Writers Institute

Sal Pane '07

What are the similarities and differences between writing fiction and writing a webcomic?
Prose and comics are radically different forms, but the building blocks of fiction—strong characterization, deft plot movement, effective dialogue—are all still there. However, when you’re writing a comic, you have to depend on the artist to tell most of the story. That’s hard to do when you have a background in prose writing. You’re not used to relying on anyone but yourself. The biggest mistake writers make who come from prose into comics is that they’re too verbose. You can’t have too many words on a comic book page.

Are any of the characters or events in your webcomic based on professors or events that happened during your time at Susquehanna?
No, but I’m working on a second novel right now, and there’s a 25-page section that takes place at Susquehanna during the first half of the book. The characters aren’t really interested in creative writing, so you don’t see Gary or Tom or Karla make cameos, but it was fun to get what it felt like to be a freshman at SU on the page. There’s this feeling that this happy moment in your life will last forever, but really it ends so quickly.

What is one piece of advice you would give the students in the creative writing program that you wish you would have received/ did receive?
Trust your professors. I don’t think some students realize how high quality SU’s creative writing program is when compared to other institutions. The professors at SU treat you like real writers, not like students, and the coaching and advice they give you will be invaluable for years to come. You have no idea yet how lucky you are to get Gary or Tom or Karla right out of the gate instead of a TA who’s just figuring out how to teach. The students I saw flounder after graduation were the ones who always thought they knew better. Remember, if your professors tell you that a story’s weak and you can do better, that’s because they believe you can. Never be married to any one thing you’ve written. It’s always about the next piece of writing, not the previous thing.

What does it mean to you to have been a part of Susquehanna’s creative writing program?
It means everything. Literally every good thing in my life has stemmed from being a creative writing major at Susquehanna. Without it, I wouldn’t have a novel out, I wouldn’t be a professor, and I wouldn’t have met my girlfriend. I can’t express how grateful I am to have had that opportunity at such a young age. At Susquehanna, you really get four years to try on the lifestyle of a writer, to see if it’s what you really want. Other programs don’t afford that opportunity. Susquehanna is a special place for young writers.


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