Drexel Publishing Group’s annual Week of Writing took place May 12-16, featuring programming designed to influence writers in the Drexel community.
The series of events kicked off May 12 with a Marathon Reading session in the bookstore, which provided an outlet for both faculty and the student winners of the Week of Writing contest, previously held during the fall quarter, to share their work with their peers.
Such students included GaiaFaigonand JenniferJolles, two English majors who were recognized for their work in the creative nonfiction category. Jolles was not only awarded first place in the creative nonfiction category but in the fiction category as well. Their pieces, along with those of the other student winners, will be considered for publication in “The 33rd,”a multigenre anthology of student and faculty writing.
“I feel this event is a spectacular opportunity for student writers at Drexel to meet other writers and to learn about various writing styles,”Faigon, a freshman, explained in an email. “The Week of Writing really gives us students the chance to learn more about improving our writing and exposes us to writing concepts that we may not havepaidmuch attention to before.”
The week not only allowed students to share their own and experience others’ work, but it also gave students the opportunity to learn from professionals, often from outside the Drexel community, who spoke of their own endeavors in specialized facets of writing.
May 13 featured a panel discussion titled “Write Like Crazy,”which tackled literary depiction of mental illness. The panel consisted of LizSpikoland EvanRoskos, a professional journalist and novelist, respectively, both of whom have had experience writing about and living with mental illness. The discussion was moderated by Jennifer Schwartz, an associate professor of psychology at Drexel who provided insight about treatment and media representation of mental illness. All three panelists spoke highly of the importance of writing about mental illness, both for the writer and the reader.
“It might speak to them in a language they need to hear,”Roskossaid of his own young-adult novel, “Doctor Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets,” which depicts an adolescent boy who copes with his depression and anxiety by speaking to a mentally fabricated pigeon.
“It was great to hear professional writers talk about their writing processes,”Faigonwrote after attending “Write Like Crazy.”
A panel on May 14, “I’ll Have theFootlong, Hold the Smut: Writing About Sex,”discussed best practices for depicting sexual scenes realistically without turning it into erotica. DPG’s website said of the event, “Our panel will give us advice on how NOT to write ‘50 Shades of Grey.’”
The panelists, all of whom came from very different backgrounds, discussed how sex scenes entice readers and how a writer may have difficulty communicating such traditionally private emotions realistically, while maintaining the interest of the audience.
Anthony DeCurtis, the panel’s moderator and contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine, brought up the difficulty of doing so in an increasingly visually literate society and questioned what writers have to do to break through that barrier.
“I think you have to step your game up and make it real and sensual, and not just rely on telling what’s going on, but showing,” Ras Mashramani, founding member of the sci-fi arts collective Metropolarity, said in response. “I think you really have to invest in your images, and you have to be brave with them.”
Charlotte Dow, a senior screenwriting and playwriting major, asked the panelists to elaborate on their experience writing about sex in nonfiction settings, which garnered a polarized response.
“Anyone who sleeps with you and knows you’re a writer deserves what they get,” Lisa Zeidner, a novelist and Rutgers University writing professor, said.
DeCurtis and Mashramani disagreed, noting the importance of an individual’s privacy.
“It was interesting to see the diverse opinion of the panel,” Dow commented.
Kathleen Volk Miller, an English professor and co-director of DPG, emphasized that the program is designed to be a collaborative effort between students and faculty, and much of the programming, such as “I’ll Have theFootlong,”is a result of student request.
“We tried to make it student-centric and interdisciplinary,” Volk Miller said. “We want to turn people on to writing by thinking about it in ways they don’t normally.”
This effort is demonstrated by events such as “Writing Lyrics: Survivors’ Guide,” also held on May 14 in the URBN Center, which focused on songwriting and methods to avoid writing tawdry lyrics.
The week will culminate with several events on May 16, the last of which is the English Department Awards Ceremony, which will formally recognize the winners of the writing contest as well as other students.
“The opportunities for engineers on this campus are endless,” Jolles, a junior, wrote in an email. “To have a week that is exclusively devoted to the work that my major-specific professors and I seek to do on a daily basis is an awesome opportunity.”