Writing and Dance: The Inherent Resemblance

By Marissa Medlenka

My experience with dance and writing has brought me to the conclusion that they are more alike than meets the eye, although my personal journey with each could not be more different. I have been training in dance since I was three years old and am still pursuing it in my third year in college. Writing wasn’t something I took seriously until my senior year of high school, a couple of weeks before college applications were due. I grew up with a mother that loved reading and language, and who also supported my love for the arts. This sudden appearance of an opportunity to study creative writing never felt abrupt, but rather a long time coming. Once in college, I was completely immersed into both of these art forms. 

Though dance itself seems like a completely different form of art than writing, the vocabulary and ideas logically align. Just as tone, structure, and word choice can either inhibit or enhance a written work, these elements, with the exchange of word choice for movement choice, have a similar effect on dance. It is not just one of these devices that produce a piece, but the ability to intertwine each within another, in writing and dance, to create something visceral and vulnerable.

With all styles of dance, from ballet to modern to hip hop, regardless of the number of dancers in the piece, dynamics (the term typically used for textures within dance) are combined with movement choice. This combination in dance is what I view as tone, which is not unlike the tone of a creative text. The tone of both dance and writing influence the audience’s perception and ability to comprehend what story is being told. The dynamics of a dance are like the raw material; a dancer performing harsh, frantic movements communicates a sense of panic or frustration. Soft, light movements perhaps convey longing or sadness. Happiness or joy is expressed through energetic and spritely movements. These basic examples contribute to how a movement is perceived. It can become more complex and layered, yet easily decipherable. This would be similar to if a character complimented another character’s clothes in a work of fiction. This can be interpreted as either genuine, perhaps if the compliment is accompanied by a shriek of appreciation, or as passive aggressive, if a snicker seems to punctuate the end of the sentence.

Prior to playing with dynamics, movement must be chosen. Movement choice calls for precision and accuracy in the way word choice does. Frequently in dance composition classes I’ve taken, we work with creating base movement and then adding movement in another part of the body or traveling the step through space. Through this process, the layering of limbs and traveling become the adverbs and adjectives of the body.

The arrangement of movements in dance is comparable to a written piece’s structure—the balance between scene and exposition in fiction or the length of lines and stanzas in a poem. Through structure, the audience’s experience is being very carefully modulated. Similarly, a dance composition also focuses on more detailed structures within the larger structure of the work. Refining angles, eye focus, and any other physical detail are the choreographer’s way of tightening up the work – identical to an author’s utilization of diction and syntax to make a sentence its most efficient version of itself. The order of events, placement of movement (words) on the stage (page), and interaction of characters add to the richness and depth.

Stepping away from the technical parallels of these two forms, I find that my creativity in each field is where the most overlap happens. Rather than a huge epiphany while writing completely changing the way I approach dance or vice versa, I see more nuanced correlations. A creative correction from a dance teacher in class inspired a fictional world in which I am currently exploring through multiple short stories. The discipline and patience of each practice challenges me to stay diligent in both. Through the technical base of each form, creativity reigns and fuels itself. Overall, my knowledge of dance and writing do inform one another intuitively. Both tell a larger story. The medium is the only thing that changes.

Photo courtesy of MICA Gallery.

The Quick Knowledge Appeal of Video Essays

By Mason Martinez

As a high school senior, I was desperate. The graduation clock was ticking down and after three attempts, I still hadn’t passed my Global Regents, a standardized exam required to graduate in New York State. I struggled to retain dull information from dusty textbooks. Large blocks of text made it difficult to identify and prioritize the most important pieces of information. It wasn’t until my teacher played us an 11-minute video by Youtuber and author John Green, that history finally started to make sense. I was introduced to Green’s Crash Course series, which taught lessons from the fall of the Roman empire to the Mongols to Imperialism. By watching a number of these lively, occasionally funny, and animated video essays, I was able to retain the information that I had previously struggled with. After five months of prepping this way, I turned my score of 44 into an 84.

The popularity of the video essay is undeniable.Youtubers like Wisecrack’s Thug Notes, Khan Academy, Numerphile, or John Green get millions of views. Part of their success has to do with the amount of time it takes to consume the selected media. While viewers don’t get to engage in the same atmosphere that comes with in-person learning, video essays provide a needed framework to make what we read digestible.

Video essays’ presentation and the limited time that people have work hand-in-hand in delivering an attractive option. One of my biggest struggles with remembering global history was that there was too much to recall and no way to remember it all. The idea that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ helps fuel the demand for video essays. The more visuals we receive in the knowledge we consume, the quicker we are able to comprehend it. Video essays allowed me to draw on main ideas by listening to the lecture while simultaneously helping me remember specific movements or historical icons that were depicted on screen. Youtube channels such as Khan Academy or Thug Notes show that, when framed correctly, there is a large market for educational content.

Video essays are not the end all be all when it comes to learning. In a high school or college setting, assigned reading is the primary method of gaining new information. But I do think video essays should supplement traditional ways of learning. Digital Natives, starting with Gen-Z, are accustomed to digitalized worlds. There is still great value in reading, but we require a different way of learning and retaining that information.

However, teachers can’t verify the credibility of videos the way they can with textbooks. They may also worry that these videos might be used as a replacement for reading the primary text. But as I see it, this is no different from Sparknotes; teachers adjusted to that trend by designing assessments that tested for careful reading and comprehension. If publishers put out educational content that is cited and curriculum-oriented with the same kind of relatability of popular Youtube channels, they would do well. Now is the time.

At Scattered Books, a local bookstore, the owner and staff understand the importance of resources like these, especially for middle school and high school students. They are currently trying to implement their own online library where they can take popular literature, summarize and analyze the plot into something tangible for younger audiences in under 5 minutes. In addition, they plan on offering topics for academic papers, so viewers are able to conceptualize different themes in the books.

More often than not, independent creators are producing higher quality videos compared to larger corporations like Sparknotes, whose video animations are dated and their narrator monotone. By establishing an atmosphere that is fast and engaging, this form of independent content attracts a larger audience. The more creators come together to reinvent the way people consume and retain knowledge, the more accessible information becomes.

Photo courtesy of the School Nutrition Association of Arizona.

The Emulation Game

By Lianna Lazaros

In a creative writing workshop, we are encouraged to imitate other writers. Take this traditional poetic form and try it yourself. Read this author and draw inspiration from their use of syntax. The first time I found myself imitating another poet’s style was last year in Poetry Writing I. I spent months trying to balance writing about a past love while acknowledging its toxic aspects. I didn’t know where to start until I read Crush by Richard Siken. His work helped me realize that the poem’s sentence structure is as important as its content. There’s a phrase of his from “The Torn-Up Road” that I think about often: “his hands around the neck of the beer.” While reading it, I always subconsciously hold my breath until I get to the last two words. You think danger is approaching, and you’re relieved when it isn’t.

Before attempting to replicate what Siken did, I thought, what is he accomplishing with diction? What about the ordering of his images? Why is he meticulous with enjambment? I needed to understand why he made those choices before I imitated them.

For imitation to turn into emulation, you need to comprehend why the author’s decisions benefit the piece. With Siken, I noticed enjambment and word choice created tension between the speaker and their significant other, which reflects their relationship. It adds an extra layer of complexity without explicitly stating how the speaker feels. I mimicked these techniques, which improved my writing. They helped me write about an imbalanced relationship and I used them in poems that have a similar, somber tone, as well.

First drafts of mine typically reveal the imitation stage. If I’m lucky to workshop my poem, I can use feedback to enhance my work. If not, I take a step back and think: where am I losing my reader? Where does the tone shift to a voice that isn’t mine, and is that wrong for the poem? Sometimes, striving to duplicate what another poet did disrupts my writing process and makes me lose track of my original vision. 

Imitation shouldn’t undermine your creative skills. During periods of writer’s block, I read. When I expose myself to contemporary poets who write in various styles, I learn. If I see a technique that can improve my writing, I give it a try. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for me, and that’s okay. Good writing is supposed to elicit responses from readers. The desire to imitate something that influenced us is natural. Allow your voice to mesh with the one that inspired you; let it take your poem somewhere unexpected.

Your First Draft is Not Awful: Writers on Process

By Claire Torregiano

Your first draft is not terrible. It is an infant. You do not call an infant terrible because they are a product of a world that is new to them. You nurture and cultivate them so that they become smart, strong, and capable. I interviewed four writers about their experiences with first drafts. I had just finished the first draft of a work-in-progress when I reached out to four of my former writing teachers to ask for advice on how to move forward. It was after I established a connection with them that I read their published work. Their insights continue to cultivate my journey as a reader and writer. After speaking with them, I thought it would be interesting and helpful for others to hear what they had to say. 

The first interview in this series is with Chandler Klang Smith, author of the novel, The Sky is Yours. We discuss the function of a first draft, and the editing process to the final. The Sky is Yours takes readers through an arranged marriage gone awry in a dystopia sieged by dragons. Readers follow three young people through the dilapidated city of Empire Island, as they are forced to leave behind everything they’ve ever known and venture into what they must make their own brave new world.  

How do you think the first draft serves you as a writer?

CKS: It’s funny because I always have a really hard time getting through the first draft that I find that once I have, I have such a clearer roadmap for what I need to do going forward. Like, just having a sense of the destination for everything is just enormously important. Basically, I think that as soon as I’ve gotten to the end I can go back to the beginning and think “How do I lay the groundwork for what’s coming? How do I use foreshadowing? How do I bring up thematic stuff that’s going to be important later in ways that feel incidental early on? And I think that I tend to be someone who, as I go through the first draft, I rewrite parts a lot but then results can feel very patchwork-y and like they don’t quite fit together, but the revisions I do after I have an ending are much more substantial and interesting. I don’t get as nitpicky; I really see the big picture after I have the first draft.

How much changed from the first draft to the final product? What do you think was the biggest change?

CKS: There are a few different things that changed. Thinking of the first draft as the first time I got all the way to the end, one of big changes that occurred was the end. I ended up going back and realizing that I needed to do more to build up to the ending for a certain character. I emphasized the character more in general and expanded several scenes with her at in the middle of the book. Most of the changes occurred with me being able to see how the parts related to the whole after the first draft was finished. Cause and effect. When you get to the effect, you have to have the causes rise to the level of how important they are in the book. There are sometimes things you think will be really important when you’re writing, so you spend more time on them, and then you end up cutting them away. And getting those causal relationships working is so important.

Were there any sacrifices that you had to make from the first draft that were difficult for you to make?

CKS: It’s interesting because people talk a lot about the kill your darlings thing and in my own work, there are definitely times that I cut that I spent a lot of time on, and I almost never cut anything where I felt like “Oh I really miss that being in the book.” It’s almost always a relief like I’ve shed this dead weight that I felt like it wasn’t really doing what I wanted it to. In my personal experience so far, that’s been the case. One of the main things that my editor did was help me with pacing. We would make little cuts in scenes here and there, and then it was stronger.

Do you have any advice for students who are working on a big chunk of fiction and are trying to finish a first draft or those who’ve just finished one? 

CKS: I think that trying to finish the thing—give yourself permission to make mistakes. If you have that sinking feeling of “I’m moving forward, but I’m getting less and less interested in what I’m doing and I think the reader will too” stop and go back to the last part you were excited about and think about “Where do I feel like I went wrong?” Other than that situation, give yourself the permission to go through and have things be really rough and have there be blank spots. Once you have a draft and you’re working toward a deadline, I think it’s important to do the triage thing. Think about what the big questions are here that I haven’t answered and now that I have this whole draft, those questions are better to have for me. I had a teacher in college who said the ending of a story should be a leap back into the story. I think that’s the reader’s experience as much as the writers experience because it gives you the opportunity to leap back in. Don’t try to fix every little thing, try to fix the major stuff. Think of it as like, when you’re going to submit it to your advisor or your committee, you want them to see the outline of what you’re doing even if it’s really fuzzy, rather than there being certain parts that are fully developed and other parts where they don’t even know what is supposed to be happening. You’re going to get less helpful feedback that way.

Beyond and Between “Cute”: Review of the Film, Mignonnes

by Grace Mahony
Maïmouna Doucouré’s movie, Mignonnes (translated into English as Cuties) addresses how vulnerable young girls are on social media. The protagonist is Amy, an 11-year-old Senegalese-Muslim immigrant girl in Paris, trying to find her path between her Muslim family’s traditional values of femininity and the hypersexualized culture of contemporary society. Amy acts like a typical middle-schooler. She wants to fit in with the cool girls at school and joins their twerking dance team, using their bodies to gain popularity and prove that they’re “not little girls.” Meanwhile, at home, Amy grapples with a tense family situation when her father decides to take a second wife.

The inspiration for the film came when Maïmouna Doucouré saw a dance troupe of 11-year-old girls twerking on stage, while their parents watched them, dressed in traditional outfits. Doucouré then spent the next year and a half doing research, talking to preteen girls about their stories of growing up and their ideas of femininity in today’s social media-heavy society. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Maïmouna Doucouré writes, “We, as adults, have not given children the tools to grow up healthy in our society. I wanted to open people’s eyes to what’s truly happening… forcing them to confront images of young girls made up, dressed up, and dancing suggestively… These scenes can be hard to watch but are no less true as a result…”

The film was praised at Sundance and in France. However, when Netflix picked up the movie and released its first poster, people were outraged both at Netflix and the film. They believed they were promoting pedophilia with the scenes of twerking girls, which cover about nine minutes of the film’s total runtime.

In fact, Mignonnes is full of nuance. The film asks: do these girls really know what they’re doing? Why are their only idols these hypersexualized women like Kim Kardashian and not other powerful women who don’t rely on their bodies for power? The film reinforces this social ill: that these girls believe that the only way to get power is to use their bodies as an asset.

Kim, the host of the YouTube channel, For Harriet, defends the film by asserting that it’s a narrative of the Black girl experience. The conversation about Mignonnes should be about the dangers of social media and exposing inappropriate media to minors. Parents should talk to their children, especially their daughters, about healthy ways of expression. There should be bigger conversations about real-life child beauty pageants and reality shows who profit from the provocative imagery of young girls. Let this be a lesson for Netflix and other streaming platforms as well when adding new movies, especially international ones: there is more beneath the surface than the flashiest thing on the screen. (Maybe they can talk to the director before changing the poster.)

Finding Literature Community During Isolation

by Olivia Adams

Having a community of readers is incredibly important, despite the solitary nature of the act. Spending my fifth-grade year at the library is how I got my first job! I experienced my first open mic event at the last independent bookstore in Niagara Falls. But what do you do when the world suddenly becomes inaccessible? Here are five ways I’ve found to be helpful in creating community during such isolating times.

1: Pen Pal Book Exchange

One of my favorite things in the world is receiving mail. Imagine getting a package with a random book in your favorite genre, well-worn and loved by its previous owner? Or exchanging books by the same author with someone across the globe? A snail-mail book exchange might be the perfect way for readers to connect in a physical way with others. One community that is currently very active is the subreddit r/bookexchange, where you can request anything from specific titles to the most niche of categories. Worried about someone having your address? If you have the means, getting a P.O. box is an inexpensive way to protect your privacy.

2: Virtual Book Club

Book clubs are one of the most popular forums for conversation between booklovers. However, with libraries and other locations having limited capacity, one can turn to the internet and find a plethora of book clubs that can connect them with a variety of readers they may have never known. Quarantine Book Club is a site that hosts virtual meetings with popular authors. Anyone can join in and have discussions on topics from goat farms to children’s bibles and everything in between! Silent Book Club hosts a network of book clubs that meet throughout the United States. Many of these groups have switched to online, making them more accessible to anyone with internet. In the spirit of staying local, head to the Purchase College Library Instagram to learn how to participate in the book club run by their staff.

3: Book Twitter

Twitter is good for a lot of things, and bad for nearly as much. However, the commentary community there is absolutely unparalleled. Looking for a more lighthearted take on your favorite horror novel? Or a hot take that doesn’t take three pages to get to the point? Or recommendations and essays linked in your everyday newsfeed? Book twitter has it all! Follow @BookRiot for essays from their website and book deals you might not find on your own. Following authors such as @thatlauraruby can help connect you to the book world in a very intimate way by allowing you to see a point of view that comes directly from the source of the writing. Additionally, @APublicSpace is a literary journal that is hosting a book club on Twitter that readers can follow and participate in using the hashtag #APStogether.

4: Reading Challenges

While there are a lot of reading challenges that circulate on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, signing up for an official one can help give either specific or vague book options that you’ll read simultaneously with people across the globe. For instance, Book Riot’s annual Read Harder challenge asks readers to check out books from various genres with specific stipulations, widening the world-views of the people reading them. They also link participants to a group chat that connects readers, furthering their sense of community.

5: Newsletters

While this option may not seem the most exciting, the variety of newsletters that are available to the reading public is vast and fascinating. If you want to find ones that send a blog post related to writing to your email, the Dear Reader newsletter might be a perfect option for you! Want to simply get a short story sent to you every two weeks, no decisions needed on your part? A Small Good Thing does just that! There are newsletters for almost every genre you can think of — Go crazy!

I know the world is an intense place right now. But I hope this list helps you find something that can brighten your reading world in some way!

Culture Calling – Diversity Readers and Where to Find Them

by Synovia Roberts

As the world gets more outwardly diverse, storytellers—whether it be fiction writers, screenwriters, or visual artists—are rushing to embody that diversity in their work. The influx of representation both solves and creates a problem via the accuracy of said representation. You see, diversifying one’s work requires one to explore cultures/identities that are not their own. However, culture and representation are sensitive, if not sacred, for many people. It is extremely important for creators to get representation right, but how?

This is where diversity readers come in. A diversity reader, otherwise known as a sensitivity or authenticity reader, is someone who reads or looks over a creator’s work to fact-check characters and their actions. It is best to hire a reader that matches the specifics of the character(s) being evaluated. For example, it’s best to have a lesbian diversity reader check over a lesbian character(s). This is because the reader’s main purpose is to help the creator avoid unintentional/insensitive stereotypes or a bout of misrepresentation; it only makes sense that the hired reader has the experiences needed to help create fuller, realer characters.

Diversity readers are also helpful when creators need specific facts about a group or culture that can’t be easily researched, like specific holiday recipes or appropriate cultural dress. A good conversation with a diversity reader can provide a wealth of information that can be used to create a positive and accurate representation of a group.

But how and where to find diversity readers? Writing Diversely lists readers who are available for hire, along with their rates, which range from flat rates starting at $10 and going all the way up to $300. But if you don’t have the finances to pay a professional diversity reader, there are other options. The easiest free option is to try social media. Making posts on sites like Reddit and Tumblr that ask people to volunteer their time are sure to get you some responses. Be clear and upfront about the character and situations you wish to depict, then allow people to come to you.

In my own experience, I’ve had quite a turn-out on Tumblr. In an effort to find readers, I made a post in which I “Culture Called.” In the post, I detailed my desire to have a diverse, but accurate, set of characters along with the nationalities/ethnicities of said characters. As I acquired more people willing to read my work, I made sure to keep everyone up to date on my progress.

Altogether, I received well over 100 responses, and I was lucky enough to get someone willing to help me on the development of an Icelandic character, Magnús, and his family. Together we were able to go into detail about the mythology surrounding my character and his place in my piece. My diversity reader clarified how he’d speak and how he’d interact with the magical elements in the story. My reader was also able to give me a bit of Icelandic history to give my writing more authentic context. It was a great experience for me, and I’m sure it can help you as well.

Still, there’s a bit of controversy around the use of diversity readers. Many people see it as a form of censorship. But remember, no one is forcing you to hire or reach out to a diversity reader, and the reader you’re working with cannot force you to add or remove something in your piece. As the writer, you are free to make any and all decisions you see fit; the diversity reader is simply there to make beneficial suggestions.

In my experience, a diversity reader has made a marked difference in my work. Without my reader, Magnús’ storyline would have been completely different. His interaction with the story’s magical elements would have been vastly incorrect in comparison to Icelandic mythology. Diversity readers are an important step for proper representation, and many times, they can be the difference between a lovable character and a rampant stereotype, but it’s up to you to reach out.

Issue 17 is Here!

We are excited to share the online publication of issue 17 featuring new fiction, poetry, nonfiction, & art, including the winners of our inaugural writing contest on the theme of home.

While the current pandemic has delayed the print publication of this issue, we hope to celebrate the print publication in the fall semester. In the meantime, please click the cover image above to read the entire issue online for free (and please share)!

Congratulations to all of our contributors!

Generation Profit: Learning to Embrace the Pressure for Our Own Sakes

By Kayla Lunden

In May of 2013, 35-year-old Jack Conte founded Patreon, an online crowdfunding platform that aims to connect artists and their patrons through a monthly subscription model. In an episode of the podcast Hannahlyze This, Conte told listeners that Patreon began because he wanted to “see if I could just make money by being creative and making a bunch of stuff.” He used Patreon to promote his music, and set up “perks,” or things to send to people who consistently supported him. The perks’ style range based on the artist, from jingles written specifically for patrons, to access to private email lists, and beyond. Now, with more than 3 million patrons supporting more than 100,000 artists, Patreon is changing the way young artists can support themselves.

My generation of artists are largely defined by their entrepreneurship, finding creative ways to support their art (i.e. crowdfunding). Patreon makes accessible for artists just starting out what otherwise has always been a mystery: how to build a following, connect with other artists, and get your work out to an audience that hopefully buys it. By facilitating a direct artist-patron relationship and taking out the middle men (i.e. agents, gallery owners, etc.) the pressure of how to support oneself is lessened, leaving more time for making art.

Maria Licciardi is a Painting and Drawing senior at SUNY Purchase who, through Patreon, will make you 1-3 small unique pieces of art per month for a $10 monthly subscription. Licciardi’s senior project involves making comfort items: life-sized and smaller stuffed animals made from recycled leather. Licciardi incorporates a lot of recycled “garbage” into her work, something of a signature of hers. In working with leather, Licciardi has discovered things she shares with the material. “The skins are scraps that have been deserted because they’re ‘not good enough,’ or damaged. I identify with this leather; its being abandoned and with this idea in society that to be sensitive is a flaw.”

Brand new to Patreon since July of 2019, Licciardi already has 3 consistent patrons and is still figuring it out. She shares that it has been a bit intimidating, but mostly, she is excited to learn more about the platform and its malleability. “Patreon has the potential to fuel my art whatever it is; whether I’m between painting and drawing, sculpture, or if I go into, like, knitting scarves.”

Licciardi doesn’t always feel the pressure of mass creation the way many of us do. Instead, she finds in it a sense of purpose. “I think (pressure) is extremely necessary for me to function and be the person I really need to be. I love helping people and being of use.” In regards to keeping up with perks, she’s always creating for class, exhibits, fun; if she’s not selling something on one platform, they become perks through Patreon.

There are ups and downs to having clientele who consistently expect new work. “I need to follow through. I need to be consistent. I need to make this (Patreon) something that is a priority.” Licciardi loves that Patreon isn’t short-term, like a project on Gofundme, but career-based. “The goal is forever,” she said referring to the support network she intends to build. Licciardi believes in not being frugal when it comes to supporting fellow artists. “It’s like how classical radio stations say ‘we depend on you.’”

Although a Creative Writing major on the poetry track, I also write fiction, paint realistic pictures of breakfast tables, and sing jazz improv that has brought grown men to their knees. SUNY Purchase artists do not want to shy away from double and triple branding themselves, and this is not because we don’t have a passion for anything, so we choose everything. Rather, we have a passion for creation and connection that manifests in manifold ways. Thanks to sharing this passion with Jack Conte, Patreon has materialized as a new and effective way of sustaining our art and all that comes with it.

Check out Maria Licciardi’s Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/forestcamel/posts?month=2019-8

Make A Move: The Benefits of Mentorship

by Dylan McKenna

What is a mentor? Definitions include: an experienced and trusted adviser; someone who shares with a mentee information about career paths; a person who provides guidance, motivation and role modeling. Depending on the context and relationship between parties, these descriptions all fit. I have experienced them at each step of my journey as a writer, but have not always taken full advantage. Had I done so, I’d probably be better off.

When I was in 11th grade I took whatever English class was required. Like other courses throughout my schooling, this class was basically comprised of practicing grammar, analyzing texts, and composing essays. But it was taught by a professor who gave me, like many of his other students, my first ever creative writing assignment: it was my first time writing fiction.

My story (a fantastical spec-ops thriller about my eccentric then-employer) went over quite well. Most found it funny, though no one was required to read it. It only came to their attention after our teacher brought it up; his interest in my writing sparked the interest of others. On top of the joy I experienced in creating characters and plots, this assignment opened doors to the world of fiction. It was my starting point and initial source of encouragement. My professor was experienced, and I trusted him. But given the high school environment, I didn’t speak with him about career paths or publication, or even meet with him outside of the classroom. And although I’d clearly been interested, writing was then for me a hobby and not a discipline. While my teacher was not exactly a mentor in the ways many people would define it, I still consider him a “ghost” mentor. That is to say, our collaboration was not very deep, but his presence was meaningful. He got me writing stories.

In college, my fiction professor ran things more seriously, and his comic personality not only reminded me of the man who got me writing in the first place, but connected with me personally. Our class met always in circles, received more writing assignments than the previous course, and held even more concentrated workshop meetings complemented by analyses of a wide range of texts. At the behest of our teacher, I met with other students outside of class to continue the conversation. He never used the word “mentor” as an offer of his time during office hours to discuss our work and plan career paths after graduation. Still, I did eventually accept his offers, and we met several times to talk about such things. However, I graduated from the program to move onto another in a new university, and we lost touch.

All of these people shaped my writing and helped me mature as a writer. But I never asked them to be my mentors. They were all ghost mentors to me, despite their incredible assistance. I never got the full package experience, so to speak. And that is because I, as student, did not pursue such relationships sufficiently. So, my advice to young writers already in academia is to take advantage of your resources: from office hours to clubs to free lectures, shows, talks, screenings, etc. A mentor is perhaps the most valuable in terms of growth. If a good one is available, and open to cooperation, it would truly be a waste not to at least propose this to him or her. People filled with knowledge and experience surround you in your academic environment, and to ignore them for the sake of saving yourself extra work is unwise—the work is why you’re there in the first place. Isn’t it?