Tag Archive for Shapiro Creative Writing Center

Students Honored for First-Year Seminar Essay Writing

Seven members of the Class of 2021 were honored for their first-year essays. Pictured, from left, are Sam Libberton, Sarah Backer, Olivia Siegal (back), Kimberly Wipfler, Julia Rose Atkinson, Fritz Spofford and Ethan Addis.

On Feb. 27, Wesleyan celebrated the success of students in the Endeavor Foundation First-Year Seminar Essay Contest. Winners received $200 awards and a book, selected by their course instructor.

A three-year, $225,000 grant from the Endeavor Foundation of New York has supported an expansion of the First Year Seminar Program. These seminars are writing intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of topics and writing associated with various disciplines. Students learn the methods used to collect, interpret, analyze and present evidence as part of a scholarly argument. Faculty teaching these classes highlight the type of writing associated with their respective disciplines, and help students develop, compose, organize and revise their writing.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Rolling Stone: “Bethesda Founder Christopher Weaver on the Past, Present and Future of Video Games”

Christopher Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76, the Distinguished Professor of Computational Media in the College of Integrative Sciences, is profiled.

2. Transitions Online: “The Search for a New World Order, Then and Now”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes that a century after President Woodrow Wilson promulgated his “14 points” to guarantee world peace and prosperity, we are “still not that much closer to a stable world order.”

3. Medium: “Gabriel Snashall—Navy Submariner to Wesleyan!”

Gabriel Snashall ’21 discusses his path from serving as a cryptographic communications supervisor aboard the USS Pittsburgh to studying at Wesleyan through the Posse Veteran Scholars program. He plans to pursue a career in bioethics law.

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan University Class Research Published in Archaeological Society Bulletin”

Four Class of 2017 graduates who completed the service-learning course “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People,” are co-authors of articles published in the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut.

5. CTNow: “Amy Bloom to Give Talks on ‘White Houses'”

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will discuss her new book, White Houses, at several public events around Connecticut this month.

Recent Alumni News

  1. RollingStone: “Review: MGMT Rediscover the Electric Feel for ‘Little Dark Age’

The duo who began playing together as MGMT when they were Wesleyan undergraduates, Andrew Van Wyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, released a new album to favorable reviews: “MGMT are back to their roots on Little Dark Age, with concise tunes built from cushy keyboard beats and cute, kiting melodies,” wrote Jon Dolan in Rolling Stone.

[Also: Entertainment Voice, TheMusic.com, Interview Magazine and others]

2. TBR Newsmedia: “SBU’s Lerner Uses the Theater for Autism Therapy

Matthew Lerner ’03, an assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University is part of a team—with scientists from Vanderbilt and University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa—that received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health to study how participation in a theater production can help people with autism spectrum disorders. “The process of putting on a play with others and being able to successfully produce and perform that has key benefits to learn and practice,” said Lerner.

3. Huffington Post: “10 Years Ago, Screenwriters Went On Strike and Changed Television Forever”

Craig Thomas ’97 and Carter Bays ’97 recall the 100-day battle between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers when their creation, “How I Met Your Mother,” was in only its third season and all filming was to be done without any writers on the set.

4. Scripps College News: ”Ulysses J. Sofia [’88]: Weinberg Family Dean of Science of the W.M. Keck Science Department

Called “a scientist and an adventurer” who enjoys the liberal arts environment at Scripps, “U. J. began his own college career at a large research university before transferring to Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college, during his junior year. ‘It was like the angels singing—I thought, this is where I belong, this feels right. I learned all of my physics, all of my astronomy in those two years.’”

5. BroadwayWorld:The Wheel Theatre Company Presents Owen Panettieri’s [’01] A Burial Place

This production of A Burial Place by award-winning playwright Owen Panettieri ’01 at the DC Arts Center in Washington, D.C., runs March 8-17, 2018. The plot features Emmett, Colby and Marcus reuniting in their hometown after sophomore year at college, gathering for their annual summer sleepover. “Instead, they come back to find their town at the epicenter of a major police investigation. A gruesome discovery out in the woods where they used to play has resulted in public outrage and a growing list of unanswered questions.”



Bloom ’75 Goes Behind Closed Doors in “White Houses”

Award-winning author Amy Bloom ’75, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will release her latest novel, White Houses, on Feb. 13. The book centers on First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s love affair and friendship with reporter Lorena “Hick” Hickok. Told from Hickok’s point of view, White Houses covers everything from the inner workings of the Roosevelt administration to Hick’s own brutal upbringing in rural South Dakota.

Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, says, “Bloom elevates this addition to the secret-lives-of-the-Roosevelts genre through elegant prose and by making Lorena Hickok a character engrossing enough to steal center stage from Eleanor Roosevelt.” While Publishers Weekly says, “Cleverly structured through reminiscences that slowly build in intimacy, Bloom’s passionate novel beautifully renders the hidden love of one of America’s most guarded first ladies.”

Amy Bloom ’75 is the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing and director of the Shapiro Creative Writing Center.

Bloom will embark on a book tour in support of White Houses later this month, starting at R.J. Julia in Madison, Conn., on Feb. 13. A full list of events, including several additional Connecticut appearances, can be found on Bloom’s website.

We caught up with Bloom to ask about her experience writing White Houses.

Is this your first time attempting such a novel, based on historical figures and events? Why this story, in particular? And what were the biggest challenges involved?
Every novel is, for me, an attempt to do something new. The Roosevelts were fascinating: great leaders, complicated people. The story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok was a love story not just lost to history but literally torn out of the history pages. (Lorena was routinely cropped out of White House photos.) The greatest challenge was pretty much what it always is: Who are the people, how to the tell the story and who is telling the story. With the added burden that periodically a little voice would yell: These are real people!

How was this process different than creating characters sprung from your imagination (even if based on real people)?
The characters inevitably, even when based on fact and history, are products of my imagination, of empathy, of research and of a certain hard-to-describe leap.

How did you begin the process? Did you read the letters first and then decide to write a novel based on the relationship? Or were you always interested in exploring the genre?
I read Blanche Weisen Cook’s wonderful biography of Eleanor Roosevelt in which she mentions the 3,000 letters between Eleanor and Lorena and writes a bit about who Lorena was—crack reporter, first woman to have a byline in The New York Times, author—and about the love affair between them. Cook was pilloried for asserting that it seemed very likely there had been a love affair, until other historians finally read the letters and, slowly, too slowly, and privately, apologized and acknowledged that it was obvious from the letters that this had not been a schoolgirl crush on either side—between women in their 40s!—but a love affair that laid the foundation for a lifelong friendship.

How much did you know about the relationship, and about “Hick,” specifically, when you began writing? What additional research did you do, and how did that additional research inform your writing?
Research always offers one new rivers to follow, new gardens to visit. There have been tons of books about Eleanor Roosevelt and a few about Lorena Hickok in relation to Eleanor. I read an awful lot.

What did you find most interesting about (and what were the challenges involved in) inhabiting the mind of, and creating a voice for, Hick?
I struggled to find my narrator and there were parts of Hick I did not admire, but the Hick that I created from her letters and from her professional work is funny, frank, tough, clear-eyed, impulsive and a hell of a storyteller.

What about this story spoke to you—and what did you learn along the way that will stay with you?
Two things: A life of pretense is a death sentence, and love is not wasted, even when it ends.

Bloom ’75, Sawhney Explore the Elm City’s Underbelly in New Haven Noir

New Haven Noir, edited by Amy BloomA star-studded cast of contributors curated by Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing Amy Bloom ’75 fill the pages of New Haven Noir, featuring original stories from Michael Cunningham, Stephen Carter, Roxana Robinson, Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney and many others. The book is the latest addition to an award-winning series of original noir anthologies published by Akashic Books, founded by publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple ’88.

“I’m a big fan of noir,” says Bloom, editor of the anthology, which has garnered praise from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. “When Johnny called me and said, I don’t know if you’re from New Haven, but I know you’re connected to New Haven and I’d love you to edit the anthology, I jumped at the opportunity,” she said.

Bloom worked with Temple to select contributors for the anthology, with Bloom choosing to invite several writer friends who hadn’t written noir before, including Alice Mattison and Michael Cunningham. “I told them, it’s conflict and it’s mystery. Bleak. Snappy outfits. Great dialogue,” Bloom said. “And they said, count us in.”

In addition to serving as editor of the anthology, Bloom also is a contributor. Her story, “I’ve Never Been to Paris,” set in New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood, is actually an excerpt from a mystery she wrote years ago, tailored specifically for New Haven Noir.

Wesleyan Launches First-Ever Creative Writing Specialization on Coursera

Wesleyan's creative writing specialization is open to anyone with a love of reading or a drive to invent a story or tell their own.

Wesleyan’s creative writing specialization on Coursera provides an opportunity to learn from some of the country’s best contemporary writers.

Wesleyan will present the first-ever creative writing specialization on the Coursera platform, beginning Feb. 9. Taught by four award-winning authors, the specialization is open to anyone with a love of reading or a drive to invent a story or tell their own.

Titled “Creative Writing: The Craft of Story,” the specialization will include four courses, plus a capstone. The courses are:

The first MOOC launches Feb. 9, with subsequent courses starting every week after that.

Screenwriters Lounge Supports Student Filmmaking on Campus

Members of the Wesleyan Film Project’s Screenwriters Lounge gathered at the Shapiro Creative Writing Center’s library Feb. 16 to discuss current projects. The Wesleyan Film Project is a student-run group that formed during the fall semester 2014 and supports filmmaking on campus. During Screenwriter’s Lounge sessions the students meet with each other, writers, directors and producers to review student-submitted scripts in order to prepare them for production.

For more information on the group, visit the Wesleyan Film Project on Facebook.

Photos of the Screenwriters Lounge gathering are below: (Photos by John Van Vlack)


Bloom Co-Hosts NYT Magazine‘s “Ethicists” Podcast

Amy Bloom '75

Amy Bloom ’75

Novelist Amy Bloom ’75, the Distinguished University Writer-in-Residence, director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, is co-hosting a new weekly podcast titled “Ethicists.”

The podcast, a re-imagination of the New York Times Magazine’s longtime “The Ethicist” column, features Bloom and two other ethicists answering questions for a half-hour.

NYT Magazine Editor-in-Chief and Wesleyan alumnus Jake Silverstein ’98 invited Bloom to participate in the show. The other panelists are Politico media columnist Jack Shafer and New York School of Law constitutional law professor Kenji Yoshino.

The first episode, titled “Close Quarters: Can I ask my neighbors to quiet their baby?” debuted Feb. 18 and is produced in partnership with Slate. Read an edited and condensed version of the podcast online here.

“Future topics will be, we hope, a wide range of ethical quandaries,” Bloom said.

Read more about the podcast launch in this Poynter.org article or download the podcast through iTunes.

Author, Poet C.D. Wright to Teach 3 Master Classes at Shapiro Center

Author and poet C.D. Wright will teach three masters classes this fall. On Oct. 14, she will hold a poetry reading and book signing event in the Shapiro Creative Writing Center. (Photo courtesy of © Miriam Berkley/ Blue Flower Arts)

Author and poet C.D. Wright will teach three masters classes this fall. On Oct. 14, she will hold a poetry reading and book signing event in the Shapiro Creative Writing Center. (Photo courtesy of © Miriam Berkley/ Blue Flower Arts)

This semester, the Shapiro Creative Writing Center is hosting three master classes taught by award-winning author and poet C.D. Wright. Master classes are open to all poetry-writing upperclassmen free of charge. Each class will last 2.5 hours and include one dinner. The classes will meet Sept. 23, Oct. 14 and Nov. 11, and the deadline to apply is Sept. 12.

Wright is currently the I.J. Kapstein Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University where she teaches advanced poetry.

Wright was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. She has published over a dozen books, including Rising, Falling, Hovering, Like Something Flying Backwards: New and Selected Poems, and a text edition of One Big Self: An Investigation, focused on Louisiana inmates. She has published several book-length poems including Deepstep Come Shining and Just Whistle.

She also has composed and published two state literary maps, one for Arkansas, her native state, and one for Rhode Island, her adopted state. Wright is formerly the State Poet of Rhode Island, and with poet Forrest Gander, she edited Lost Roads Publishers for more than 20 years.

Wright is winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in March 2011 for her most recent title, One With Others: [a little book of her days], which was also a finalist for the National Book Award and was selected as winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her honors include awards from the Wallace Foundation and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts as well as the Lannan Literary Award. In 2004 Wright was named a MacArthur Fellow; in 2005 she was given the Robert Creeley Award, and elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2009, Rising, Falling, Hovering won the International Griffin Poetry Prize.

Amy Bloom ’75, the Kim-Frank Family University Writer-in-Residence and director of the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, emphasized that the key merit of the masters program is the opportunity to work with a professional writer.

“The motivation [behind the program] was to bring some of America’s best poets to Wesleyan and to give the students the opportunity to work with them,” Bloom said. “[Wright is an] outstanding, articulate American poet with a passion for poetry and teaching. It’s not just she’s professional, it’s that she’s so gifted.”

The classes are capped at a dozen participants, all selected by Bloom and Wright based on a submitted cover letter. Bloom stated that the limit is designed to keep the classes intimate and to ensure that all students have the opportunity to work closely with Wright.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Hudes Joins Faculty

Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, which received the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical.

Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, which received the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical.

Quiara Alegría Hudes, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, will be the new Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater for three years beginning in the fall of 2014. The appointment marks a return to campus for Hudes, who taught as a visiting playwright in 2012.

Hudes’s most recent publication is The Elliot Cycle, three standalone plays written over an eight-year period. Each play uses a different kind of music – Bach, Coltrane, and Puerto Rican folk music¬ ¬– to trace the coming of age of a haunted young man from Puerto Rico. Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, the first play, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. Water by the Spoonful won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and The Happiest Song Plays Last, the third play, is about to open Off-Broadway in New York on February 11 at Second Stage Theatre.

“What a thrill to bring all I’ve learned about process, storytelling, and structure to the next generation of young writers,” Hudes said. “There is a palpable curiosity among the Wesleyan student body, along with a willingness to do the hard work that marries creativity and craft. I’m honored and only slightly giddy with the possibilities.”

She also wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, which received the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical; it was also a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Hudes’s honors include the United States Artists Fontanals Fellowship, the Joyce Fellowship at the Goodman Theatre, the Aetna New Voices Fellowship at Hartford Stage, the Roe Green Award at the Cleveland Playhouse, and fellowships at Sundance Theater Institute and the O’Neill Theater Center.

Poet/Memoirist, Novelist/Screenwriter to Lead Writing Workshops for Students

For young writers, the prospect of getting their work in front of a master (whether a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a prominent poet or a famous byline) can be both exciting and terrifying.

Student scribes at Wesleyan will have that opportunity this academic year as two masters of the craft come to campus to conduct a series of noncredit workshops at the Shapiro Creative Writing Center. Poet and memoirist Mark Doty and novelist and screenwriter Michael Cunningham will each do a series of three, two-and-a-half-hour master classes for about a dozen students. Doty’s up first in the fall semester and Cunningham will be on campus in the spring.

“They’re both exceptional writers, and this is a great opportunity for students,” said Amy Bloom ’75, director of the Shapiro Writing Center. “Having your work read and getting that type of direction is absolutely critical (for those learning the craft).”

Bloom to Direct the Shapiro Creative Writing Center

Amy Bloom '75

Amy Bloom ’75

Amy Bloom, the Kim-Frank Family University Writer in Residence, will become the director of the Shapiro Creative Writing Center for two years, beginning July 1.

She is author of two novels, four collections of short stories, a non-fiction book, and a children’s book; winner of the National Magazine Award in fiction; and a past nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her most recent novel, Lucky Us, will be released by Random House in early 2014. She received a bachelor of arts from Wesleyan in 1975 and master of social work from Smith College.

The Shapiro Creative Writing Center serves as a hub for writing activities and provides a venue for workshops, colloquia, informal discussions, student events and receptions. Its lounge is open to all students enrolled in creative writing courses.

At the center, Bloom holds Table Talk events every Thursday during the fall and spring semesters, and Word Game night every Wednesday, open to all students.

Gift from Shapiro ’74, Silverberg ’76 Will Support Writing Programs

John Shapiro ’74 and Shonni Silverberg ’76

A $3 million gift to support writing programs at Wesleyan was announced March 1 at the Board of Trustees dinner on campus.

The gift from John Shapiro ’74 and Shonni Silverberg ’76, a Wesleyan trustee, builds on their 2009 gift establishing the Shapiro Creative Writing Center.  Shapiro said he was delighted with the speed with which the center was developed.

“We were gratified that the university moved quickly and got this program launched and established,” Shapiro said. “I’ve had good feedback from people both at Wesleyan and elsewhere. It has generated’ a bit of a buzz.”

This new gift will enable the expansion of faculty,  the visiting writers program and courses, among other things.

Shapiro and Silverberg have funded the Shapiro Silverberg Endowed Chair in Creative Writing, as well as the Gittel and Mervin Silverberg Visiting Scholar in Jewish Studies and the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, and have given many other gifts to fund scholarships.