Drew Alumni on the Craft of Writing
Pros return to campus to inspire up and coming authors.
Participants in this year’s Sentences 7 conference, sponsored by the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, explored everything from writing about a medical illness to studying tragedy and comedy in novel writing.
The weeklong conference, held each August at Drew, brings together Drew alumni who write across different genres. They lecture, lead workshops, advise attendees on their manuscripts and share their own writing.
“It’s just very enriching to be around people who are thinking about ideas and writing,” said Irene Fitzpatrick G’16. She said emerging writers feel safe sharing their work, noting, “There’s a trust. The audience will support you.”
This summer, novelist William Giraldi C’01 spoke to the group about exploring tragedy and comedy from the classic works of Homer and Plato to Don Quixote and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. He also read scenes from his book, Hold the Dark.
The conference, subtitled “On Writing Prose” is organized by Robert Ready, dean of the Caspersen School. “Drew has a wealth of alums who have made their careers in a wide variety of writing fields,” Ready said. “They delight in returning to campus to lend their talent and advice to aspiring Drew writers. That deep connection to the University is why this unique conference attracts them.”
Mark Jacobs G’87, a former foreign service officer who writes short stories and novels, talked about writing “political fiction across borders” and shared his experiences working in Turkey and Latin America and writing authentically based on his experiences in other countries.
Jacobs, who has taught at the conference before, said each writer had started on a new short story after working with him. “They have a lifetime of experience they bring to their writing,” he said of the participants. “Their seriousness is reflected in the work that they do and the approach they take.”
The final speaker, Loren Kleinman C’03, did writing exercises with attendees to get them to open up about themselves in her lecture on “Writing the Self.”
Participant Rebecca Conviser G’06, who leads creative writing workshops for people who have been through drug court, leaves the conference each year with six months worth of new writing ideas. “There is a lot of creative energy and a desire to take all of the new ideas we’ve developed and mature them into stories,” Conviser said.