The finish line is in sight, just barely out of reach. In just a few weeks, finals will be over and you will have completed another semester. You’ll close Blackboard, that weight will lift off your chest, and you’ll be free! Summer is in sight. Considering the circumstances, you might not be able to start off your summer the way you wanted to. However, with more free time, you’re able to read more! If you’re overwhelmed by options, I’ll make it even easier for you. I have compiled a list of the most anticipated books of Summer 2020. No matter what you’re looking for- contemporary young adult, science fiction, historical fiction, true crime and more- you’re sure to find something to keep your summer exciting even indoors.
Genre: YA Dystopia
Rating (by Goodreads): 3.98
“It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.”
Twelve years after the first Hunger Games book was released, Suzanne Collins is launching us back into the world of Panem. This time, we’re reading about the origin of the Hunger Games’ most infamous antagonist, President Snow. This prequel takes place well before Katniss Everdeen came into the picture, and tells the tale of Snow before he was in power. When this news was announced, plenty of people were excited, while others were horrified at the idea of Snow possibly being redeemed. However, it can be agreed by everyone that we’re intrigued. A movie for the prequel is already in the works as well, with Hunger Games director Frances Lawrence returning for the project.
2. A Burning by Megha Majumdar
Release date:June 2nd
Genre: Contemporary fiction, Cultural
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.25
“Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely--an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor--has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.”
Megha Majumdar releases her debut novel, A Burning, this summer. The story is told from three different perspectives, and centers around a tragic terrorist attack and a girl wrongly accused. The perspectives begin to intersect, leading to a complex and thought provoking plot. The book is described by critics as risky, ambitious, and wonderfully plotted. A Burning will be available and on shelves early this summer, on June 2nd.
3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Release date: June 2nd
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.53
“The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?”
In The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett delves into American history that weaves different generations together. The book takes place in the 1960s, and tells the story of two twin sisters. The girls run away at sixteen to New Orleans, but soon find their dream of a new life is not so easily in reach. Tragically, the twins find themselves on opposite paths: one returning to the town they grew up in, and the other living her life passing as a white woman. This is Brit Bennett’s second novel, and is already being praised for the well developed characters, unique voice, and strong storyline.
4. The Dragons, The Giant, The Women by Wayétu Moore
Release Date: June 2nd
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.86
“When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunion her father promised her, war breaks out in Liberia.”
In this autobiography, Wayétu Moore describes her journey as a child experiencing hardship as her family fled their home, as well as the struggles she faced as an immigrant in America. Moore’s story carries the reader through her childhood, her experience moving to America, and ultimately returning to Liberia. Moore’s memoir has already been described as moving, brilliantly crafted in terms of creative structure and voice.
5. You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
Release Date:June 9th
Genre: Fiction, LGBTQ
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.03
“On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she tells her daughter.”
In You Exist Too Much, Zaina Arafat tells the story of her protagonist's journey through childhood into adolescence. The story is told in different flashes, travelling between the United States and the Middle East. Arafat writes her character’s journey from young girl, to aspiring writer, to her first relationship with her girlfriend, to battling destructive behaviors. As the character struggles to balance her cultural, religious, and sexual identities, she ultimately finds herself in recovery for love addiction.The book has been described as intriguing, thought provoking, and has been praised for its willingness to tackle sexuality, mental illness, and other complex issues.
6. I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van dan Berg
Release Date: June 9th
Genre: Fiction, Short Story Collection
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.65
“Both timeless and urgent, these eleven stories confront misogyny, violence, and the impossible economics of America with van den Berg's trademark spiky humor and surreal eye.”
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is a collection of dark short stories about struggling women. The stories tackle a variety of issues: mental health, grief, toxic relationships, violence, and more. Van dan Berg wields these issues and her characters in a chilling way that both highlights the female experience and leaves the reader terrified. This is Laura van fan Berg’s first collection after her prize winning Isle of Youth. According to critics, it does not disappoint. The stories have been described as enriching with beautifully crafted narratives.
7. How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
Release date: June 16th
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Cultural
Rating (by Goodreads): 3.92
“Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle would last for decades and come at a steep price.”
In the fictional African Village of Kosawa, Mbue’s characters are suffering the consequences of the selfishness of an American oil company. Pipeline spills have caused environmental damage, The story is told through a girl named Thula and follows how her and her family fight for the people and the place they love.This is Mbue’s second novel, and has been deemed epic, poignant, and powerful.
8. Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford
Trigger Warning: Sexual assault
Release date: July 7th
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.58
“When the elite St. Paul's School recently came under state investigation after extensive reports of sexual abuse on campus, Lacy Crawford thought she'd put behind her the assault she'd suffered at St. Paul's decades before, when she was fifteen. Still, when detectives asked for victims to come forward, she sent a note.”
In Notes on a Silencing, Lacy Crawford tells her story as a woman seeking justice for a sexual assault that took place during her time at high school. Crawford unveils the corruption of power that took place at her high school, and the lengths many adults went to to bury the events that traumatized her in order to protect two men’s futures. Crawford’s commentary regarding gender, privilege, and religion throughout the memoir is perfectly weaved into the coming of age survivor story. Readers have called the memoir compelling, balanced, and nuanced.
9. Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey
Trigger Warning: Domestic abuse
Release Date: July 28th
Genre: True Crime
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.48
“At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.”
Pulitzer prize winning poet Natasha Tethewey shares her story of loss, grief, and domestic abuse in her new memoir, Memorial Drive. The book takes place during Atlanta in 1985 and explores the aftermath of her mother’s murder while also suffering from the effects of racism and domestic abuse. The heartbreaking but beautifully written story will be available this summer in late July.
10. Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Release Date: July 28th
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.33
“Cole and her twelve-year-old, Miles, are on the lam. Fleeing across the American West, they're desperate to find a safe haven. Until they do, they must maintain their disguise--as mother and daughter. Because Miles, a boy, is the most valuable commodity in the world.”
Lauren Buekes brings a world in which 99% of the male population has died due to a world-wide pandemic. Main characters Cole and her son, Miles, must stay on the run to escape the dangers that are after them. Among the dangers is Cole’s own sister. The book has been described as a feminist thriller that is eye opening, suspenseful, and compelling. This is one of many of Lauren Buekes works, as she is an award winning novelist, and has written for television as well. Afterland is the perfect summer read, and will be in stores July 28th!
11. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Release date: August 4th
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Cultural
Rating (by Good Reads): 4.44
“One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious.”
In The Death of Vivek Oji, Akwaeke Emezi brings to life the character Vivek, a young man living in Nigeria. As he is moving from adolescence into adulthood, Vivek suffers from blackouts that separate him from his surroundings. The story is one of friendship as Vivek finds solace in the women around him, especially his cousin Osita. It is one of family, exploring Vivek’s dynamic with his distant father and overprotective mother. Finally, it is one of crisis and mystery as an astonishing act of violence leads to death. Emezi’s novel is described as heart-wrenching, with phenomenal prose and a controlled narrative.
12. Luster by Raven Leilani
Release date: August 4th
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.19
“Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.”
Luster tells the story of Edie, a twenty three year old who has just lost her job in publishing and has found herself with nowhere to go. Out of desperation, she ends up staying with the man she’s been sleeping with-- and his wife and daughter. She now witnesses the marriage that is crumbling first hand, and also finds herself being a sort of mentor for their daughter, Akila, as Edie is one of the few black women Akila has had the opportunity to know. The story is bold, unique, and compelling as you follow Edie through this journey as she pursues her dream of being an artist while navigating various difficulties.
13. The Queen of Tuesday by Darin Strauss
Release date: August 18th
Rating (by Goodreads): 3.17
“This indelible romance begins with a daring conceit—that the author’s grandfather may have had an affair with Lucille Ball. Strauss offers a fresh view of a celebrity America loved more than any other.”
The Queen of Tuesday sheds light on the life of one of one of the most influential women in the history of Hollywood. Lucille Ball was beloved and on screen, was a success. Behind the scenes, however, her marriage was damaging and she struggled to bear the pressure placed on her. The book is part memoir and part novel, with Strauss using imagination to paint creative imagined events. The novel has been called captivating, well written, and easy to escape into.
14. This Is The Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn
Release date: August 25th
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.33
“When Nick Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to their house. The event loomed large in his imagination for years, but it’s only after having a child of his own that he understands why.”
Nick Flynn returns to the ground where he grew up, where his mother set their home on fire. He does so with his young daughter to reflect on his own childhood, and forms his memories into bedtime stories. Flynn delves into his own mind, the aftermath of his mother’s actions, leading to him even threatening to burn his own home down. The journey is raw, haunting, and powerful.
15. Sisters by Daisy Johnson
Release date: August 25th
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.17
“Born just ten months apart, July and September are thick as thieves, never needing anyone but each other. Now, following a case of school bullying, the teens have moved away with their single mother to a long-abandoned family home near the shore. In their new, isolated life, July finds that the deep bond she has always shared with September is shifting in ways she cannot entirely understand. A creeping sense of dread and unease descends inside the house.”
Daisy Johnson writes an exploration of two sisters with a seemingly inseparable bond. July and September rely on one another for everything. After being bullied at their school, they move away, along with their single mother, to the shore. After the move, their bond seems to shift, perhaps drifting away for the first time. They push the boundaries of behavior, leading to shocking revelations that not only impact their past, but their future as well. Daisy Johnson is the youngest author to have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for her debut novel, and now brings us Sisters, an intriguing examination of the bond between siblings.
As we enter summer, you have no shortage of book recommendations. If you’re stuck in the house, still having the urge to travel, pick up a book! Go to Panem this May with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, or to New Orleans with The Vanishing Half, or visit the coast of the North York Moors with Sisters. In times like this, books can be a great way to escape and consume new stories, characters, and lives.
During the second open-house event I attended before enrolling at Rowan, a student ambassador from the CCCA dropped a little booklet in front of us potential students. She said that these booklets were different editions of Avant, the undergraduate-led literary magazine at Rowan. I was told at the first open house event that student publications existed on campus, but this was the first one to be named for me. I leafed through my copy, losing myself in the neatly laid out pages and the work of my soon-to-be peers. But there were still students and professors presenting to the room outside of my booklet, so I gingerly set it aside. Mentally, I made a note to find out more about this magazine when I got home.
Flash forward to this semester, just about two years after my first encounter with the Avant magazine. What exactly have I learned about Avant since then?
Avant may not be the only literary magazine published on campus, but it is the only Rowan magazine that is run by undergraduate students who accept literary work from other undergraduate students. It also may be the oldest student group associated with Rowan (this is currently up for debate), and for years the club has been an active focal point for Rowan’s writing community. For the past several years, Avant has published one magazine per semester, and its members have been dedicated to getting their submissions printed no matter what. The students who populate the desks in every Avant meeting are able to work with the professionality of career-editors and the passion of America’s future wordsmiths. I may sound like I’m waxing poetic here, but the environment and the work ethic of Avant is impressive.
My first Avant meeting was during my first semester of college, in the Fall of 2018. I’ll admit that I was intimidated at first -- in high school, I helped run our school’s creative writing club, but our meetings were often free-wheeling and somewhat chaotic. Avant was different. The E-board members were all very friendly, but their evaluations of the pieces that were submitted were informed and deeply inquisitive. I may have been an A-student in high school, but I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t be able to measure up to these other members.
This worry was through no fault of the club members’ actions. My nervousness was just another fish-out-of-water experience that came with starting college for the first time. But regardless, I was quite shy for the majority of the first meetings that I went to. How could I fit in with these students who seemed a day away from launching successful writing careers? Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who started his first year at Avant in silence.
“I didn’t really talk a lot during meetings,” said Remy Desai-Patel, one of Avant’s current assistant editors. Although he was also a bit shy at first, he still went to every meeting.
“[It was] such a welcoming environment for everyone,” he said. And despite being a brand-new member, he still felt like he belonged with this group.
Each Avant meeting runs with members reading and critiquing anonymous writing submissions, and then voting for whether or not the piece will be accepted as is for the semester’s magazine. Because open discussion is such an integral component of reviewing submissions, fresh faces and fresh ideas are always encouraged!
“[Having] so many authors with different styles of writing, debates happen,” said Thomas LaPorte, an active Avant member. But according to him these debates are “when things get interesting!”
These back-and-forth discussions all help the club decide what’s best for the author and their work.
Hannah Tran, Avant’s current Editor-In-Chief, has found an appreciation in how these critique discussions have evolved this year.
“A lot of our members from last year graduated,” she said, so “nearly everyone who attended our first meeting of this school year was new to Avant. It was a bit difficult to keep a discussion rolling in our first couple meetings because everyone was still getting comfortable with each other.”
But as the year continued, each member became more relaxed with each other, and a sense of group camaraderie kicked back in. Gladly, Hannah says that after only one semester together, “I have to reign in the talking so we can get through our submissions on time!”
Though these conversations are meant to help their anonymous authors grow as writers, the Avant editors benefit from the group’s critiques just as much as the authors do. As Remy told me, his writing has been influenced by his understanding of “what makes accepted pieces so successful.” Placing yourself into the shoes of a magazine editor certainly helps you figure out how to create something that others will take an interest in.
Tom had a similar take-away -- “By understanding the way other authors think, my own inner editor picks up on errors in my own work.”
I have to agree with them both. The same reason why I was initially worried about speaking up during meetings is now why I’m eager to contribute to every conversation. The more involved that everyone in the room is, the more I learn about what I could do to make my own writing more successful. If a student-led editing room feels as unfamiliar to you as it did to me, then I would tell you to hang in there, and keep going back to meetings. The benefit of the experience will soon outweigh any initial growing pains.
“I stuck around and ended up making lifelong friends [at Avant]” said Remy.
A specific highlight from his time with the magazine was the Fall of 2019. Although he normally makes friends with new and old club members each semester, Remy said that last fall every Avant member “ended up getting to know each other on a deep level,” and they all grew to be some of his closest friends on campus.
Tom’s glad he stuck around both because of the club’s camaraderie, and also because of the Coffee House event that Avant and RAH co-sponsored earlier this year.
“It was great hanging out with everyone outside of Avant and performing our own poetry,” he said.
Hannah told me that the Coffee House wasn’t only her best Avant experience, she said it was “one of the most positive experiences” that she’s had as a college student so far.
“[The Coffee House event] is the spirit of Avant -- being part of a community, having fun together, pushing each other, and taking creative risks.”
This spirit is something that Hannah and her E-board have been working especially hard on to maintain during this COVID-19 outbreak. Though most Rowan students are confined within the walls of their home, Avant has managed to continue business as (almost) usual -- weekly Zoom meetings, compiling student submissions, sending feedback to submission authors, and sharing personal writing projects with the group online.
Seeing how the club continues to support each other gives Hannah confidence that, no matter what, Avant will “endure and adapt” to any challenge that lies ahead.
Due to several schedule conflicts I ended up not being able to act as a full-time member during my first year at Rowan. But my brief memories of the club were fond enough to pull me back in when my schedule opened up. Now a full-time member, I only wish that I had been able to join sooner! As a young writer, it can be incredibly comforting having a group of people in your life who understand and can support your passion for writing. I encourage any Writing Arts student -- as well as any student who simply enjoys writing and storytelling -- to give Avant a try. Despite any nerves that may fire up at your first meeting, I promise that you’ll fit in before you realize it. Getting involved with this magazine is a great way to find both a supportive community of writers and a better understanding of how to make your writing the best that it can be.
Codes are distinct means of communication you’ve absorbed through your life — through where you grew up, the people you grew up with, your friends, your education; each represents a possible “code” you’ve picked up. Think of them like tools — and in your toolbox you have many. How you speak (the code(s) you use) with your friends is likely different than how you would “speak” in a college essay. How you text is different from how you speak to your parents. But why?
Here, try this on. When writing an essay for one of your classes, the voice you used may have sounded something like this. Read it out loud!
“These methods of communication are central to one’s identity, way of being, and understanding of themselves. To move beyond this reasoning…”
Does that sound like how you talk? Probably not. Right there, you’ve discovered a code. The one above could be considered “academic speak,” or Standard American English. You’ve probably come across this code reading scientific articles or stiff theoretical papers.
As a college student, you may have encountered writing assignments that made you feel like you had to shed the language you are comfortable with and adopt an “academic” tone, to use “better” vocabulary.
But no code is inherently “better” than another; codes aren’t in a hierarchy, they just work more effectively in different rhetorical situations.
Every person has their own set of codes that is integral to their identity. The way you speak or write, in different situations and to different people, reflect pieces of who you are. Every single code that is a part of you is unique and valuable, and most importantly, equal.
It’s not wrong to have different codes, or to have trouble with academic codes. A lot of college students get the idea that the writing code used for academic papers is better then whatever they use at home, and that is not true. An academic tone has its rhetorical situation, and it can be learned without discarding more personal codes.
And it also doesn’t mean that you have to leave your personal codes at home. That’s called “code switching” — switching between the different codes you have. Your codes can be integrated into your college work through “code meshing” — meshing different codes into a work. The difference between code switching and code meshing is kind of like this: code switching is painting in one color, but code meshing allows you to paint in all different colors! Sure, maybe your teacher wouldn’t be very happy if you wrote your research paper on snake reproduction in your local slang, but wouldn’t that slang be great in a flash fiction piece? It all depends on the rhetorical situation, the “picture” you want to paint.
This is where it gets really interesting, and empowering. You, yes you, can use whatever code you want when you're writing. Whatever codes are inside you, you can paint them on the page. But before writing a paper, paragraph, or even a sentence, ask yourself this: what am I trying to say, and to who? And then: how am I trying to say it; what code could I use? For many assignments, the code you use may be clearly defined and expected. But there is always room to play. See what works!
Learning how to write in an academic code means you can add it to the repertoire of codes you have built up. It doesn’t mean that you have to leave your own codes behind to succeed. Embracing your own codes and yourself will give you a huge confidence boost. It’s a shift from “I have to say it like this” to “How do I want to say this?” Choice is empowering, and you have the choices at your disposal.
As we near the end of the semester, many students have produced a body of work they are proud of and excited to share with their professors. But why stop there? Writing is something we can share with the world. But maybe you’re hesitant about this. Should I publish my work? How do I know if it’s ready? What should I know about publishing? How do I do it? After speaking with Writing Arts professors, I’ve compiled a list of tips that students should know if they want to get their work out there for the world to see.
Tip #1: Your work is important, regardless if you publish it or not.
We all crave external validation, especially as writers; we want to know our work is good! Whether or not you publish your work, it’s still important. In writing your piece, whether it’s a poem, story, essay, or even full length work, you have improved your skills and learned things along the way. Writing is a process, and I believe that the process is just as, if not more, important as the product. What you did to get to and through your work was important. The piece will remain in place, but you will move on. I think knowing this is central, especially when you do decide to publish your work. Whether or not your piece is accepted, what you learned and how you grew through the process will help you in the future.
Tip #2: Find publications you enjoy reading
Reading is essential to being a writer. If you want to get your work out there, you need to go see what’s out there! Not sure where to start? Websites like NewPages and Poets & Writers Magazine have lists of literary magazines you can explore. Find publications you enjoy and devour them. There are so many out there, it can be overwhelming! But if you find pieces you enjoy, remember where they were published; those are possible places to submit your work! These magazines will often include a “submissions” page (you might have to dig around to find it) where you can read about what they are looking for. If you have the means, buying previous magazine editions can be pretty cheap (like ten/fifteen bucks). Buying previous editions will give you a clear idea of what they are looking for and has the added benefit of supporting their work. This tip is an ongoing process — keep searching and keep reading.
Tip #3: Let others read your work before you submit it.
Before you let go of that piece, give it to others and ask for their honest feedback. It’s best to give your piece to at least two people so you’ll receive a variety of feedback. They can be friends, writing partners, family members, whoever you can, get it to them. They’ll let you know what’s working and what’s not. Even if you don’t agree with their feedback, it’s important to “try it on.” See how they came to their conclusions, there’s bound to be a gem of insight you weren’t able to see. I spoke with Megan Atwood who echoed this point, “Be willing to listen to feedback and to incorporate it. That doesn't mean changing your entire piece or compromising your overall vision! But it does mean listening to people who aren't as close to your work as you are.” Then, start revising. Take your time with this step, because...
Tip #4: There’s no rush
The real work begins in revisions. For me, this is one of the hardest parts. The process of drafting can have it’s ups and downs, but the critical, important work comes in the revision phase. So it’s important to take your time. There’s no rush. Let go of the anxiety of trying to make it perfect, and just keep chipping away to make it better. Heather Lanier provided this helpful list of questions to consider while you’re in the revision phase:
“#1: Have you exhausted all your hunches and plans and visions for the piece? Is it exactly how you want it? Are you BS-ing yourself anywhere, with an easy sentence or plot-twist or a line or idea? Is there any place where you know you're selling your imagination or intellect short? Be ruthlessly honest about this.
#2: If the answer to the above indicates all green lights, and if you've taken the piece as far as you humanly and creatively can, then share it with two people. What is their response? Do they see anything you didn't? Do they offer any helpful understandings that make you want to take something a step further?
#3: After addressing #2, go back to #1. When you get all green lights, OR, when you just feel plain DONE with a piece and believe it has something to say to people, some reason to exist in the public eye despite its imperfections, send it out there. Then get back to work on something new.”
Think of these questions as you go through the feedback and revision phase. But remember...
Tip #5: Really, there’s no rush.
You might need to step away from this piece for a while, and that’s okay! Take the time you need. Come back with a fresh pair of eyes, be critical, and revise. You really want to make sure you’re ready to submit. But once you are, go find those publications you admire and submit! It’s okay to submit to multiple publications at once (most publications are fine with this), just make sure you inform the publications you are doing so (“this work has been simultaneously submitted to multiple publications”). Then, wait. Wait for acceptance, or for a rejection.
Tip #6: Embrace rejections
It’s part of the job! Keri Mikulski had this advice for rejections, “My advice would be to try to keep your balance. Don't get too excited when you receive an acceptance, or too down when you receive a rejection.” Getting published takes perseverance, and even if your work has been accepted, you’ll likely get some rejections down the line. Remember that writing is subjective, so don’t take rejections personally — just keep trying. You’ll experience ups and downs along the way, so it’s good to maintain a level head and focus on the heart of your work: the writing.
Keep this process in mind: read, write, receive feedback, revise. Keep that up, and you’ll be out there in no time. But remember: your work is important and valuable, whether it is accepted or not! Embrace those rejections, they’re part of the job. Learn from them, keep reading, keep feeling inspired — that is what is most important.
Below is a list of journals exclusively for undergraduate students (courtesy of Heather Lanier):
Thank you to the professors who helped me compile this list. Their names are listed below:
Content Warning: mentions of suicide, depression
Note: In light of Rowan’s closure in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, I want to begin this article by impressing that there are Rowan-based mental health resources available online. One-on-one appointments can still be made by contacting 856-256-4333. These appointments are likely going to be held through WebEx - an online service for video-chatting with clinicians, which will be connected to the Wellness Center’s electronic health records system. Resources and services still available during this outbreak can be found at their respective linked pages. The campus crisis hotline is also still active at 856-256-4911, where Public Safety can direct you to a counselor on call. The national suicide hotline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
On February 21, Jamie Tworkowski--the founder of mental health awareness group To Write Love on Her Arms--spoke here at Rowan University to discuss the prevailing stigmas surrounding mental health disorders. The Edelman College of Communications and Creative Arts’s own Dean Tweedie was in attendance, representing our college by participating in a conversation that has rarely been as pressing as it is today. After the two tragic suicides that rocked our campus last year, Rowan’s Wellness Center and University president Dr. Houshmand led a public forum addressing student concerns about the severity of untreated mental health issues within the community. Many students at the forum argued that the university was ill-equipped to care for students’ mental health. In light of the dire situation facing our campus, Writing Arts students deserve to know more about what our department has been doing to create a safer environment for those of us who may be struggling to get by.
Despite the enormity of this task, Rowan’s Writing Arts Department has been a worthy case-study in how to take the first steps in affecting major change after a crisis. Dr. Amy Woodworth (coordinator of our First-Year Writing Program) has been at the forefront of helping the Writing Arts department respond to the ongoing mental health crisis. For example, she arranged three mental-health related meetings within the past several months. A Brown Bag meeting last November that covered mental health issues was followed by two Mental Health First Aid trainings--the first one was also held in November, the second in January. These eight-hour long training sessions were geared to prepare professors for how to safely aid a student who needs professional help for their mental well-being. Each of these Mental Health First Aid trainings had thirty Writing Arts faculty in attendance.
“The focus was primarily suicide and suicide prevention,” said Dr. Woodworth. But the first aid meetings also presented startling data about the state of mental health among college students today. Some of the shared data included the following:
These two trainings were led by Dr. Mandi Dorrell, another Writing Arts instructor who has a certification in mental health intervention. She trained Writing Arts faculty how to properly handle a situation where a student needs to be led to professional help. This could mean walking the student over to the Wellness Center, or waiting with the student until professional help can arrive.
“Don’t leave them alone,” Dr. Woodworth reiterated from the Brown Bag workshops. If a student is planning on hurting themselves, it’s of the utmost importance to give them “a warm hand-off” to the appropriate mental health professionals.
“Kinda like ‘regular’ first aid,” said Woodworth. “If you were injured and had cut yourself on something, I may be able to stop the bleeding but the goal is to find a professional to stitch you up. A professor’s goal should be to provide struggling students assistance in the meantime.”
“Writing Arts staff have been very open to mental-health training,” said Brown Bag leader Dr. Mandi Dorrell, who is also the lead member of Rowan’s Active Minds chapter--a nationwide organization of 500+ college campuses dedicated to de-stigmatizing mental health concerns. Founded in 2003, Active Minds has been committed to spreading the word that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The organization has impacted thousands of students nation-wide. It’s most popular outreach program being Send Silence Packing, a travelling exhibit of stories that students have shared about their mental health, which anyone can participate in.
Attendance at Rowan’s Active Minds meetings has risen within the past year, mainly to what Dorrell credits as a “growing awareness” on campus about the importance of mental well-being. Having worked at Rowan and several other educational institutions for many years, Dorrell said that she’s noticed an improvement in how mental health issues are being treated by administrators and educators but “it can still be better.” Rowan’s Active Minds chapter can be accessed through ProfLink for any interested students.
One of the ways that faculty members like Dr. Dorrell have been trying to ensure long-lasting change is by involving themselves in groups such as The Wellbeing Committee here on Rowan’s campus. An incredibly new group--Dorrell told me that their first meeting was as recent as this past February--this committee is a multi-major collective of students and faculty members dedicated to documenting the observed “pros and cons” of Rowan’s developing responses to mental health concerns. The Wellbeing Committee will serve as Rowan’s evidence-based research group for mental health on campus, recognizing the importance of maintaining an active observance on how Rowan can continue to improve in the future.
Writing Arts has also been working to create a permanent change in how staff will respond to mental health concerns. Born from Rowan’s recent Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Diversity Council is a committee within the Writing Arts department with an aim for turning the department into a more inclusive space. Started by professor Rachel Shapiro, nearly half of the Writing Arts faculty are active members on the council.
“Our major goal is to make … small achievable goals that lead to bigger changes to help with equity in our department,” said Writing Arts professor Amanda Haruch. These changes are discussed and decided on at monthly diversity committee meetings, and include professional development sessions during department meetings. So far these development sessions have focused on how staff can accommodate students with dyslexia and how to have uncomfortable conversations about race in the classroom. In addition to this, the Writing Arts professors have created a website for writing instructors that contains resources about how to accommodate student issues related to mental health. The Diversity Council has also been discussing plans to produce and distribute packets, booklets, and bookmarks that contain information about mental health resources on and off campus. This literature is meant to help professors give pre-prepared information to students who are struggling to find the care that they need.
Thoroughly spreading information has been one of the most important goals for improving mental health conditions on campus. Dr. Woodworth and Dr. Dorrell each said that the Mental Health forum in December illuminated how desperately the student body needed to be informed about resources that were available to them if they were experiencing a crisis. “Many students didn’t know that most of the well-being resources on campus even existed,” said Dorrell. She said that a significant chunk of time was spent during the forum trying to locate information gaps that existed between the student body and university administration. As she stated, the gaps were severe. “We realized that we needed to really push this information out there in a better way,” she explained.
One possible solution to spreading resource information has been the “one-stop-shop” Student Resource Guide created for first-year writing courses at Rowan. Although the guide has technically existed for about three years, Dr. Woodworth said professors have started putting links to this guide onto their Blackboard pages. “We used to put the link into our syllabi, but we realized no one was finding the guide there,” she said.
Now more than ever, the urgency behind making this guide as accessible as possible is high. Pulling up the student resource page onto her computer (which I had never seen before that day, despite being in my fourth semester at this university), Dr. Woodworth showed me the useful links that this guide provided. On this page you can find information about health and wellness resources both on and off campus, resources for food insecurity, advice for academic troubles, and links to campus groups that can assist students with social or medical troubles.
While combating mental health crises may seem like an uphill battle, there are staff within the Writing Arts department and the wider university who have been making significant steps forward in solving the issue. “Needing to write that essay is nowhere near as important as your personal well being,” said Dr. Woodworth towards the end of our conversation, a sentiment that is shared among her Writing Arts colleagues. “We want our students to learn, but frankly you can always retake Comp II,” Woodworth continued, “you only have one shot at life.”
This is Connor Buckmaster, student in the Writing Arts major and Head Intern for the Writing Arts Department. Speaking on behalf of myself and the Writing Arts Interns, I feel compelled to reach out to our students, to meet everyone where we find ourselves in light of the coronavirus and as we end the first week after transitioning online. I want to take a moment to share the thoughts and feelings I’ve been grappling with, as well as my vision for our community moving forward.
These last few weeks have been chaotic, filled with uncertainties. As we return to this semester, we enter into not only a different academic environment, but a different world. I think it’s important first to distinguish this: our community has never experienced a challenge like this before. In talking with friends and peers, many have voiced concerns about what the remainder of the semester will look like; there is a feeling of overwhelming uncertainty in the air. Yet I have also noticed, in the face of this anxiety and uncertainty, an overwhelming sense of support. It has grown naturally, from the ground up among students and friends, and top down from the department and professors. So it’s important, too, to distinguish this: our community is in this together.
Our professors have been working tirelessly to move their classes online. For many students, having five online classes may be overwhelming, and balancing this presents its own challenges. Our professors recognize this. I’ve spoken with several about their plans moving forward and how they hope to support their students. They’ve provided encouraging, thoughtful messages to their students; like Amanda Haruch, who told her students “they are important to me as people, and that I'll do what I need to to ensure their success.” Professor Haruch has created mental health and meme chats where her students can talk, seek support, and brighten each other's days. Jason Luther shared this message in a video posted to his Youtube channel, “I really want to think about how writing can help us in this moment. [...] What I’m [concerned] about is how you are going to balance five classes in this new environment. So I’m just trying to think really thoughtfully about that, and [make] sure you’re in a good place.” These messages echo what countless other professors across our department and across the university are striving to do: provide support and flexibility moving forward.
To me, these messages speak to the power of writing. Writing will unite us. Writing will be our direction forward, our tool to overcome the new challenges we face. Already, this movement has begun. Students and professors are using every form of writing to support each other. We will get through this together. We will use writing to overcome and thrive.
To our professors, I want to say thank you for your flexibility, thoughtfulness, and leadership as we walk into these uncharted lands. To the students, I urge you to prioritize your mental health and overall wellness, to advocate for yourself, and to keep an open communication between your peers and professors. If you need support, contact your Writing Arts professors, the Dean of Students, or the Wellness Center. There is online counseling available via Therapy Assistance Online (TAO); you can log in using your Rowan email. The CCCA has also created a COVID-19 informational page where you can find resources for advising, learning remotely, disability resources, and more. In addition, SHOP will continue providing resources to students with food insecurity.
This community of writers, of administrators, students, and teachers, has touched me deeply. I’m moved by the support I see, radiating from all corners. Though the context has changed, the content, the outstanding people inside our community, has not.
Above all, know that you are a valuable member of our Writing Arts community and that everyone is trying to make the best out of this difficult time. Stay safe, and hopefully I’ll be seeing you in the not-too-distant future.
The Writing Arts Interns
Connor Buckmaster, Tara Grier,
Marissa Stanko, & Matt Berrian