Creative Writing

Professor Bly's Book Named Best of 2018

Congratulations to Mary Bly (pen name Eloisa James), whose novel Too Wilde to Wed has been named one of the ten best books of 2018 by Apple Books.

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From Apple: “In 2018, Apple Books launched as a brand new app, making it effortless for iPhone and iPad users to discover and enjoy books and audiobooks. This year Apple Books celebrates works from a diverse group of authors,” including There There by Tommy Orange and American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

Too Wilde to Wed, a novel Booklist says marries “potent sensuality with a deliciously dry sense of humor,” also debuted at #7 on the New York Times best seller list and was picked as one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month.

Congrats again to Professor Bly on this fabulous accomplishment.

5th Annual Golden Gloves Literary Competition & Fair

On December 7, the annual Golden Gloves Literary Competition and Fair took place at the Lincoln Center campus. Creative writing classes across Fordham presented their work to compete for three prizes: Ram d’Or (Best in Show), Best Experiment, and the Audience Award. This year, the presentations were judged by Gina Apostol, winner of the PEN Open Book Award for her novel Gun Dealer’s Daughter, and recipient of the Philippine National Book Award.

Before the event, attendants enjoyed a pizza dinner and had the opportunity to attend a campus Literary Fair, which featured the publications Bricolage, The Ampersand, The Comma, and MODE Magazine. Staff members in these groups fielded questions from students interested in writing for publication.

The competition itself featured ten different creative writing classes: Performance Criticism, Poetry - What Good is It?, Essay is a Verb, The Stuff of Fiction, Poetry of Witness, The Good Life, First Flint, Writing the World, Writing for Teens in an Adult World, and The Outsiders: Reading and Writing Fiction about Outsiders, Outcasts, Exiles, and Rebels.

Taylor Shaw, FCRH ‘19, appreciated the diversity of voices and topics represented by the classes.

“Everyone brought something different to the table this year, and I really liked that the pieces covered a broad variety of topics,” said Shaw. “From hilarious parodies of guilty pleasure young adult novels to hard-hitting and chilling reflections on the Kavanaugh trial and its surrounding context, the different works kept us engaged and at the edge of our seats for the entire competition.”

Judge, Gina Apostol read a selection from her new novel, Insurrecto. She was followed by Writer in Residence Nyssa Chow, who presented her multimedia story on a hunger striker in Trinidad, as well as scenes from her Still.Life. Exhibition.

As a student in Chow’s Multimedia and Narrative Practice class, Shaw was grateful for the opportunity to hear, see, and be inspired by her professor’s work.

“As her student, it was really gratifying to get to see her brilliant work after such a wonderful semester,” said Shaw. “We had such a great opportunity to see the skills we’d learned in action.”

The Ram d’Or (Best In Show) award was given to Professor Nyssa Chow’s Essay is a Verb class for their poignant commentary on sexual abuse and feminism after the Kavanaugh trial. Best Experiment went to the students of Professor Sarah Gambito’s The Good Life, for their interpretation of a dialogue with the succulent plants they had nurtured over the course of the semester. Finally, Molly Horan’s class, Writing for Teens in an Adult World, took home the Audience Award for its rollicking tribute to the young adult fiction genre.

Though saddened that this would be her last Golden Gloves, senior Evgenia Mantika, FCLC ‘19, expressed her appreciation of how the event brought the creative writing community together.

“Golden Gloves reminds creative writing students of the incredible community they are a part of,” said Mantikas. “It is a chance for us to be inspired by our peers, whether it be by expressing our voices politically or by writing brilliant young adult fiction.”

English Major is a Fiction Contest Finalist

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Congratulations to English major Julia Gagliardi, FCRH’19, who has been named a finalist in the Southhampton Stony Brook Short Fiction Contest for her story “The Chapel of Love” and was recently among those selected as a Creative Writing Concentrator. 

Storytelling of all sorts is close to Julia’s heart––she writes powerfully and persuasively in creative writing classes about her Irish aunts and is a story-telling mentor and founding member of “Our Story,” an event featuring student storytellers who create and share their personal stories with a live audience.

The third “Our Story” event was held Monday, November 12 at Rose Hill, during which Julia told the audience, “This is a chance for students to share uninterrupted stories, share authentically, and share truthful stories from their life.”

For more on Julia, click here:

https://changemaker.blog.fordham.edu/our-story-a-lool-into-social-impact-storytelling-an-evening-for-not-just-for-storytelling-but-also-story-listening/

12/7: Golden Gloves Literary Competition & Fair

Join us on Friday, December 7th, as we celebrate student writing at the annual Golden Gloves Literary Competition and Fair.

In this year’s competition, student writers from every creative writing class will present a piece they have worked on over the course of the semester. Writers will have the opportunity to win one of three prizes: Ram d'Or, Best Experiment, and Audience Favorite.

The Literary Fair will feature publications from both Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses, including The Ampersand, Bricolage, and The Comma. Meet the editors of these esteemed publications and learn about student contributor opportunities.

The event will take place from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. in the 12th Floor Lounge at the Lincoln Center campus.

Look forward to an evening of creativity and literary excellence!

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I Did It Wrong: How to be a Creative Person in the World, 2018 Mary Higgins Clark Chair

This past week, we were honored to host Lev Grossman as our 2018 Mary Higgins Clark Chair. Grossman is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Magicians” trilogy, now adapted into a Syfy original series. During his time in residence, Grossman delivered a lecture, conducted craft classes, advised students 1-on-1, and attended a High Tea with students and faculty at the St. Regis.

His presentation, titled “I Did It Wrong: How to be a Creative Person in the World,” addressed what he described as the “embarrassing or near-fatal mistakes” he made over the course of his writing career, as well as how such missteps could be avoided. In particular, he emphasized the importance of rejection, community, and knowing oneself as a writer.

“As much as [writing] is about finding your voice and honing your craft, it is about rejection,” said Grossman.

He spoke on his background as a writer, including growing up in a literature-loving household and his childhood enchantment with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Later, as an undergraduate, he repeatedly failed to be published in The Harvard Advocate, and after graduation, he traveled to Maine for an unsuccessful attempt at literary isolation.

“Art is rarely made by people on their own,” Grossman said of this episode.

It wasn’t until years later that he was able to find his voice, his genre, and his form: the humorous fantasy novel, as represented by The Magicians.

After the lecture, Grossman answered questions from the audience and signed books. Students such as Brielle Intorcia, FCLC ‘20, reacted positively to his presentation.

“I really resonated with the idea that writing is always together, with other people,” said Intorcia. “I had never thought about that before.”

Intorcia also expressed her appreciation for MHC events as an opportunity to glean insight from successful writers.

Over the two days that followed his presentation, Grossman continued offering insight in the form of craft classes and 1-on-1 advising at Rose Hill and Lincoln Center. In classes, he gave students practical tips on how to improve their writing, advising them to write like a reader, break rules, and remember that fiction isn’t rocket science.

Finally, on Wednesday, Lev Grossman attended High Tea at the St. Regis along with English department students, faculty, and prospective majors. Creative writing concentrator Ann Pekata, FCLC ‘20, enjoyed this chance to meet Grossman face-to-face after reading his novel.

“I read Lev Grossman’s book a couple years ago and thought it would be cool to meet him,” said Pekata.

She also appreciated the opportunity to network with other members of the English department, particularly in such a high-class setting.

“I gained some new friends at the table, so that was cool!” said Pekata. “I also discovered how much I love tarts.”

Going forward, the English Department and the Creative Writing Program hope to continue to provide students with opportunities to learn from accomplished writers such as Grossman, as well as the chance to come together as a department and discuss the literature that inspires us. Deep thanks to the visionary Mary Higgins Clark for making all of this possible.

 Students, faculty, and the MHC Chair enjoyed tea, desserts, and each other’s company during High Tea at the St. Regis.

Students, faculty, and the MHC Chair enjoyed tea, desserts, and each other’s company during High Tea at the St. Regis.

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 Lev Grossman signed copies of  The Magicians  for those in attendance of his lecture.

Lev Grossman signed copies of The Magicians for those in attendance of his lecture.

 After his presentation, Grossman addressed questions from students and faculty in attendance.

After his presentation, Grossman addressed questions from students and faculty in attendance.

 

Reid-Mullarkey Research and Teaching Forum--October 24th

You are invited to the next Reid-Mullarky Reseach and Teaching Forum—Writing and Teaching in the Age of the Unspeakable. Wednesday, October 24th from 2:30pm-6:30pm at Rose Hill’s Duane Library, Room 351 and videoconference to LL309. Please plan to attend. Tea will be served. For more info see below.

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Q&A with Fordham Alum, Naima Coster, Kirkus-nominated author of Halsey Street

Naima Coster (GSAS), acclaimed author of Halsey Street, isn’t interested in asking the easy questions. Her debut novel tackles gentrification, explores psychological complexity, and invites self-interrogation on the part of its readers. Halsey Street has brought Coster critical recognition, including a Kirkus Prize nomination and a place on the must-read lists of publications across the country.

This week the Creative Writing program spoke with Coster about the thought process underlying the novel and her experience of writing about flawed humans in a very real world.

Q: Your debut novel Halsey Street has been lauded for its skilled depiction of family, loss, and renewal. What motivated you to tackle the messiness of life and relationships and in the way that you did?

One of the reasons I love fiction is that it’s one of the only avenues we have for slipping into the consciousness of another person. We’re stuck inside our own heads, our perceptions, memories, and reactions the rest of the time. But while this is one of the pleasures of fiction, it’s also uncomfortable. It can be troubling, it can hurt, to inhabit someone’s mind, to become so well acquainted with the inner life of another. I knew that if I was going to be writing so close to my characters, the book would become difficult, charged with all the emotions and wounds and aspirations the characters are carrying. But there’s no other way I’m interested in writing. And the difficulty, the discomfort of being so close to these complicated characters, is fitting for the novel. Halsey Street is in part about unbearable emotions and the ways we attempt to cope. In the book, characters lose themselves in music, turn to gin, run, make art, garden, seek intimacy. Sometimes we’re not sure how to hold the messier facts of our lives, our difficult emotions, but fiction can hold it for us, and so can other literary forms.

Q: You alternate between the perspectives of Penelope and Mirella in Halsey Street. What was the experience of alternating consciousnesses like in writing the book, particularly for two characters in such different physical and mental states? What did you hope to reveal through these particular voices?

At the level of the prose, the two perspectives in the book sound quite a lot like one another. The perspectives differ chiefly in terms of the quality of mind of each of the characters. There were periods of time when I wrote solely in Penelope’s point of view for long stretches; there were times when I was looking only at the sections of the book that belonged to Mirella. The trickier moments were the ones where their points of view collide later in the book. I hoped that these voices would complicate and illuminate one another to tell a moving, fraught, sticky story of a broken family. Neither of their versions is quite right, but they’re both telling the truth from where they’re standing. And this truth telling is essential if the women are ever going to find their way back to one another.

Q: In your work you address gentrification in Brooklyn, an issue that has gained much attention and media coverage in recent years. How have your themes changed with and been influenced by the world around you?

I knew there was no way I could write a book that would tackle every potential facet of gentrification--it’s too huge. I also knew the pressure to represent the issue could squeeze out any nuance or depth from the book. Gentrification is the context pressing in on the lives of the characters, but the story told here is actually quite small: about one neighborhood record store that closes, about two families: one old and one new. I let the lives of the characters shape the fiction, although I was always collecting details from news stories, anecdotes from friends, my own time in New York City. Anytime I thought I’d perhaps gone too far in my depiction of gentrification, the real world corroborated my fiction. I wanted to make the book bold but not didactic; I wanted to raise questions for the reader, unsettle any easy ideas about gentrification and its impact.

Q: Halsey Street has been able to reach a wide and diverse audience as it has been on the must-read lists of publications including People, Bustle, and Kirkus Reviews. What kind of effect do you hope your work has on readers, and what would you like them to take away from the novel?

I hope that my readers will be able to locate themselves in my work. I think that’s a bit different than relating to the characters; rather, it’s about being able to see more clearly how you’re operating in the world, in your neighborhood, in your family, with respect to yourself, after spending time in the fiction. I’ve heard from fathers who told me they wanted to spend more time being emotionally attentive to their daughters after reading Halsey Street because they saw themselves playing the role of material provider above all in their families; I’ve heard from young transplants to Brooklyn that they’re reevaluating how they regard their neighborhood after reading about the newcomers to Bed-Stuy in the book. The richest books, to me, are the ones that in some way leave me thinking about myself, the people around me, and how I want to live. Fiction isn’t self-help, but it can lead to self-interrogation and self-reflection, which, I believe, are invaluable.


Q: You said in another interview that you probably wouldn't write about gentrification again. Going forward, what kind of themes, questions, and mediums are you looking to explore through your writing, and has the experience of writing your debut novel influenced how you address these topics?

I’m certain that I’ll continue to be interested in family and memory, race and belonging, place and how it forms us, and the interior lives of women. But even with these thematic commitments, anything is possible. I have two novels that I’m working on now. One is a story of how the integration of a local public high school in contemporary North Carolina brings together two different families and intertwines their lives and fates forever. The other is a work of speculative fiction, and it’s about a young woman’s quest to save her family. While she is on this journey, she’s learning how to be tender at the same time that the world requires that she be hard. In both of these works, I’m paying careful attention to the physical world, to the social forces that shape my characters’ lives, and to their interiors, their relationships.

Halsey Street is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 Author Naima Coster, pictured above, delves into themes of “family, loss, and renewal.“

Author Naima Coster, pictured above, delves into themes of “family, loss, and renewal.“

 Cover of  Halsey Street.

Cover of Halsey Street.