October 23, 2023

By Haley Dittbrenner ’24

Karla Kelsey kneels to cut a piece of cake. Karla Kelsey, professor and co-department head of English and creative writing and director of the Writers Institute, cuts the cake during the institute's 30th anniversary reception.Susquehanna University is known for its long tradition of nurturing young writers. During Homecoming-Reunion Weekend, the Writers Institute celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Realizing that good writing doesn’t happen in isolation, the founder of the program, Gary Fincke, professor emeritus of English and creative writing, envisioned a writing community – the Writers Institute – which now includes the Seavey Writers Series, the senior reading series, journals, chapbooks, slam poetry, the Summer Writers Workshop for high school students, the Writers Institute building and more.

During the anniversary reception, alumni, faculty, and current students gathered to celebrate the legacy of the Writers Institute and to express gratitude for the role it has played in decades of creative lives.

After 30 years, hundreds of young writers have been inspired by the Writers Institute to foster creative lives. Graduate successes include Devon Taylor ’04, who is a senior editor at The New York Times and was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning podcasting team; Catherine Pierce ’00, who was named poet laureate of the state of Mississippi; and Nick Martell ’16, who secured a three-book publishing deal with Simon and Schuster.

“The Writers Institute has a dedicated physical space that serves as a nucleus for our vital community,” said Karla Kelsey, professor and co-department head of English and creative writing and director of the Writers Institute. “This space naturally blends the work creative writing majors do in the classroom with the community that the Writers Institute fosters. It represents the function of the Writers Institute – to hold space for creative interaction and growth.”

The Writers Institute accomplishes its mission of nurturing young writers through its various programs, several of which have celebrated their own anniversaries over the past year.

FUSE marks 20 years

The Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors, more commonly shortened to FUSE, was founded in 2002 as an add-on to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference, before becoming an independent organization in 2010.

“The caucus was a way for us to continue to grow this exciting idea of undergraduate literary work,” said Catherine Dent, associate professor of English & creative writing and director of FUSE.

FUSE began hosting annual conferences for writing students nationwide, beginning with its first at Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania. 2022 marks 10 years of official FUSE conferences.

FUSE meetings are wholly run by a group of student leaders. These students deliver engaging presentations about the publishing and book industry. FUSE also maintains a website that features reviews of literary journals, archives from previous FUSE events and information regarding conferences.

“It is a dynamic exchange for students who are writing reviews of each other’s work and who are doing interviews with authors,” Dent said. She continued to describe FUSE as a “sidecar” of the Writers Institute, being a helpful resource that many students take advantage of.

Summer Writers Workshop nurturing high school writers for 30 years

Susquehanna’s dynamic writing program attracts many potential creative writing students. One resource for these high schoolers is the award-winning Summer Writers Workshop: a rigorous, residential, weeklong program for young writers.

The Summer Writers Workshop was founded in 1987. Attendees work with Susquehanna professors and student teaching assistants as they write in a collegiate setting for the first time, producing 10–100 pages of fiction, creative nonfiction or poetry. The week ends with a live reading of student work to their families. Attendees also enjoy field trips to local bookstores and theatre houses, team-building exercises and tours of campus.

“The experience was extremely rewarding and challenging in different ways,” said Hannah Mackey ’23, a creative writing and publishing and editing double major from Dover, Delaware, who attended the workshop as a high school student and later served as a teaching assistant at the workshop. “I enjoyed working with the professors and planning my own lesson to teach, as well as speaking to my group of students about their work and what they were most excited for.”

Apprentice Writer publishing high school creatives for 40 years

Another avenue for the work of prospective students is Apprentice Writer magazine.

Apprentice Writer has recently celebrated its 40th year of publishing writing and photography from high school creatives across the United States and abroad. The magazine is managed by student literary arts interns who work within the Writers Institute. The current advisor to Apprentice Writer is Tony Zitta, adjunct faculty member in English and creative writing.

Apprentice Writer has traditionally taken newspaper form, but recently we revamped the structure. Starting this year, AW will have a smaller but higher-quality print run for contributors. The website has also been redesigned and includes all editions of the magazine,” said literary arts intern Brooke Mitchell ’25, a creative writing and philosophy double major from Newport, Pennsylvania. “In the past, Apprentice Writer has focused solely on writing and photography, but in the next edition we will include all visual art.

“We look for pieces capturing what it means to be a young person wherever the contributor is from. We search for prose and poetry tightened with intention and an elevated sense of craft. Visual art should play with our emotions, with the way we see the world around us.”

Susquehanna University is also home to numerous literary magazines for current students themselves. These include Rivercraft (literary fiction and poetry), Essay (creative nonfiction), Sanctuary (genre and speculative fiction and poetry), Flagship (travel writing) and the Squirrel (satire).

“There are so many opportunities to indulge in the literary world outside of the classroom,” said Kailah Johnson ’23, a creative writing major with a minor in publishing and editing from Towson, Maryland.

Learn more about the Department of English & Creative Writing