Posts Tagged ‘alumni’

playful news from alum Lori M. Myers

October 2, 2013



MA alum Lori M. Myers has good news to share! 

Her one-act play, “A 21st Century Christmas Carol,” has been published by Contemporary Drama Service. The play is a modern twist on Dickens’ classic with a female lead role, greedy old spinster Eleanor Scrooge. 

As a playwright, Lori’s work has been performed on six regional stages and has included drama, children’s musicals/plays, and comedic sketches. Her short fiction has appeared in various print and online literary journals both in the United States and abroad. She teaches writing workshops, is a part-time professor of writing at York College of Pennsylvania, and is interviews editor for Hippocampus Magazine where she has interviewed many noted authors. Lori holds a MA in creative writing from Wilkes University. 

For more info, visit Lori’s website:

A Scribble of Writers: Q&A with Stephanie Riese

May 15, 2013
Stephanie Riese at the Jan '11 Wilkes residency

Stephanie Riese at the Jan ’11 Wilkes residency

Wilkes alum Stephanie Riese runs A Scribble of Writers, a blog and creative collective. In this Q&A, Riese talks about their group, book reviewing, and invites others to join the collaboration.

Stephanie, tell us about A Scribble of Writers. What compelled you to start a collective?

I actually came up with the idea for Scribble of Writers at Wilkes. My friends and I were sitting in a social media class, hearing about how important it is to get our names out there and have an online presence. Listening to the types of writing websites and blogs people were using, I thought, “Hey, why not start our own?” I bounced the idea off the girls and they were enthusiastic. I love editing and proofing, so founding the site sounded like a lot of fun to me!

As part of the blog, you provide creativity prompts. Do you then share the results with one another? 

The prompts are emailed out to everyone, and they email their pieces back to me. After any necessary edits, I post them to the website, where everyone has a chance to enjoy them.

Why do you include book reviews on the blog?

Book reviews were the suggestion of my friend Michelle, who wanted to write them. They’re a great way to get your name out there, and also generate great traffic for the website. I’d love to get a few more people to write them.

How can others get involved in A Scribble of Writers?

Anyone who would like to join the scribble need only send me an email and tell me what they’re interested in writing, be it the prompts, book reviews, etc. I’d like everyone to do the prompts in addition to anything else they enjoy, but I’m flexible. I’d love to see the site expand, with someone writing a blog about the writing process or other things like that.


Thanks, Stephanie. If you’re interested in contacting Stephanie Riese about A Scribble of Writers, you’ll find her on Facebook.

On Writing: Tara Caimi guest essay

March 13, 2013

True Story

By Tara Caimi


Tara Caimi

Tara Caimi

As I settle into somewhat of a writing comfort zone after completing a creative writing degree, I find myself drawn to a form I never would have anticipated or thought to consider writing—the essay. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of all the possibilities with regard to essay before I returned to school to pursue an MFA. I’d always thought of essays in the traditional sense of the formula: introduction of an idea, explanation of a claim, statement of facts or opinions to support the claim, conclusion repeating the main points and reinforcing the original claim. We all learned this formula in high school, and none of us could wait for the day we’d never have to use it again. As students, we were always so worried about adhering to the formula that we could not have cared less about the claim itself. And constructing the supporting arguments—well, that just became an exercise in creative deduction. Half of the time, even I didn’t know what I was talking about. I knew how to follow the formula, though, and that earned me a respectable grade more often than it did not.

Twenty years later I found myself in front of an audience, reading a passage to practice my oratory as part of the MFA requirement. I had chosen a five-minute excerpt from the previous semester’s nonfiction reading assignment—a piece with which I’d fallen instantly in transformative love—Jo Ann Beard’s The Fourth State of Matter. During my introduction I referred to the work as a story, not only because it featured an obvious beginning, middle, and end comprising the requisite narrative arc, but also because Beard’s piece was lyrical, character-driven, and emotionally hyper-stimulating. It was everything I thought a story should be. Barring a chronic absence of self-confidence, I would have been proud, borderline smug, to have performed my reading, having chosen from such an obviously worthy piece. As it was, I suspected (or rather hoped) the work was sufficiently acclaimed as to make it impossible for anyone, of decent intellect, to fault the choice.

The raw terror that clutched my heart during the reading loosened its hold as I returned to my seat. Lowering myself into the folding chair, I noticed a professor in front of me turn to offer what I thought would be words of comfort and/or congratulations at my having successfully read such a riveting piece of work. Still jittery from the public speaking experience, I anticipated the compliment by prematurely smiling as the words thank you formed on my lips.

“It’s an essay,” the professor said.

Descent halted, my rear end hovered an inch above the aluminum seat.

“You called it a story,” he finished, as I forced my now rigid body the rest of the way down into the chair.

Perhaps I nodded in agreement, smile still plastered to my face; tongue, having been stopped, in its part, from contributing to the words of thanks, perched lightly behind my two front teeth. By the time my confusion made its way from neurons, through synapses, and on to its facially expressed destination, the professor had already turned toward the front of the room and was actively absorbed in whatever the next student was reading.

I’ve grown to welcome these moments of discomfort in my life, but only in hindsight. I’m nowhere near the level of self-actualization it would take for me to recognize opportunity in such moments of extreme humiliation. Little did I know at the time that the comment would send me on an extended exploration of the varying styles, structures, and voices of essays.

I soon found myself plowing through works not only by Jo Ann Beard but also by George Orwell, Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf, David Sedaris, Abigail Thomas—there are too many to name. Though I now knew better, I could not stop thinking of these works in terms of story. What constitutes the difference? I obsessively wondered.

In their book Creating Nonfiction, Becky Bradway and Doug Hesse point out that narrative is “often the most important” (p. 39) organizational strategy for creative nonfiction and that “very often it (creative nonfiction) reads like a story” (p. 3). “Most creative nonfiction relies, almost inevitably, upon narrative. Narrative is story” (p. 41), Bradway and Hesse go so far as to proclaim, deepening the mystery entirely. If essays rely on story, I considered, why is the label separating the genres so important?

Determined to decipher this enigma, I attended the 2011 Association for Writers and Writing Professionals Conference, where I packed in as many sessions on essay as I could reasonably attend. During the panel presentation, “The Essayist in the 21st Century,” Robert Atwan pointed out that most people regard “essay” as “a four-letter word.” The comment struck a note in the recesses of my mind like a mallet hitting a xylophone bar. The moment he said it, I realized, so did I. Apparently, my junior-high-induced essay-equals-boring mental model had relegated essay, as an entire genre, to a dusty shelf in the back of a dark, moldy, subconscious closet where it had lived, neglected and alone, for twenty-some-odd years. Poor essay.

When I was twelve years old, I found a cat. More to the fact, a cat found me. She was black with orange spots and a checkerboard face; skinny and shy and at first appearance homely. She hung around the house until my parents were forced to acknowledge her presence in our lives. My first real pet. It didn’t matter that she had to live outside. I named her Gypsy and built her bed out of a cardboard box and a ratty old blanket—the only one my mother was willing to spare. I put the bed under a chair on the back porch where, less than a month later, Gypsy had her kittens. I watched those kittens emerge, and I sat on the porch with Gypsy on my lap as she fed those kittens every day until they went to live in different homes. The night the last of her babies were taken away, I stayed with Gypsy in the kitchen, crying desperately as she howled. The little stray cat that nobody else wanted pulled at my heart. I guess I’ve always been a sucker for the underappreciated.

With essays, I have to believe it’s a matter of semantics (and perhaps the same is true for strays). In reality, essays are diverse, entertaining, and rich with poignant potential. In the mental model remnants from early education, essays are formulaic, boring, and emotionally vacant. These are the models that pervade. I suppose, as writers, we could take the easy way out and label narrative essays as true stories. It wouldn’t be deceptive—not by definition that rings true to me—and it might bolster readership, which would be a win for everyone. But I suppose that wouldn’t be the point.

Those of us brave or curious or outright lost enough to re-enter the closet where our preconceptions lie might find ourselves dusting off the mental models, washing away the mold, and uncovering a treasure that will, forevermore, pull at our hearts. We will embrace the essays that find us, champion those that do not, and truly hope they all find homes.


Work Cited: Bradway, Becky, and Douglas Dean. Hesse. Creating Nonfiction: a Guide and Anthology. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.


Tara Caimi is a freelance writer with a B.A. in journalism and an M.F.A. in creative writing. Her essays, stories, and articles have appeared in journals and magazines including the Writer’s Chronicle, The MacGuffin, Fire & Knives, and Oh Comely magazine.

Q&A with alum Gale Martin

September 12, 2012

Recent Wilkes graduate Gale Martin is soaring to the top with her latest release, Grace Unexpected. The book recently reached #1 status for Amazon’s list of Movers and Shakers thanks to a 3-day book giveaway. Even after the freebie, the sales keep coming in not only for this most recent release, but her 2011 book Don Juan in Hankey, PA as well. See what Gale has to say about her publication experience in this Q&A.

Thousands of readers have downloaded a copy of the novel from Amazon. Sometimes the book has even been offered for free on Kindle. How do downloads and free copies help your overall marketing efforts?

Once an independent author sells her book to the 100-200 people she personally knows, she needs a vehicle to massively enhance the visibility of her title. A very tiny percentage of people—perhaps one for every 1,000—will actually respond to any sort of messaging or marketing with an actual book purchase or an action. If you have 300 followers on your Facebook fan page, that may seem like a big deal to you, but statistically speaking, it’s not likely to yield many sales. I have close to 3,000 followers on my two Twitter accounts, which is expected to yield a sale of 3+ books, and it did yield dozens more than that because I’d done a great deal of relationship mining prior to DON JUAN and GRACE U‘s publication. But I can’t expect those kinds of follower numbers to greatly impact my sales.

Basically, the Kindle Free days are a tool to reach tens of thousands of potential readers who will then help boost paid sales. And it worked. During my three Free Kindle days in early September, more than 38,300 readers downloaded GRACE UNEXPECTED for free. In the next 36 hours, it sold 400 copies. And it’s still highly ranked. It sounds counterintuitive, but in order to get reviews, I have to give away 100 or more copies. In order to get the requisite word of mouth—the buzz—needed to sell books in volume, tens of thousands of people have to have heard about my book. Kindle Free campaigns are one tool indie authors can use to reach a certain threshold of visibility (lacking the big media campaigns of the Big Six publishers.)

Speaking of marketing efforts, can you tell us a bit about what lead you to the ‘Don Juan Gets Around’ contest?

Well, that was a funny, organic sort of campaign that evolved because a geographic location is referenced in the title. One of my video reviewers, an opera singer, responded so strongly to Hankey, PA, that he recorded his professional performing group The American Tenors, singing “Hankey, PA” during one of his East Coast gigs. Then a friend took the book to scenic St. Barth’s just after it was published. Then, he posted the photo of Don on Facebook. And other people who had bought the book began sending me photos from their parts of the world–Staffordshire, England; Yosemite National Park; the Paris Opera; Seoul, Korea; Florida; Salem, Mass.; Mt. Rushmore; Shanghai; and of course, the winning photo was taken in Puerto Rico. It was great fun receiving photos of DON JUAN from around the country and the world.

Grace Unexpected was recently picked for best designed covers by Congrats! Tell us about the book design process and how this cover came to be.

This is a fantastic process with Booktrope. Basically, you talk with your book manager about what qualities you want your cover to project. Then, the designer who has elected to work with you tries to match your vision. It took ten iterations before my manager, Booktrope’s COO, and I agreed on a cover. It was great fun to see it evolve, to see it refined from draft to draft. I needed it to project energy and lightness. Bright colors convey lightness. I also wanted to show scenic Shaker Village which is the location for the book’s inciting incident. Designer Greg Simanson is really a genius. And also really listens. Because everyone knows indie books need great covers to sell well. And Booktrope is firmly committed to that.

You’re pretty active on Facebook. How has social media helped develop your author platform?

I can’t imagine being an indie author and achieving any success (which I define as having your work read and appreciated) without relying on social media. Book reviewers are more inclined to review your work if you have the capability to Tweet or Share their review. Every blog post I write is magnified and can obtain more Google juice because it can be broadcast via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, etc. Let’s face it, since time immemorial, word of mouth has sold books, and social media offers viral word of mouth. If one person endorses your novel on their Facebook page, all their friends take their recommendations very seriously, especially if the poster is a thought leader. In looking at my analytics over time, Facebook sends more traffic to my website and blog than any other single source. So, if writers can’t embrace more than one social media outlet, they should at least establish a Facebook fan page.

How did the Wilkes program prepare you for your publication experience?

Author and Alum Gale Martin

For one thing, you leave the program with clear expectations that Wilkes wants you to publish. They expect you to try your level best to get published. Another thing—I’ve done a lot of author events since first being published in November of 2011. And the Wilkes program definitely helps prepare authors to present their writing. I did an author event with a Big Six author. He didn’t know how to read or showcase his work at the event in which we both participated. Thanks to the Wilkes program, I and every Wilkes-trained author I’ve presented with absolutely kills personal appearances. Also, I have tapped my fellow students and faculty members for endorsements and blurbs. So, overall, I would say my Wilkes preparation was invaluable to my feeling confident and projecting a professional writer’s image.

Final thoughts?

I feel very fortunate to have found Booktrope and to have been embraced by them. They work so hard—tirelessly—to help the authors they represent to succeed. It’s like being part of a very caring family. Within that family are authors like me who have had literary representation at one time and/or who have sought representation for years and haven’t succeeded. Emerging authors need to know there are other models available for publication, additional avenues besides the Big Six. I’ve gotten so much satisfaction from the publication of my novels. It’s less important to readers who publishes your novel—just that it’s published. And you don’t have to self-publish, which offers no appeal to me whatsoever. Not with publishers like Booktrope around who provide support and expertise for authors on every level—editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing, and promotion.

Gale Martin is scheduled to participate in Pat Florio’s (another Wilke’s alum!) author showcase on September 23: Writers Showcase in Belmar, NJ, 608 River Road, 3 PM to 5:30 PM.

More news and events from Gale Martin are posted on her website,

A Week in Provincetown: Mailer Center

August 29, 2012

A Week in Provincetown

By Patricia Florio

Patricia Florio

If you’ve ever had a dream come true, or received a wonderful compliment, or someone really special came into your life when you needed him or her most, that’s how it felt when I received notice that I had been a finalist in the 2012 Norman Mailer Fellowship Contest and I could choose two weeks in Provincetown at the Norman Mailer Center. I settled on one week to keep my life and my family’s life uncomplicated.

We were nine nonfiction writers sitting around the conference table in Norman Mailer’s house under the guidance of Dr. J. Michael Lennon.  Six of us had never met before.  Three of us were alumni from the Wilkes Creative Writing Program.

We all were in awe of our surroundings as Norman Mailer’s energy filled the room.  Dr. Lennon gave us a tour of the home early on Sunday morning. You have to experience this tour through his home to understand the magnanimous legacy that he left behind. His office and writing desk were exactly as he left it on the day he died.  Books surrounded him.  Papers, drawings, ideas on index cards filled his desk.  We were on the third floor of his home looking at the view of Provincetown.  A view, we were told, that Norman Mailer loved.

Every morning as we entered the house, the view of the beach and Cape Cod Bay filled our eyes. Dr. Lennon’s voice filled our ears.  It was the perfect storm for creative juices to flow.  And flow they did.

Young, Andrew, and Diane seated to my right hailed from Los Angeles CA, Lexington KY, and Brooklyn NY, along with all of the other writers, listened attentively as Patrick, across the table, shared his creative ideas for his book. Patrick is a state court judge from Chicago who has fought a tough fight for justice over the past forty years. Directly after his pitch that involved a fire in his building where his secretary and friends were killed, trapped inside a stairwell, is when our discussions took shape.  We elaborated on our critique for his opening chapters. Our minds worked on overtime, much to everyone’s delight. Patrick wrote down our suggestions. I think everyone of us would agree we would have stayed around that table discussing ideas through the night, if they would have let us.  But there are house rules at the Mailer Colony.  By six o’clock we all had to be off the premises. Most days we broke at four and sat on the deck together as boats went by, people swam in the bay, and our minds churned over the day’s events.

We were a forceful team thirty minutes into our first session. It’s amazing how it all happened. We bonded like glue; nine people who didn’t have a relationship when we entered the room became a force of creative power.  We were like a thunderbolt of electricity.  Light bulb after light bulb went off in our minds as we went around the table reading each other’s work.

Nick from Miami was working on a memoir he completed for Kindle Short: an exceptional piece of polished work that blew the rest of us writers away. Peggy from Dallas shared her memoir and memories of Paris, a love story that captured our souls.  Nicole from Boston is working on her dissertation for her PhD about Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings.  We worked extensively on this brilliant piece filling in the blanks for readers to understand how complicated his novel is to decipher.  Rachael from Wilkes-Barre struggled with the opening of her of memoir, as did I with my new memoir.  By the end of the week we sailed into the room, perhaps a bit tired, but we all made amazing breakthroughs in our work.

You can’t put a figure on what we received and gave each another that week.  And you can’t put a dollar amount on how blessed we were to have Dr. Lennon as our facilitator. A week for writers at Provincetown: Priceless!


Patricia A. Florio is the author of My Two Mothers and a graduate of the Wilkes University MA/MFA programs. She writes travel related articles for Striped Pot and lives in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Find Patricia online at

Q&A with author Amye Archer

August 10, 2011

You know her. You love her. And she is indeed one of our own. A very recent grad of the Wilkes MFA program, Amye Archer has just launched her chapbook, A Shotgun Life, to rave reviews. Amye took a few minutes from her busy schedule to chat about this well-deserved publication. Without further ado…

Amye, congratulations on the publication of A Shotgun Life. Can you tell us a little about the themes and ‘story’ of this collection? 

This collection deals with my struggle to find my place among the mothers of the world.  As you may have guessed from the title, my pregnancy was a bit of a surprise.  I went from getting divorced and thinking I could not have children, to being the mother of twin girls and having a new husband, all within two years.  In this collection I wanted to capture the difficulties of instant and unexpected motherhood.  Those maternal instincts are not always as automatic as you think.  I once left my kids with the Eater Bunny at the mall.  I forgot I had them.  Thankfully, he was a decent Easter Bunny and he returned them.

What was the journey like for you, to document so many personal experiences and then step back from the personal to put on your objective editor’s hat? Who did you turn to for support in this process?

I have never been shy about splashing myself across the page.  I don’t know if my self-humiliation gene is clicked off, or what happened, but I’m easily able to read self-depricating, or very personal things about my life without flinching.  However, that doesn’t always translate into being a strong writer.  The Wilkes poetry faculty helped me overcome that hurdle.  Christine Gelineau helped me recognize my writing style:  Like a sculptor, I overwrite, and then chip away what is not the poem.

Tell us about working with Big Table Publishing, the publisher of your chapbook. What was the process like, from acquisition to publication?

A few years ago, Robin Stratton, the woman who runs Big Table and Boston Literary Magazine, accepted a few poems from this collection for publication in her magazine.  At that time, I sent her the manuscript.  She liked it, but felt it lacked a narrative arc.  And THAT… is where Tony Morris comes in.   Tony, a poet in the Wilkes University Creative Writing Program, gave me great advice as to finding that arc.  He told me to print all the poems out, and scatter them around my living room floor.  Something will emerge, he assured me.  (ala A Beautiful Mind style…)  Once I found that arc, I revised, and resent to Robin.  This time she loved the manuscript.

Now that you’ve finished up your MFA with Wilkes, what is your writing life like? What fills your day and what do you find most challenging without the ever-present community surrounding you? Or, is it like you’ve never left?  

I graduated?  Oh crap.  Well, it will take more than a degree to get rid of me.  (a restraining order maybe?)  I still hang around the office trying to absorb the energy of the new students coming into the program.  I’m very lucky because I live close enough to do that.  I think the Wilkes community is what you make of it.  Either you take it with you or you don’t.  I’ve taken it with me.  My cohort and I are tight, and I have made lifelong friends.  I also started a reading series, Prose in Pubs, which ensures I will forever be surrounded by enormous talent, at least every other month on a Sunday night.

How did the Wilkes program help you become the writer you are today? What do you think was most influential in your development as a writer?

I aways say, if you learn nothing else in this program, you learn how to live like a writer.  I was always a writer, but fancied my talents as just a hobby, something I did for fun.  Wilkes connects you with like-minded individuals who transform your writing from pastime to passion.

What are your plans now? Is there a memoir to keep our eyes out for?

Well, I’m working with an agent on revising my memoir.  One of two things is going to happen with my memoir:  You are either going to see it for sale someday, or it will perish in a fiery blaze in my fire pit.  It can go either way right now.

Finally, where can readers find you online and in person?

I have created a blog where anyone, stalkers included, can find out anything they need to know about me:  You can find Prose in Pubs on Facebook.  In the upcoming weeks we have some big names reading for us starting with Jason Carney, a national performance poet, and fellow student in the Wilkes Program.


Be sure to visit Amye’s page dedicated to A Shotgun Life here.

guest blogger: graduate Patricia Florio

August 3, 2011

Patricia Florio is a recent grad of the Wilkes MA and MFA creative nonfiction writing programs. She lives in Ocean Grove NJ and is a travel writer for For her nonfiction thesis, Patricia worked with drafting mentor Rashidah Ismaili Abubakr and revision mentor Phil Brady. She has provided this guest post today to talk about her experience with the Wilkes program and share her path to publication! Patricia has seen two of her short stories, “All in the Game” and “In The Secret Service,” accepted for anthology publication and very soon her thesis memoir, My Two Mothers, will be released with Phyllis Scott Publishing.

Without further ado, welcome Patricia Florio…


My time at Wilkes seems forever ago and sometimes it seems like I’m still there in the thick of writing, observing, listening and being a part of the moment-by-moment creativity that only a program like the Wilkes low-residency MA/MFA can offer.

I had never gone away to college. Actually, I had never gone anywhere without my husband and four children, since it seems like I was a child when I had my first, a set of twin boys, and then two more children over the years. Wilkes’ program offered me that part of life that I felt I missed out on in my college education. I had gone to school, it seems, most of my life: first, conquering the skill of becoming a court reporter in a crash-course program at the College of Staten Island in 1983 through 1985.  

While working in the federal court in Brooklyn, my desire heightened to push further from an associate’s degree at Brookdale Community College to a bachelor’s of arts program. It took seven years to complete that program at Rutgers University on a part-time basis. When I found out about the Wilkes programs, it was a no-brainer. I was already in for a pound of education. Why not go the whole nine yards?

That first Friday night at Wilkes, I knew I had come to the right place. There were other scared people like myself scurrying around the hallways. There were others who were betting their talent cut it far away in this university in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. I knew that night I could stop saying, “I’m a court reporter” and finally say I’m a writer.

J Michael Lennon and Nancy McKinley are so perfect for the 501 cohorts: the gentle lead. They are so perfect in their element of the new and brave writers who first walk in the door. I could have shared anything with them like going into a confessional. I was able to write my most inner-kept secrets, my passion for writing, all of the thoughts that I have had circling around in my head for years and years, dying to come out and to have its own voice.  

This Wilkes program is a special program. Those of us participating in the programs at Wilkes know it, even though sometimes it can’t be defined as to what it is that has captivated us. Experiential things are hard to put a title on, or words to, almost like a religious retreat. It’s what’s going on inside a person that makes them push harder during the twelve hour days of the first cohort, taking every moment into your pores, absorbing it all, going back to the hotel exhausted and coming back for more the next day.

I’ve been lucky, although I just don’t want to put it on luck: being at the right place at the right time, having a good story to tell, being able to tell that story with the uniqueness of my words and with the passion of coming from a Sicilian family, whom I wanted to share with the world, a publisher asked to publish my memoir/thesis.  Signing a contract and understanding what I’m entitled to by selling my story, all of that came from the classes at Wilkes.

My outside reader, Lucy Carson, played a very special role. She said, “This is not for a New York market.” So I took my story to California. It seems silly because my story is about growing up in Brooklyn, New York.  But I listened to the words of her advice. So sometime this year My Two Mothers, my thesis/memoir, now broken down into a collection of short stories will be available from Phyllis Scott Publishing (San Diego CA).

There’s always work that’s going to have to be done when you’re a writer. I will have to market my book, have book parties, set up readings and book signings, make myself known to the public and the most important thing for me is to keep writing.  I’m in the midst of writing my first novel, called Hats off to Larry.  It’s a fun story and intriguing at the same time. It’s interesting what your creative mind can come up with. All I can say is that I am the beneficiary of the Wilkes University Creative Writing Program. And that’s really something!