Saturday, July 13, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Kristen Herrick

Kristen Herrick 
Class of 2016 
English Major 

Current Job: Professional Academic Advisor, College of Business & Economics and Deciding Students, Ashland University 

Every day I am blessed to work alongside the same staff and collaborate with the same faculty who shaped me from a student into a life-long learner and further encouraged and inspired me to pursue a career in higher education. In my current role, I advise and support incoming freshmen in the College of Business and Economics and students who are still deciding on a major. In the College of Business and Economics there is a wide variety of students, and I enjoy getting to know their individual stories, helping them transition from high school to college, and guiding them in planning their academic journeys. In addition, I get to support students who are still deciding on a major and encourage them to explore their interests and possible careers, while reassuring them that it is okay to be unsure and take time to choose a major.

As an alumna of Ashland University, I have both an employee and student perspective to my advantage when advising in the Center for Academic Support. I am able to share my own amazing experiences as an English major with my advisees and encourage them to pursue a major that aligns with their life calling as I did. Majoring in English prepared me for graduate level coursework, internships, and the daily hurdles I encounter in my career. I was able to complete five internships as an undergraduate and another four at the graduate level. In each of those positions, my supervisors encouraged me to communicate with their valued stakeholders because they knew I had the language and critical thinking skills to effectively and eloquently do so. Furthermore, I continue to use my English background daily to review content that our center creates, address student questions and concerns, and collaborate with other departments on campus.

The English department at Ashland University is filled with passionate professors who truly strive to impact and promote growth in their students. Whether it was working one-on-one with Dr. Donatini to perfect my Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (URCA) Symposium presentation, meeting with a group of classmates to discuss The Brothers Karamazov at Dr. Weaver’s home, or visiting Dr. Waterman’s office to get feedback on my latest essay, I will neither forget my experiences as an English major nor my professors’ dedication to and interest in me as a student, individual, and human being.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ashland Poetry Press Publishes New Book

A. V. Christie, More Here Than Light, Ashland Poetry Press, 2019, ISBN 978-0-912592-73-2

The first new and selected edition to be published at Ashland Poetry Press for many years, A. V. Christie’s More Here Than Light includes poems from five previous collections as well as new work written before her death. She is not new to Ashland Poetry Press as her book The Housing was a winner of the Robert McGovern Prize. Poet Elizabeth Spires writes of A. V. Christie’s poems,

The poems in More Here Than Light are full of hard-won truths, in which the intensity of the poet’s experience is supported by language, phrasing, syntax, and structure. Reading these poems is to watch A. V. Christie growing, evolving, taking risks, and writing, in the most honest, unflinching way possible, about the pressing concerns of life’s successive stages: the formation and disintegration of families, the beginning and end of a marriage, the bond between mother and child, the exigencies of artistic making, and finally the painful confrontation with her own mortality. Christie’s poetic “task,” as I imagine it, was to come to a deeper understanding of herself and the external forces which shaped her life and the lives of those around her.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

MFA Summer Residency Starts July 22

The English Department's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing will hold its Summer Residency, which runs from July 22 to August 2.

MFA Program Faculty

Please click here for a full schedule of events, many of which are free and open to the public.

Paige Webb, Administrative Director of the Program, shares her thoughts on the upcoming residency:

It’s going to be wonderful to see the students and faculty all together at the residency – all in one place for this intensive creative experience. I’ve been in conversation with faculty and students mostly by phone and email throughout the year, because it’s an online program in the fall and spring, and I very much look forward to seeing everyone as they work together on Ashland’s campus. I’m excited to meet our new students and to work with the two new additions to our faculty, Kelly Sundberg and Michael Spurgeon. I’ve also been in close contact with the graduating students while they have been completing their theses, and I can’t wait to see them all graduate and read their work alongside the faculty.

It will be lovely to have our visiting editors in town – Mary Biddinger, Kelly Caldwell, Cassie Donish, Eric Obenauf, and Hilary Plum: almost all of whom I’ve worked with before in some capacity, and all are just stellar editors and writers and people. Also, I feel so lucky to have our visiting writers at Ashland: Justin Phillip Reed, Dan Chaon, and Hanif Abdurraqib. Justin and I overlapped in our MFA program, and it’s been a joy to see his work garner so much national attention recently (with winning the James Baldwin Writer-in-Residence and the National Book Award). I admire his poetry enormously, and when I saw that our graduating poetry students were reading his book Indecency in their thesis course, it seemed perfect to have him out for the residency.

I’ve also been reading Dan Chaon’s work, and completely taken by his most recent novel, Ill Will, which is one of those books that envelopes you, deeply connecting you to the characters and making you question some of the most basic assumptions we have about the human experience, connection to others, and what being good/well-intentioned means. And Hanif Abdurraqib is such a juggernaut of a writer – in both nonfiction and poetry – whose work I’ve long admired for its breadth and its depth. He’s a Columbus hero in the literary community, a huge connecting force, and also just a fantastic person. I know our students (and the public who attend) will be deeply impacted by his work and dedication to building literary communities, as well as by our other visiting writers, the visiting editors, and our brilliant faculty.

This is my first residency here at Ashland, so I’m just pumped to get everyone together and see the beauty of it in action.

Christian Kiefer, Director of the MFA Program, adds the following reflections:

Filmmakers are familiar with the term “magic hour,” which is the moment at the very end of the afternoon where the light is perfect and everything glows. The residency is the MFA program’s magic hour and I’m looking forward to all of it: the new students, the current students, the graduating students, seeing the faculty in deep conversation, the community of writers and writing and literature and literatures. I’m also looking forward to Ohio’s fierce summer beauty.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Pleshinger Reflects on Study Abroad in England

By Kellie Pleshinger, Creative Writing and Digital Media Production major

The Parthenon in Athens, with me (right) and my friend, taken by a lovely couple that we met on the Acropolis who were also from Ohio

England was always a big dream of mine. When I was little, I (of course) read Harry Potter and from that instant decided to be obsessed with the country and, in particular, with London. Last fall, I was lucky enough to study abroad in England, specifically in a borough of London called Kingston-Upon-Thames.

The iconic Elizabeth tower and the clock-face Big Ben, all under construction for the first and only time in something like 100 years.

A bustling section of the city, Kingston is about twenty-five minutes from downtown London by train and right on the Thames, filled with shops and restaurants. The adjustments to life in England, luckily, did not include learning a different language, but I did have to learn cultural differences: what you talked about (popular culture), what you didn’t talk about (politics or religion), what you don’t do walking down the street (smile at strangers), what you have to do in restaurants (ask for the check).

A greenhouse at Kew Gardens, a huge garden complex in London.
I took four classes at Kingston, with two English literature classes, one media class, and a British life and culture class. With only one class per week, most of the work turned out to be papers and reading outside of class, but the class environment was very welcoming. All of the classes were in three-hour blocks, with lectures for one or two hours and then discussion or seminars for the latter half. The lengthy, lecture-based classes were certainly an adjustment, particularly for the English classes where I was used to Ashland’s small class sizes and discussion-based format.

During our guided trip to the Netherlands, we visited Amsterdam and then two smaller towns where this photo was taken, Edam and Volendam.

As a small-town girl from Ohio, not only did I have to adjust to another country, but I also had to adjust to city living. Studying at Kingston University, I found myself at a big international school, traversing on the school bus system between campuses in the city. Surprisingly, the adjustment came easy, as most of them did, as I quickly learned which bus to take and how they always left a little early from our dorm building but always arrived late.

Be advised: hiking in Switzerland will lead to all sorts of The Sound of Music moments.

Travel in every form is best learned by doing. I learned the school’s bus route and how to hop on and off, then the red, double-decker buses around Kingston. We rode the bus for an hour and a half to Kew Gardens, where we took way too many pictures of flowers. We learned the trains and the Underground, and how to tell which was going which direction and what apps to use to find the schedule (Citymapper is a lifesaver!). Planning trips after that seemed easy and fun as we planned trips throughout Europe on our own every weekend from October to December.

Taken on an island called Burano off the coast of Venice, this picture showcases the brightly colored houses characteristic of Burano.

Riding the train into the heart of London the first time was one of the best moments of my life. I was with a gaggle of girls, two of whom have become lifelong friends. When the train pulled into Waterloo Station, with the London Eye rising up behind the rail station on the side, we shuffled out of the station, and, one Tube ride later, we were in Trafalgar Square. Wandering about the city and seeing black cabs, Big Ben (under construction, unfortunately), red double-deckers, and everything that defines London made me feel both excited to be in a new place and at home.

Called the gateway to Europe, London provided me the incredible opportunity to travel on weekends to different countries throughout the United Kingdom and the continent. From ancient abbeys in Wales to french fries in Amsterdam to hiking in Switzerland to chilly boat rides in Venice, I experienced life in so many different forms. There were, of course, bad moments, too: waiting at a bus stop in a small town in Switzerland at 3 a.m, arriving at the wrong airport to fly from Rome to Athens, motion sickness on the ferry rides to the Netherlands, uncooperative travel partners in Venice. But, at the cost of cliches, the experiences abroad truly changed how I think about the world and my role in it, and those three months were the best of my life.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Creative Writing Senior Capstone Projects

Six seniors completed capstone projects in creative writing this past spring. Below are descriptions of each project. Congratulations, seniors, and thanks for keeping our tradition of excellent creative writing alive!

Naomi Sims is a senior May 2019 graduate double-majoring in Creative Writing and Political Science and minoring in English and Philosophy. Her thesis, “Andy,” is an original screenplay that explores the relationship between artificial intelligence and humanity through an AI named Andy, who is helping commandeer a trip to Halley’s comet.  

Andrew Potosky is a senior May 2019 graduate majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in History. His thesis, “Red Contract” is a sci-fi fantasy centered around Aramys, an anthropomorphic wolf who must uncover the truth behind the fabled red contract in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by war. 

Kelsey Wade is a senior May 2019 graduate double-majoring in Creative Writing and English. Her thesis is a collection of personal essays. 

Stephanie Sorrell is a senior Fall 2019 graduate majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in English. Her thesis, “Nesting Shrikes,” is a murder-mystery centered around three women: a journalist named Olivia, a teenager named Raffaella, and a woman named Lark who is being accused of the murder of her husband.

Sarah Norris is a senior Fall 2019 graduate double-majoring in English and Creative Writing. Her thesis, “A New Beginning,” is a contemporary story about a young woman who has lost her father. Hoping to begin anew through a program at prestigious culinary institute in New York, Emma struggles to hold onto her father's memory while moving forward with her life.

Audrey Ashbrook is a senior Fall 2019 graduate double-majoring in English and Creative Writing with a minor in History. Her thesis, “Moonshine,” is about a World War II veteran who takes to running moonshine in rural Tennessee to make ends meet after a tragic accident claims the lives of his brothers in arms while overseas.