (I selected the eighth chapter of my novel for this purpose). We read and commented on our workshop members’ manuscripts ahead of time (so we came to each workshop with written comments prepared, which we’d hand back to the writer after we discussed their work). There were 186 pages of writing for me to read carefully and comment on before I even got to Vermont! The workshops were humbling and deeply gratifying since everyone’s manuscript was of such high quality. My workshop leader, Ravi Howard (author of the novels Like Trees, Walking and Driving the King), established a wonderful workshop environment from the outset and my group members were at the top of their game, so every workshop was laser focused, full of insightful critique. When I wasn’t in workshop, I was attending the daily lectures by faculty; readings by faculty, fellows, scholars, and fellow contributors; craft sessions; panels; and meetings with literary agents. There were also book signings, meals in the dining hall, and plenty of other opportunities to socialize with other writers.
Robert Frost's Cabin

Some of the most meaningful moments for me--apart from having my manuscript workshopped--included attending the amazing poet Jericho Brown’s reading and most especially hearing him read his poem “Bullet Points.” I loved gathering in the Little Theatre with my fellow Bread Loafers and watching The Pieces I Am, the documentary about Toni Morrison that Bread Loaf leadership got special permission to screen for us. I enjoyed hiking with fellow Bread Loafers up to Robert Frost’s cabin (he was a regular there for many years) and hiking the nearby Robert Frost interpretive trail which includes Frost’s poetry throughout the trail. Other memorable moments happened when I was out by myself; I went out birding nearly every morning, usually in the meadow across from the Bread Loaf Inn, and saw my first Indigo Bunting--and one morning I even saw a baby bear! though thankfully it scampered away as soon as it saw me and was on the other side of some trees that separated us.

Is there anything else you want to share with your students or colleagues about your experience at Bread Loaf?

Yes: keep writing and do it every day. I established a daily writing habit in the fall of 2012 (writing at least 30 minutes a day every weekday whenever possible) and it is one of the most important habits I have ever formed. Were it not for daily writing, I could not have finished so much of my novel, revised it, applied to and gotten into Bread Loaf, or be moving forward on the manuscript now with such regularity during my Senior Study Leave. Try daily writing. It will change your life. We even have a group at Ashland that I normally direct when I am not on leave, the Ashland University Research and Writing Community (the interim director for the 2019-2020 academic year is my colleague Dr. Mason Posner), that supports faculty (full-time and part-time), staff, graduate students, and College of Arts and Sciences students who want to establish a daily writing habit--please check it out if you are interested!