Jennifer De Leon Reads at SSU

1 Dec

Jennifer De Leon

By: Jessica Tower

Jennifer De Leon, a fiction writer, a memoirist, and a teacher in Boston, came to Salem State on November 6th to discuss her new book, Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education, which she edited. Her new book was published in March 2014 by the University of Nebraska Press. Jennifer stated during the reading that the book was a decade in the making, and that she was excited for it to have finally come out.

The book centers around Latina women telling their personal stories regarding higher education. Jennifer De Leon is Latina herself and spoke a lot about her experiences during both the reading and the forum. Professor J.D. Scrimgeour said that “Jennifer DeLeon is a natural storyteller, and her stories were full of humor and wisdom.”

Jennifer started her visit at Salem State with a forum titled, “Latinas in Higher Education: What We All Need to Know.” During this event, she discussed her book and her personal experience with higher education, talking about events such as her first day at an upper-class liberal arts college, where she felt out of place due to being Latina, her income, and the fact that everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. She remarked that she felt as if college had always been the endpoint for her; she only really ever thought of making it to college, not of actually making it out.

De Leon then joined faculty and students for dinner at the North Campus Dining Hall. There were approximately twenty people at the dinner. Later, Jennifer participated in her reading, which took place at 7:30 on North Campus in the Ellison Center’s Metro Room, which was also where the forum had taken place. During her reading, she talked about her book and read an essay that she had published about a family member’s struggles. At the end, she opened it up for questions, where many people asked about her personal experiences as a Latina woman. She discussed how she was chosen for an exclusive unpaid internship while in college, but turned it down because she did not have the funds available to pay for housing. However, her school contacted her to let her know about funding available. She did not know about the opportunity for funding and wanted others to know that universities often have funding available for situations like hers.

Jennifer De Leon’s visit to campus was a great experience for students. When speaking with Professor J.D. Scrimgeour, he said “My students flat-out loved her, and her visit inspired them to produce some great writing. Many of them identified with her struggles to negotiate between different cultures.”

Jennifer also has somewhat of a connection to Salem State. Professor Scrimgeour stated that “Jennifer attended graduate school at UMass Boston with SSU graduate and former Soundings East Editor, Jeremy Lakaszcyck.”

At the time of publication, the Writers’ Series events at Salem State have ended for the fall 2014 semester. However, if you are looking for more writing-related events to attend this semester, there are two upcoming ones: the Poetry Film Festival on December 4th from 7:30 to 9:00pm in the MLK room at the Ellison Campus Center, and the final English Society meeting of the semester on December 8th at 11:00am in Meier Hall 249E. Refreshments will be served at both events.


An Interview with Alexandria Peary

13 Nov

Alex Peary

By:  Jessica Tower

Author and teacher, Salem State University Professor Alex Peary, was gracious enough to allow herself to be interviewed after her packed reading in late October.  We spoke about her newest book, Control Bird Alt Delete, her recent reading, her general writing process, and her current writing projects.

Regarding her newest book, which came out in March 2014 and won the Iowa Poetry Prize in 2013, Professor Peary said that she was “inspired by the illustrator Charley Harper (his bird and nature images), but the book is also an exploration of past-and-present New England.   In the book, I explore landscapes based on the ‘ruins’ of New England and others based on the architectural prints of the unconscious. Robert Frost meets Times Square. Nature intrudes in unexpected ways on domestic settings—and vice versa—domestic and industrial settings appear in bits inside the pastoral. Birds, one-dimensional and strangely wise (definitely wiser than me), flit back and forth and rebelliously tape up their songs. All the while, the unconscious in Control Bird Alt Delete threatens to intrude with its underlined places, its trap doors inside ordinary conversations, the mazes it hangs up like ‘welcome home’ banners next to people’s mouths while they speak.”

When talking about her writing process and approach, she talked about mindfulness and meditation, “I use a mindfulness approach to writing. It’s described in my blog, Your Ability to Write is Always Present: I write every day using these principles. Writing is a form of grace for me. Since becoming a mother, I have little time to actually sit on a meditation cushion, and writing serves as my daily meditation practice.”

Professor Peary recently had a reading at Salem State on Thursday, October 23 at 7:30pm. It was held in the Metro Room in the Ellison Campus Center. When asked how the reading went, she said that it “went fine, and it was great to see so many former (some from first-year composition) and colleagues. I loved the thoughtful questions from the audience during the Q & A; SSU has a vibrant community of writers.”

Professor Peary then talked about her new writing projects and the ways in which creative non-fiction and poetry are different for her, “My current projects are a mix of creative nonfiction and poetry. I’m about ¾ of the way done with my next poetry book and having tremendous fun. This poetry manuscript has a different theme—one I’ve been thinking about for almost fifteen years. In my creative nonfiction, I’ve been working on bending my use of the genre: using third-person, for instance, instead of first-person to alter perspective on content. Creative nonfiction allows me to perceive how I’m living my life; poetry allows me to playtime with language.”

Contributors Note: Jessica Tower is a senior at Salem State studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and is a tutor at the Writing Center. She has a minor in Spanish. Jessica wants to go on to graduate school to receive her MFA in poetry.

Poetry & Fiction — Writers’ Series Takes Two

20 Oct

Todd Davis  Steve Yarbrough

By: Cayla Marks

Salem State’s second Writers’ Series event premiered in the Metro Room of the Ellison Campus Center on Thursday, October 9th, 2014. Seventy people, give or take, eagerly awaited the creative works of poet Todd Davis and fiction novelist Steve Yarbrough.

Davis teaches English and Environmental Studies at Penn State; whereas, Yarbrough is a Creative Writing professor at Emerson College. Salem State’s very own J. D. Scrimgeour prefaced the authors each with a bit of biographical information, along with a glimpse into their style of work.

Todd Davis read a handful of original poems he penned, all of which are included in his collection of poems titled, In the Kingdom of the Ditch. Interestingly, he provided a personal anecdote and factoids relative to the understanding of the poem. He embodied an overall theme of spiritual and natural connections within his writing, and connected his work to experiences from his own life. As a hunter and a self-quoted tree-hugger, Davis utilized mystical, descriptive, and vivid language to truly capture the essence of the outdoors and other experiences.

Steve Yarbrough read two excerpts from his novel, The Realm of Last Chances. His third person account of Kristin, Matt, and Cal, three richly written personalities, exemplifies the beauty in character development. Unlike Davis, he claims not to have included personal experience in his writing: funny fictitious fiction. Yarbrough’s work is quick-witted, comical, and descriptive, an interesting story of these three complex characters.

The next Writer’s Series event is scheduled for Thursday, October 25th, 2014 at 7:30pm in the Metro Room of Ellison Campus Center, featuring poet SSU’s own Alexandria Peary.

Contributor’s Note: Cayla Marks likes videogames, photography, creative writing, and pugs. She is a freshman English major, and she really needs to declare her photography minor.

First Writers’ Series: Kevin Carey & Jennifer Jean

9 Oct

Kevin Carey Jennifer Jean

By: Jessica Tower

The first Writers’ Series event of the semester was held on Tuesday, September 30th, at 7:30pm at the Salem Athenaeum. It featured faculty members Jennifer Jean and Kevin Carey. Jennifer Jean read poetry, while Kevin Carey read short fiction. The event also featured an open mike for members of the Salem Writers’ Group.

Kevin Carey read from his new book The Beach People, which discusses people who enjoy going to the beach and also about the lives of the people at a takeout stand on a beachfront. Jennifer Jean read from her new book of poetry titled The Fool. Some of the poems that she read were “The Prisoner,” which took her seven years to write, a poem about Halloween titled “Grace,” and “Same Old,” a poem about looking back into a hard past and human trafficking.

When speaking with Professor January O’Neil after the event, she stated: “This event is a tremendous example of the vitality and energy emanating from the North of Boston and Salem State University is at the heart of it.”

The next Writers’ Series event of the semester will be held on Thursday, October 9th at 7:30pm in the Metro Room of the Ellison Campus Center. It will feature poet Todd Davis and fiction writer Steve Yarbrough. We hope to see you there!

Contributor’s Note: Jessica Tower is a senior at Salem State studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and is a tutor at the Writing Center. She has a minor in Spanish. Jessica wants to go on to graduate school to receive her MFA in poetry.

Think Before You Swipe: How Not to Drown in Credit Card Debt

2 Oct

credit debt

By: Leanne DeMars

For those of us not born with a silver spoon in our mouths, receiving the “New Billing Statement Issued” e-mail from Salem State feels like a nightmare. Our wallets tremble with fear at the thought of being emptied yet again. Though we have grown up under the impression that credit cards should be avoided like the plague, the temptation to apply for one continues to grow. Credit card companies prey on college students, knowing we are desperate for money. They send out piles of applications through the mail as bait, hoping to catch a bite from a hungry student. Even though it may be true that credit cards can get you into trouble if not used responsibly, you do need to establish credit if you want to buy a car, house, etc.

Before opening up an account with the first company you find, do some research. Look at different company websites to see which card is the best fit for your lifestyle. Keep in mind that you should know your APR (Annual Percentage Rate), aka how much interest the credit card company is charging you. Be sure you are aware of this especially when making a purchase on credit. That way you know if you really can afford it. The best way to avoid credit card debt is to never buy something on credit unless you know you can pay for it. If rash decisions are made when shopping with your new card, you will become trapped in a void of only making the minimum payment forever.

Unless you are a shopaholic, owning a credit card can be very beneficial to us money-starved college kids. Remember, you do not need that Louis Vuitton bag for school (no matter how pretty). Use your card for real emergencies and make an effort to pay your bill as soon as possible. Doing so will help you sleep better at night and will prevent your phone from filling up with the missed calls of bill collectors. One of the best ways to avoid credit card debt is to not tempt yourself with items you do not need. Cut back on the shopping, unless it is for necessities. Take advantage of discounts for college students, clip coupons as if you are a single mother with six kids, and gather up as many free samples as you can. If you really have a shopping problem, stay far away from credit cards and find a well-paying job to suit your needs.

Contributor’s note: Leanne DeMars is a Business Major with a concentration in Management.

Firsts Matter!

22 Sep


By:  Lisa Danca

College is one of the most defining chapters in a person’s life. Perhaps the best thing about college is that you can be the finest version of yourself and build a shiny new life. But shockingly, 1-in-3 first years don’t return for their sophomore year according to the US News and World Reports. There are various reasons first years drop out, but a chief one is loneliness. Fortunately, Salem State’s First Year Experience Office has made some major changes this year to prevent less issues because as Plato once said, “the beginning is the most important part of the work.”

The First Year Experience Office is a resource on campus that helps first-years successfully transition from high school to university life. They are in charge of FAB (First-Year Advisory Board), which hosts programs and makes recommendations to improve the first year at the university; the Student Success Series, programs that help students gain valuable skills to be more successful in the classroom and beyond; and Alpha Lambda Delta, the first-year honor society.

“‘First Matters’ is our new tagline,” says director Matthew Chetnik. “The tagline is based on John Gardner’s, Institute For Excellence In Undergraduate Education. Every first experience you have should be important, meaningful, and happy. So if you think back to your first kiss, the first time you rode a bike, the first date you went on, the first time you ate pizza- all of those things are memories and they matter in terms of your growth and development. So we’ve gone with ‘First Matters’ to help students think about how their first year in college matters.”

The First Year Experience Office, located in Meier Hall 101, doesn’t just work with students, they also collaborate with faculty. The biggest innovation that has been implanted is the first year seminar. All first years and transfers with fewer than fifteen credits are required to take a first year seminar. “First year seminars serve as launching pads for exploration and discovery, providing students with an opportunity to look at the world and specific issues and topics in a whole new way. These unique courses are focused on collaborative learning in an exciting environment. There are over fifty courses new students can take, including “a tarot card course taught by a political science professor and a yoga class instructed by a computer science professor.”

“I am taking Genocide and Holocaust Studies with Professor Mauriello,” says first-year, Jackie Saunders. “One main way this course is useful is that our professor tries to teach us skills like critical reading and writing without expecting us to know everything, which may happen in a course with mixed years. It is also great to have a class of all freshman so we can talk about what’s going on for us and have people to relate to that.”

“I wasn’t expecting my first year seminar to be amazing!” adds Jaye Sarina, who is taking Express Yourself: Dance To The Rhythm. “I love it because the teacher is really nice and nonjudgmental. He makes a comfortable atmosphere for us to be in. It’s a small class, around ten students, so we are really close. It feels like a family. Without my first year seminar, I think I would have a harder, less happy first semester.”

So before you decide to drop or transfer, be sure to see the First Year Experience Office. They are genuinely interested in the student body and are a firm believer in this quote from “South Park”- “there’s a time and place for everything and it’s called college.”

Contributor’s Note:  Lisa Danca, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Red Skies is an English Major with a concentration in Professional Writing.  When she is not writing articles for Red Skies, she enjoys reading young adullt fiction, watching beauty guru videos on YouTube, attending theatrical productions, and listening to her music obsession, The Beatles.

Welcome Back!

9 Sep


By:  Michael DeFiore

With one week of classes under our belts already, the summer in full retreat and the start of fall close enough now that I can see it on my iPhone’s weather app, it seems a fitting time to bid adieu to everything that made the warmest months of 2014 so memorable. From ice bucket challenges to the recently-concluded Market Basket ordeal, as well as the deaths of numerous world figures including (but unfortunately not limited to) Robin Williams, Elaine Stritch, Lauren Bacall and Maya Angelou, this past summer has proven to be a defining time for many of us, be it for better or worse.

But instead of looking back and pining for the freedom of the outgoing season, let’s turn our attention toward the future, and let the ice buckets go. Fall at Salem State means pumpkin lattes, Patriots football, ‘Walking Dead’ parties and lots and lots of Halloween. Yes, it also means midterms. And cold days in the library. But in the spirit of 2014, let’s take stock of everything that we all have to be grateful for, like the benefits of a solid education at a burgeoning University that is continually expanding. A University with a brand new quad, parking lots and sushi bar. Let us be thankful even before we dive into festive foods and tacky sweaters and begrudgingly start shopping for pants with a larger waist. Let us go forward zealously, daringly and appreciate what it means to be here, now, in a place where we have the opportunity to raise thousands of dollars for diseases. In a place where the untimely death of good people still stuns millions. And where average citizens can still sway the direction of big business.

It is my hope as Co-Editor-in-Chief here at Red Skies along with Lisa Danca, that all of you, from faculty to students to strangers who may stumble upon this article while trying to find pictures of sunsets on Google, will take a moment to appreciate even the struggles you experience, and thrive in the face of difficulty. Let us always remember that nothing, no matter how large or small, can stop good people from changing the world, be it with ice, with picket signs, or with laughter.

“Carpe, diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”  Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

Michael DeFiore

Co-Editor-in-Chief, Red Skies