Writers Institute

Sarah (Turcotte) Layton '10

How did it feel to have a short story you wrote at Susquehanna be published in such a prestigious magazine as The Atlantic?
The publication of “Scars” in The Atlantic Fiction Issue came as a huge shock! “Scars” was truly a work of revision; I wrote the original draft in my sophomore year and made considerable revisions in my junior year. It was published in RiverCraft in my senior year and subsequently included in Bennington College's Plain China, an anthology of undergraduate writing. Mike Curtis, fiction editor of The Atlantic, was a guest judge for Plain China, and contacted me about publishing the piece. It was an enormous compliment, and I'm indebted to Dr. Bailey and Dr. Fincke, as well as my peers, for the attention they each gave to the piece.

Was there one class in particular in the program that really stuck out to you?
I honestly enjoyed all of the creative writing classes I took—from Dr. Fincke's Intro to Fiction to Dr. Bailey's Novella. When I first met with Dr. Fincke to discuss the creative writing major (I was previously undecided), he complimented my "prose" and I didn't even know what that meant. I knew very little of the craft, and certainly didn't have the vocabulary to speak about it. The fiction classes I took taught me to read in a completely new way—as a writer. They taught me to go with your gut when something doesn't feel right, even though it pains you to cut the ten pages you've been attempting to perfect for weeks. And most importantly, to listen to what others have to say about your work, because your intentions often cloud the way you perceive it.

What skills did you learn in the creative writing major that have stuck with you today?
Learning to choose the exact, necessary word, sentence, and punctuation helps you to become detail-oriented. Learning to let go of your vision in order to allow the piece to come together in an organic, sometimes entirely different, way teaches you to be flexible. Learning to listen to criticism for the sake of bettering your work and, often, yourself, teaches you humility. These are all vital skills for both the workplace and everyday life.

By having been a creative writing major at SU, does that help you with being the Community Outreach and Initiatives Coordinator for the Connecticut Humane Society? If so, how?
On a basic level, having strong reading, writing, editing, and interpretive skills certainly benefit the work I do at the Connecticut Humane Society. But if you think of life as an accumulation of experiences—each one informing and influencing the next--then the education I received while at SU is invaluable beyond the workplace.

What does it mean to you to have been a part of Susquehanna’s creative writing program?
I am immensely thankful to have been part of SU's creative writing program. It's an honor to have studied the art of creative writing under such dedicated, talented professors, and to have learned among some supremely talented artists. It's truly a community of creativity, collaboration, and encouragement.

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