Tales of the Roaring ’20s, or adventures in grammar and syntax

By Fenton Johnson, Creative Nonfiction Faculty

Herewith, I record in print what many have heard me say in workshop: I will have inscribed on my tombstone, “He was the enemy of the ambiguous ‘it’.” In fact I have leaned on this topic so heavily that the most excellent Brittni Caudill has chosen “it” (ahem) as the topic of her graduation lecture. In deference to her lecture—and with the fervent hope that you will pull “it” up to watch and heed—I’ll defer my comments on the topic.

Be aware, however, that in general, pronouns are not your friends. If one subscribes, as I do, to the creation and maintenance of a smooth path for the reader, pronouns are a speed bump. Even when situated close to their appropriate antecedents (“Mary had a little lamb / whose fleece was . . .”) they require the brain to pause and think, “What’s the antecedent?”. Of course, they also provide pleasing variety and allow the writer to avoid awkward repetitions (“Mary had a little lamb / and Mary’s lamb’s fleece was . . .”). All the same: Be wary. In general, make certain that pronouns and their antecedents are in close proximity.

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Playing with Intention

By Erin Keane, Professional Writing & Poetry Faculty

When I interviewed Aimee Bender in 2010 about her novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, she said something about her process that stuck with me: Every day, she forces herself to be bored. “I feel like sitting through boredom is a major piece of being a writer,” she said. “There’s this intense restlessness that comes up when bored.” This makes sense to me—I’ve known since childhood how to invent ways to entertain myself when boredom crept in. That’s play, really. Telling myself stories, or tinkering with language and observation in poems, is a method of play that I carried with me into my adult life as a writer. But in the current iteration of that life, as the editorial head of a fast-paced digital publication that covers news, politics, culture, science, and health, boredom is frequently in short supply.

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First Class of Professional Writing Students Completes the First Totally Virtual (and totally real!) Residency in May

I’m still breathless from the whirlwind of our first residency in professional writing.  Our workshop conversations and guest lectures explored the diverse opportunities available to the professional writer: Crisis communication?  We’re on it.   Grant writing? Show me the money.  Technical writing for corporations?  Of course.  Press releases, inclusive language, professional style? Check. Check. Check.

These students have now begun their professional writing independent study, bringing with them a variety of professional interests. During independent study, they will explore opportunities for on-the-job projects as well as freelance opportunities in review writing, travel writing, and table-top gaming.

Listen to them discuss their experiences at the residency and their independent study plans in this short video. 

The School of Creative and Professional Writing offers both a one-semester Certificate in Professional Writing and a 35-hour Master of Arts in Writing that includes a semester in editing and publishing. Current MFA students may also take professional writing as an out-of-genre residency or full semester. Feel free to contact me directly for more information: ledwards02 [at] spalding [dot] edu.


Lynnell Edwards is Professor of English and Associate Programs Director for Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing.  Her fifth collection of poetry, This Great Green Valley, was recently released by Broadstone Books.