Bobby Mitchell '13
Damascus, Md. | Damascus High School
Major: Creative Writing
Post-Graduation Plans: MFA in Creative Writing
Meaningful connection with a faculty member: I can’t think of a faculty member in the writing program I haven’t made a meaningful connection with. In my first year at Susquehanna, I thought I had the skills to write award-winning novels. As it turned out, I had a long way to go to string together ten solid pages! Dr. Silas Zobal and I have worked closely on my writing ever since I took Intermediate Fiction with him in my second year. In my senior year, I was Dr. Zobal’s teaching assistant for the Intermediate Fiction class, which was a fantastic experience. He’s been a great mentor for me in terms of both my writing and teaching. It's been amazing to see the improvement in my writing in the time I’ve been here, to actually see the results of the time I’ve invested in learning how to write and the impact the faculty and the courses I’ve taken have had on my work. It’s hard to think of something more exciting than that.
Biggest academic challenge: My biggest academic challenge at Susquehanna was in a class called Small Press Editing and Publishing. To simulate a real-world publishing operation, students in that class run a chapbook contest that’s open to the campus, and then publish the work of two winners. In my second year at Susquehanna, I won the contest for a collection of short stories. I had such a great experience being published that I decided to take the class.
In the class, going through the process of putting together a contest, choosing a winner, and then designing and producing professional quality books was a huge challenge, but also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. It really changed the way I look at publishing, which can demand just as much care and creative energy as writing.
Abigail Hess '13
Major: Creative Writing
Minors: Editing and Publishing, Philosophy
Clubs/activities: Honors Program, Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, SU Slam Poetry, Mock Trial, Literature club, FUSE (Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors), Co-Editor of the Susquehanna Review, and SU Women's Tennis
Post-graduation Plans: MFA in Creative Writing
Beneficial research: For the Honors Sophomore Essay I focused my research on the importance of the monster image in literature and read Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Phantom of the Opera, and lots of academic essays. For my novel class and now my independent study where I am continuing that project, I've created an entire glossary of terms for carny lingo. I'm reading four different books on freak shows, carnivals, circuses, and sideshows as well as the massive Moby Dick. I’ve spent many hours researching things from what it feels like to swallow a sword to the coloration of two-headed turtles.
The thing I love about research is that you can't assume you know where it is going to take you. You can read one small fact that becomes an entire story or a major plot point for your novel or story. But it also shows you how much information is out there that you don't know. It's hard not to get lost in all of it. I've learned that you have to put the books down and shut off the documentaries and videos at some point and get to writing. I don't think it matters how much YOU know, unless you combine, sort, and form it into something you can share with other people.
GO Program Experience: I went on the GO Short Greece trip the summer after my sophomore year. Two philosophy professors, Dr. Zoller and Dr. Chappen, were the chaperones, so lots of the pre-reading included ancient Greek philosophers and, of course, many of the ancient sites included information about them. But the thing about being a writing major is that every experience is useful to your program of study. I got to observe an entire culture different from me. I saw and swam in an ocean a different and brighter blue than I have ever imagined and walked on a black beach. A trip like this really forces you to question what you've been writing. Am I only writing about me in my small town, or am I writing about the world? You can't know that until you have seen some more of it.
Jessica Gilchrist '15
Bridgewater, Va. | Turner Ashby High School
Major: Creative Writing
Minor: Editing and Publishing
Clubs/Activities: FUSE (Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors), Literature Club, Susquehanna Alumni Calling Team, CDSJIS Mentorship Program
Post-Graduation Plans: Pursue an MFA in Fiction
Favorite class: I really enjoyed my Intro to Fiction and Intermediate Fiction classes, because each gave me a sense of community within the program. Intro was important to me, because I had never been through a workshop class before coming to Susquehanna. I had no idea what kind of an effect it would have on me as a writer. But that first time I poured over those critique letters with a highlighter, I loved that they saw things in my work that I didn’t. It got me fired up. The same night, I would sit at the computer becoming more methodical, more understanding of what I was trying to accomplish. I'm still really close to most of the people that I had those classes with. They are the ones I go to when I want fresh eyes on a draft, when I'm confused about a piece, and the people I spend most of my time with.
With Intermediate, I learned how to read. I say that, because I previously didn’t have the opportunities to read the kinds of things I read in that class, like "The Dead" by James Joyce or "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor. It has trained me to look to books as my teachers, to seek out established narratives when I am unsure of my own.
Most exciting thing about studying Creative Writing: The fact that we have the opportunity to study under successful, professional writers in a workshop setting has never stopped being exciting to me. We're so blessed, because we have this amazing network of support and have the advantage of getting the one-on-one guidance from our faculty. Then we have the added joy of meeting visiting writers like Claire Vaye Watkins, James Galvin, Danielle Evans, and Stewart O'Nan.
Seeing other writers perform here makes you realize there's something magical about the way words come to life when they're read out loud. You hear the rhythm, feel the pace, and understand the concentration that went behind every turn of the narrative. So not only do I get the opportunity to be the fan in the audience clutching the book that I know my favorite author will sign, but I also get to listen to them answer questions about their writing style, and investigate the way these readings have me inching from my back against the chair to the edge of my seat.