by Paulo Carrion
Imagine reading your own writing for an audience of three people — for an hour.
A little awkward?
Elise Parsons thought so. This reading is part of the presentation requirement for the creative writing minor.
“It’s kind of a hybrid of story time and a lecture,” Parsons said.
So she decided to do something different.
Parsons, a senior English and graphic design double major, is working on the capstone project for her creative writing minor.
The idea of sitting down for an hour for a literary reading is “a little bit foreign to most people,” Parsons said. She’s attended several readings in the past, and is usually one of three audience members.
“I think that weirdness might be why nobody ever came to these readings,” she said.
The goal of the presentation portion is to bring more awareness of literature on campus. Averaging three audience members per reading, Parsons isn’t sure the reading is fulfilling that goal anymore.
To help alleviate the strangeness, creative writing minors will usually present in groups of two or three. But this semester, Elise is the only graduating student with a creative writing minor.
Dr. Kevin Heath, chair of the English department, said, “Because Elise is doing this individually, we started to talk about options for the reading.”
Together they created a new project.
This project is a series of podcasts, in which Parsons interviews a professor and a student about a specific aspect of writing. Each episode is 25-30 minutes. They also read excerpts from creative literature. The creative writing minor discusses three genres of creative writing: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Parsons addresses each of these in her podcasts.
Parsons has already recorded the interviews for four podcasts.
In one podcast, she discusses emotion in poetry with professor Julie Moore, director of the Writing Center, and Rebekah Erway, a junior journalism major.
In another, she tackles the issue of balancing good fiction with our Christian responsibility with professor Andrew Graff and Adam Pittman, a senior English major.
Parsons aims to spark a broader discourse about techniques and thought processes used in every piece of writing. It will be a lot more interesting for the audience than just hearing her read her own writing, which they could read for themselves, she said.
The goal is to present an “honest portrayal of some of the uncertainty and disagreement and all the things you have to think about when you’re putting together a piece,” Parsons said.
Parsons said it’s important to finish the art process, which requires an audience to participate in the discussion. According to her, without an audience art loses its meaning.
Parsons plans on posting the finished podcasts on her blog for four weeks later in the semester. The English Department and Writing Center also plans on posting the podcasts on their website.
“Now we get to think a little more broadly about the idea of a reading, and it may not just be the traditional recital, which I like,” Heath said.
The presentation the podcasts are replacing is just one part of Parsons’ capstone. Creative writing minors also create a portfolio of their own works.
“I really love the collections,” Heath said.
The portfolio itself is made up of three parts: the foreword, the introduction, and the main body of creative writing.
In the foreword, the student writes about “their philosophy of what it means to be a follower of Christ as well as a creative writer,” according to Heath.
The introduction serves as a kind of director’s commentary to the student’s creative work. Altogether the portfolio will typically be 50-60 pages. Portfolios are printed, bound and published by the Digital Commons.
Mugs and Stickers
As part of Heath’s goal to increase art awareness on campus, he is working on a side project and recruited Parsons’ help. His idea is to put excerpts of creative writing where college students would see them.
“He wanted to put students’ writing on coffee cups all over campus,” Parsons said.
“It’s about making the excellent work that’s going on in these creative writing classes more accessible to students,” Heath said.“[Parsons is] also really gifted in graphic design.”
They came up with the idea of using stickers to showcase students work.
“Printing coffee cups is very expensive, but printing stickers is relatively inexpensive,” Parsons said.
Heath has talked to Telemetry and Rinnova about the idea of getting excerpts on coffee cups.
“You may encounter ‘fiction coffee’ sometime next semester,” Parsons said.
Parsons encourages students of other majors to take Intro to Creative Writing if they’re interested.
“The minor doesn’t start from any secret, mystical knowledge that writing majors have and other majors don’t,” she said.
After graduation Parsons plans on getting a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction.
“I’ve never found a good fiction writer who hasn’t been able to turn and write a really good essay as well. So I kind of want to be that person,” she said.
You can find the creative writing portfolios at http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/creative_writing_portfolios
Paolo Carrion is a freshman journalism major and campus news writer for Cedars. He enjoys drinking hot chocolate, reading comic books and making animal crackers watch as he devours their family.