Tweets, Blogs, and The Great American Novel – Writing at Wesleyan
By: Charmagne Eckert
The mighty word: Conveyor of information, elucidator of meaning, and often, instrument of the subtler nuances that work to engage an audience or even to sway opinion. Words are everywhere; in the novels we read off our iPad screens, in work related documents that we receive and generate daily, and comprising the texts we shoot off in an effort to keep track of our fast-moving teenagers. Even in our abbreviation addicted culture, words and the way they are fitted together to achieve the desired message, remain vitally important. Every day we interact through media and face to face in ways that require clear communication through language.
We all have a story to tell; or two, or dozens. There is a novel, a memoir, or a poem carried around in each of us, just waiting to be shared. Wesleyan University is well known for providing one of the best liberal arts educations in the country, but it is also a remarkable, centrally located resource that enthusiastically invites all who are interested in the exchange of ideas to participate in its many offerings. “Wesleyan is for everyone – for the community and for the region. This is a place that welcomes people from all different walks of life who have a passion for learning and who are excited about finding out things about the world,” explains Jennifer Curran, Director of the Graduate Liberal Studies Program (GLSP). Of the variety of educational and cultural opportunities Wesleyan offers to the community, there are a number that are directly related to the mission of enhancing, developing and exploring the craft of writing.
The annual Wesleyan Writer’s Conference, held every summer, is one such opportunity. The weeklong intensive program is not only for those seeking a profession in writing – although the conference has facilitated professional contacts that have launched careers. Professor Anne Greene, the conference’s director, tells of one such instance, “We had a Wesleyan student who came two years ago and worked with the novelist Salvatore Scibona, and though she was really young, she had a manuscript and Salvatore helped her take it apart. Now she has a two-book contract with a major publisher.” Regardless of outcome, the conference provides an opportunity for everyone, including the most tenuous beginner, to share and collaborate on his or her passion for the art of the written word. For those just starting to explore, the panel discussions, lectures and workshops provide a supportive context to get a feel for what it might be like to sit down and come up with a manuscript. For active writers, the opportunity to talk with other writers in a relaxed, professional setting can be not only valuable, but immensely gratifying as well. As Pulitzer Prize winning author and conference faculty member William Finnegan puts it, “I think many writers find it incredibly helpful to spend a few days listening to other writers, and the Wesleyan Writer’s Conference is easily one of the best in the nation.”
The Graduate Liberal Studies program is another outstanding resource for those interested in expanding their communication and writing abilities. Here, there is opportunity to focus on writing across a range of study. While there are fiction, nonfiction, poetry and other literary writing classes offered, it is also possible to take a foundational course option within a variety of disciplines including the social sciences, sciences, other humanities and the arts. Students who select the foundational option receive not only the course instruction as detailed in the class syllabus, but will also have the benefit of more in-depth feedback from the instructor, specifically in support of advanced research and writing skills.
For an even more precise focus on writing, GLSP is debuting the new Graduate Certificate in Writing this fall, a writing-intensive curriculum that may be taken on its own or in conjunction with the MALS or MPhil degree. This program is designed for students wishing to develop their communication abilities and to enhance professional opportunity, as well as to receive support for their individual creative writing process. The curriculum is structured around courses in a variety of genres including memoir, academic writing, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, which the student may work within to achieve their personal writing objectives. As with all of the programs available through GLSP, the certificate option is designed to offer the resources of a world-class university within a flexible structure that may be tailored, by the student, to meet his or her particular goals.
Inevitably writers are readers, which makes Wesleyan’s Olin Library and the Special Collections and Archives it houses an invaluable resource. Members of the public are welcome to visit and marvel at the many beautiful volumes. The collection includes over 30,000 rare books ranging in scope from the first folio of William Shakespeare, to R & J Text msg. – a 2008 artist’s book that answers the question of what Romeo and Juliet might appear like as a text-conversation between two modern teens. The compilation boasts unusual antiquities (many as old as the medieval printed books, circa 1455-1505) but also includes the works of avant-garde musician John Cage, a wide variety of stunning 21st century artists’ books, and historical materials pertaining to Middletown and the surrounding areas. It is possible to drop in on the Special Collections department any afternoon during regular hours to view the elegant reading room with its glass encased volumes, but an appointment is recommended to ensure availability of materials of particular interest and is the best way to take full advantage of the expertise of the staff.
However brief our communications; from a tweet, to convincing a client of the benefits of an essential project, or finding the best way to tell our personal story, great writing skills can only add value – and pleasure – to our lives. As Curran says, “In this world where our leisure communication is getting so informal and so truncated that we don’t [just] type ‘LOL’ – we actually say it – I think that it’s helpful to have a way to also be able to communicate in a formal and convincing manner – especially when we have to present our ideas in a professional setting.”
The writing programs and related resources at Wesleyan University offer us the means to do just that – and we are all, enthusiastically welcomed.
For further information go to:
Wesleyan Writer’s Conference:
Graduate Liberal Studies (GLSP):
GLSP Writing Certificate:
Special Collections and Achieves:
Wesleyan University Home Page:
In addition check out:
The Russell House Series of Prose and Poetry:
And NEW THIS FALL – Mysterium: The Mystery Novel Conference: