At the first Writing Arts faculty-student meet and greet held this October, department chair Dr. Drew Kopp and Dr. Jade Jones unveiled a special opportunity that Writing Arts students could take up this coming January: the Writing Arts Winter Writing Retreat. As Morgan Riccobenne quoted in her blog post covering the meet and greet event, Dr. Kopp expressed that the Winter Writing Retreat is meant to kickstart the Writing Arts Department’s newly developed mission statement of providing students with “distinctive educational experiences” that will give them an edge in their future writing careers. With the first day of the retreat a single month away, and only one available spot left for interested students, now would be the time to take a closer look at what this retreat is going to look like for those attending and what this event means for the future of Writing Arts at Rowan.
Before I dig into what students can expect from this experience, I’m going to take a moment to give some background behind why this retreat is happening in the first place. Over the past year, the staff of Rowan’s Writing Arts department have been taking time to re-evaluate its mission, and the goals that the department will have to reach in order to fulfill this mission. As these questions have been carefully examined throughout the past year, there is one idea that the department has indisputably stood behind: the Writing Arts major of Rowan will always strive to provide its students with an empowering, distinct education, while also guiding each student into new opportunities and experiences that will help them shape into the kind of writers that they want to be. Dr. Kopp expressed that the department’s commitment to providing this educational experience to its students will be seen through the upcoming Winter Writing Retreat that he and several other Writing Arts professors have put together, including Jade Jones, Megan Atwood, Lanre Akinsiku, Keri Mikulski, Heather Lanier, and Amanda Haruch.
For those lucky enough to be attending this weekend-long retreat, students will be traveling to Pendle Hill in Wallington, PA. This cozy retreat center sits on a comfortable 24 acres of land, surrounded by plenty of wildlife, nature trails, and meditation ponds. During the day on Saturday, students will work in a series of workshops with published faculty and professional writers to hone their craft in a variety of written genres. Professor Jones will lead a workshop on creative nonfiction, with a focus on developing students’ sense of voice, narrative point of view, and the power of descriptive language. Her workshop will guide students into these layers of understanding by analyzing excerpts from Octavia Butler and Audre Lorde. Professor Atwood’s workshop will rely on her expertise in creative fiction to help students improve their ability to craft characters and setting.
Joining them will be published author Lanre Akinsiku, and new Writing Arts professor Heather Lanier. Akinsiku, whose work was placed in the New York Public Library’s annual list of greatest books for children and young adults, will be leading his own fiction writing workshop, with special consideration being spent on helping students vanquish “some of the pesky writing demons” that feed writer’s block, as he described. Professor Lanier’s workshop will focus on elements of poetry -- such as how to create the right image, and the “musicality” of language. Students in her workshop will be in an environment fostered to promote creativity and growth, where they will write new poems and receive feedback from professors and peers. At the end of the retreat, students will have the opportunity to read what they’ve been working on to faculty and peers, and will also be able to join in on a dinner with a publisher who is currently working in the field.
The experiences that students will have at this retreat is an encapsulation of the Writing Arts Department’s newfound drive to forge opportunities for its hard-working students. There aren’t many other schools that offer programs such as this retreat, which is exactly what makes department chair Dr. Kopp hope that the department will be able to offer other writing-workshop retreats in the future. “What I am committed to students getting from this,” he explained, is an experience that “enriches and expands what it means to be a writer, deepening their connections with other students and faculty in the department.” He and others in the department hope that the Winter Writing Retreat will lay a fertile groundwork for being able to keep expanding what Rowan’s Writing Arts faculty can provide for their students in an ever-competitive market for writers.
Interested in joining the Writing Arts Winter Writing Retreat at Pendle Hill? Email Jade Jones (jonesjr @ rowan . edu) or Drew Kopp (kopp @ rowan . edu) today!