Writing about Place — As a fiction writer, Bryn Chancellor stresses the importance of place in many of her stories. The title of her debut novel, Sycamore, underscores this point. The title is the name of the small town in Arizona where the novel takes place. For Bryn, settings involve the natural world, the built environment, and the history of a place. For Bryn, settings can be deceptive. The places she describes have their secrets, and in the case of Sycamore, one of the secrets involves a mysterious death.
In some ways, Sycamore reminds me of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. Both are set in small towns where things are not always as they seem. The residents of Sycamore and the residents of Winesburg have complex responses toward their towns, vacillating between feeling a sense of belonging and feeling a sense of isolation.
Bryn will talk about Sycamore and the secrets of this small Arizona town during her presentation for the Personally Speaking series on Tuesday, March 26, at UNC Charlotte Center City. For more information and to RSVP, please click on the following link: https://clas.uncc.edu/community/personally-speaking/sycamore-novel
Bryn is not the only member of our English Department who is interested in the relationship between place and writing. Nearly every summer, Greg Wickliff teaches a course titled “Writing about Place.” I recently contacted Greg and asked him for more information about this course. Here is his response: “In my summer ‘Writing about Place’ course, students explore (at a distance) an experience of place through language and to a lesser extent, through photography. A sense of place, enduring or transient, can be deeply meaningful to us, whether we feel we inhabit it as a native, as a willing visitor, or even as a captive. Writing about place is the subject of diarists and travelers, of anthropologists and historians, of the young and the old. As writers of non-fiction, students in this course reflect upon their impressions of specific places – researching their histories and imagining their futures – preserved, threatened, stagnant, or revitalized. Because this summer course is an online-only one, we also seek to understand how places that are or once were physical and real, become through our writing, virtual constructions of words and images.”
Bryn and Greg have different academic specialties. Bryn teaches fiction writing while Greg teaches professional and technical writing. However, for both Bryn and Greg, the act of writing about places is not just an exercise in description. They are both interested in how writing about places can evoke memories, stir up emotions, and communicate the personal meanings that we often gain from interacting with physical places. In a sense, Bryn and Greg are standing on common ground, and that common ground is called the English Department.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Bryn Chancellor last week served as a speaker and literary table host for Poets & Writers’s gala benefit “In Celebration of Writers” in New York City.
Juan Meneses recently presented a paper titled “The Limits of Citizenship: A Foreign Counter” at the American Comparative Literature Association Conference, which took place at Georgetown University.
Lara Vetter recently published an article titled “The Violence of Translingual Identity in Kazim Ali’s Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities and Julia Alvarez’s The Other Side / El otro lado” in MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S. 44.1 (2019): 110-131.
Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and deadlines:
March 12 — Sam Shapiro is presenting a 90-minute program on the “art of adapting books into film.” He is focusing primarily on Katherine Anne Porter’s novella Noon WIne. Here is the link to Charlotte Lit’s website, with further information: https://www.charlottelit.org/event/shapeshifting-adapting-the-novella-for-screen/?mc_cid=a38f543029&mc_eid=69ee4ca45f
March 21 — The Children’s Literature Graduate Organization (CLGO) will hold their annual Graduate Student Colloquium on March 21 in Cone 111 from 9:30 to 2:30. The title for this year’s colloquium is “Modern Authors, Historic Influences: Framing Children’s Literature in Historical Context.”
March 23 — Grace C. Ocasio will lead a poetry workshop, read from her two previous books, and read from her now under-contract collection (Family Reunion/Broadstone Books) at Press 53’s The High Road Festival on Saturday, March 23, in Winston Salem.
March 26 — The Personally Speaking presentation featuring Bryn Chancellor will take place on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at UNC Charlotte Center City. Bryn’s presentation on her book Sycamore will begin at 6:30 p.m. A book signing and reception will follow her presentation. For more information and to RSVP, please click on the following link: https://clas.uncc.edu/community/personally-speaking/sycamore-novel
March 30 — The Center City Literary Festival will take place on Saturday, March 30, at UNC Charlotte Center City. The children’s part of the festival will run from 10:00am to 1:00pm, and the adult part will run from 6:00pm-9:00pm. For more information, please click on the following link: https://centercitylitfest.uncc.edu/
Quirky Quiz Question — Bryn Chancellor’s familiarity with Arizona stems from the fact that she lived in the state for much of her youth. She earned her B.A degree from Northern Arizona University and her M.A. degree in English from Arizona State University before earning her M.F.A. from Vanderbilt University. Like Bryn, another person associated with our English Department has significant connections to the English Department at Arizona State University. Who is this other person?
Last week’s answer: Lincoln College, Oxford University
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) received many honorary doctoral degrees, but he never completed the PhD in English that he started after graduating from Dartmouth College. What is the name of the university where Dr. Seuss pursued his graduate studies?