Phong Nguyen visits Carroll

Phong Nguyen, a short story writer and author of Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History, visited Carroll University to share his book with students and the public. Following his reading, he held a Q&A session regarding his collection of short stories and the art of writing.

One audience member asked Nguyen about his take on originality and if he had ever ceased to write something because it had “already been done.”

As writers, there is often the issue that an idea has already been written and written well. But what if we didn’t always have to be original? What if writing something that has been done before could be done again, perhaps shedding some new light onto the topic or idea?

Nguyen answered the question by pointing to an essay written by Jonathan Lethem, an American novelist, who writes about this idea in “The Ecstasy of Influence: A plagiarism.” On the first page, Lethem poses the argument that “literature has always been a crucible in which familiar themes are continually recast.” He suggests the continual recasting “might be said of all art.” He asks us to “consider the remarkable series of ‘plagiarisms’ that links Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.” If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.

What do you think about Lethem’s assertion? Check out his full work in Harper’s Magazine, and post your comments below.


Where We Write

Where do you find your spark of creativity? In what place do you feel most comfortable, open and successful? This article brings to light the importance of place for writers and why it is important for each writer to find his/her place.

Robert Creeley said “the necessary environment is that which secures the artist in the way that lets him be in the world in a most fruitful manner.” In other words, writers should look to find a place that will allow them to access their creativity, a place that will most successfully bring their writing to life. Ernest Hemingway preferred to write standing up while Jane Austen found success among her family life. Toni Morrison found success in a motel room, and Robert Frost could use the sole of his shoe as a tabletop.

It’s not all about finding physical location, though; time and space also play into the matter. Many writers begin writing before the sun comes up. Poet Tom Sleigh likes to write while on trains because for him that is “meditative, calming and interesting for the way the scenery keeps flashing by.”

How does this work for college students? We must find the place that suits our lifestyle.

Check out the spaces near you.

For the writers seeking silence and solitude on campus:

  • Dorm room
  • Empty classrooms around campus (check out Main’s top floor!)
  • Unoccupied practice rooms in Shattuck Hall
  • The Reading Room in the Todd Wehr Library

For the writers seeking a place with some background noise:

  • The lounge areas in the dorms
  • Any of the dining areas
  • Second Cup
  • The Learning Commons in the basement of the library
  • Any of the computer labs on campus

For all you writers who can write anywhere and at any time, more power to you! Keep doing your thing.

When and where do you write best? Comment below.

Meet Taylor Belmer: Student Blogger

Hello everyone! My name is Taylor Belmer.

I secured a highly selective, paid internship position with a major retailer for summer 2014. I will be working in the e-Commerce division for a major retailer as the Web Writing Intern.

The process for finding an internship does not happen overnight. For me, this process took about three months from my initial contact to the day they hired me.

My parents helped guide me to this internship opportunity. When you have a resource to help you out, use it! Though I had help with initial contact, the rest was done on my part. I maintained contact with a rep overseeing my division almost daily to make sure I was always up to speed. The goal is to keep your name fresh in their brains. I did not limit myself to only apply at this major retailer. Like anything else, a back-up plan never hurts.

When I was accepted for interviewing, I studied the website and offered brands. That gathered information, skills from previous jobs, and talking to people who currently work at the major retailer all contributed to interview success. Two phone interviews happened before I was invited to have a face-to-face interview. I then met with four current writers and executives in the e-Commerce division.

As a Web Writing Intern, I get the opportunity to assist the merchandise writing team in coordinating and developing content for a variety of online message vehicles. Some of my responsibilities will include:

• Manage relationships with the buying groups
• Oversee the sample turn-in process for each catalog
• Complete competitive and vendor research
• Develop copy concepts and write copy

I highly suggest having some internship experience. Go out there and find what is right for you. Happy internship hunting!