By Jessica C. Hume, Ph.D., Spalding MFA Alumni 2007
In the late 1340s, the Black Plague swept through Italy, shutting down entire towns and decimating the population. At the height of the Plague, many people fled highly populated areas to the relative safety of the countryside, hoping to avoid the devastating (and often fatal) illness.
Almost eight hundred years later, Italy is again faced with the ravages of a cruel illness which keeps citizens isolated from one another, but the effects of which have stretched across the planet. Roughly one month ago, my university closed our campus in anticipation of the oncoming wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. As I drove home with my baby son from Louisville to our little homestead in Anderson County, I couldn’t help but think of those fourteenth-century plague refugees. I thought I felt a bit like they must have. I don’t intend here to analogize the 21st century COVID-19 pandemic with the medieval bubonic plague, but I think they must have wondered whether their flight to the country would protect them, what would happen to the friends and loved ones in the midst of the chaos, when they would see them again, what would be left when they returned, and how the world would be irrevocably changed. I felt that way a bit, too.
By Elaine Neil Orr, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Faculty
Since I wrote this short essay about Covid-19 and sliding into depression and finding a way out, I’ve felt depressed again, more than once. I’m seeing a pattern and learning how to pull myself up. But I’m also trying to be patient with myself. Today after my graduate seminar, I told my students I love them. It’s true. I do love them. But I would not say that in “normal times.” I’m saying it now that we are all more aware of how fragile life is. My students’ faces registered real joy when I spoke that sentence: “I love you.”
I hope we can make it permissible to find the good that this period of our lives yields up.
Maybe this blog can yield up some grace in your day.
Elaine Neil Orr is the author of five books, including her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and the novel, A Different Sun. Her latest novel, Swimming Between Worlds captures the moral imperatives of integration in the early 1960s and was a finalist for the 2019 Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Book Award in Fiction. She has been honored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She serves on the faculty of English at N.C. State University as well as the faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing.
By Dianne Aprile, Creative Nonfiction Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
Many thanks to my brother Kevin Aprile, an editor in Ohio for the Chronicle-Telegram, who invited me to write about living at the epicenter of Covid-19 in its early days. What follows is an updated version of the original column that ran on March 29.
My husband and I have a longstanding breakfast-table ritual. Over coffee and toast, we routinely and enthusiastically interrupt each other’s private thoughts as much as possible by calling out surprising or outrageous headlines ripped from the pages of one of the two print newspapers we read each morning.
By Lesléa Newman, Writing for Children & Young Adults Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
I. I remember shaking hands: damp, sweaty hands and dry, scratchy hands, bone-crushing handshakes and dead-fish handshakes, two-handed handshakes, my hand sandwiched between a pair of big beefy palms. I remember hairy hands and freckled hands, young smooth hands and old wrinkled hands, red polished fingernails and bitten jagged fingernails, stained hands of hairdressers who had spent all day dying, dirty hands of gardeners who dug down deep into the good earth.
By Kathleen Driskell, Chair, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
This post originally appeared as a Facebook post on March 21, 2020.
Spalding students, I hear some of you are having a hard time writing in this time of uncertainty. Me, too. And this is exacerbated by the fact that your worksheet submissions are due April 22. But here’s something I know you’ve learned in Spalding’s program: All writing is born from other writing. The other thing I know you’ve gained from this program is at least one writing friend.
Reach out to that friend and reawaken the lost art and appreciation for letter writing. What would the world of writing be like—what would the world be like—if we didn’t have the letters of Virginia Woolf, Rilke, Keats, Audre Lorde, Flannery O’Connor, Dickinson?
Connect with at least one writing friend (maybe create a circle of three or four) and begin a serious correspondence. Ask each other open-ended questions about the art of writing, your own writing, the world around us—focus on asking questions surrounding our senses or about experiences we are having or remembering in this time of isolation. Commit to meaningful challenging conversation in letters. Hold each other accountable. Encourage one another to spin off into other writing when these letters surprise us with wonderful ideas and observations.
Remember, all writing, every aspect of it, is about connection.
Award-winning poet and teacher Kathleen Driskell is the MFA Chair and Professor of Creative Writing at Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing, Home of the Low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program. Her newest poetry collection Blue Etiquette is available from Red Hen Press. Next Door to the Dead, winner of the 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award is available from UPKY. Follow her @kathdriskell or visit her blog at kathleendriskell.blogspot.com.
By Lynnell Edwards, Associate Program Director, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
The first time I tried a “poem-a-day” challenge in April for National Poetry Month I had already blown it before I even started. From my journal that year, I see the first entry is Monday, April 3. But I had given myself a few rules to make the whole endeavor slightly more humane and if maybe I actually didn’t remember it was April until the 3rd, then okay. Monday is still kind of like a first day so I went forward.
By Beth Ann Bauman, Writing for Children & Young Adult Faculty
If you’re a YA writer, you already know you need to read a wide variety of literature, including YA, of course, and general fiction with teen protagonists. But I’d argue it can be just as helpful to study good TV and movies about teens. If you’re struggling, say, to move a character through a narrative, visual literature (TV and movies) is really good at externalizing the internal landscape of a character. There’s also an economy of language on the screen that can be really useful to the apprentice writer who needs to learn focus.
Willmott, filmmaker and film professor, speaks at Spalding University on May 28.
By Kathleen Driskell, Chair, School of Creative and Professional Writing
I am delighted to announce that Academy Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott is the 2020 recipient of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature. The Spalding Prize, which comes with an award of $7,500, was established to honor literary work that exemplifies the mission of Spalding University and its commitment to compassion.
By Leslie Daniels, Spalding School of Writing Creative Fiction Faculty
One of the things I love about writing well is its wildness. You’d think there would be rules or a path, a recipe even, to the deep heart of your writing, but there is not. You must find it anew for each piece.