Interview With Camille T. Dungy

By Robert Drinkwater

Writer, essayist, poet and English Professor at Colorado State University, Camille T. Dungy will be a visiting writer here at UMF this Thursday, 09/19/2019. Dungy will be the first visiting writer of the semester kicking off our visiting writers series of the academic year. Her debut collection of personal essays Guidebook To Relative Strangers was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, and she is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent one being Trophic Cascade (2017). I had the pleasure of interviewing her about her writing.

How would you describe your writing?

At one point in Guidebook to Relative Strangers, I write about the fine line between hearing a dog’s master say sic her versus sit girl. There was a bully in my elementary school who liked to use his Dobermans to intimidate me. I learned about the fine line between those two commands at a very young age, and I also learned the ways that things that some people love can simultaneously be tools of violence and devastation. Language is the seat of so much power and, like all power, we get to decide whether we use if for good or ill. I can’t remember a time I haven’t known that. Perhaps because, as a black woman, I have always known how common it is for language to be used against me. I think I have also always known about this power because I have found great joy in language, in writing and speaking and thinking about the many things words can do to make the world a more beautiful and loving place. I would make it past that bully and his Dobermans and walk into a house where someone said, “I love you, beautiful.” I’ve always known that language can do revolutionary work in this world. This book, all my writing, is an exploration of the beloved and the beautiful, as well as the opposites they so frequently contain.

What inspired you to write Guidebook To Relative Strangers?

This book started the same way all my books do. I was curious about the world in which I found myself at a particular moment, and I started taking notes. These notes seemed to want to be organized in the manner you read now in Guidebook to Relative Strangers. I didn’t sit down one day and say, “I’m going to write a memoir in essays.”  I write a line and then another line and then another, and soon enough, those lines begin to reveal their direction to me. I was keeping notes about my experiences traveling as a black woman and a mother. I was working towards a deeper understanding of what was being revealed to me about who I was and who I was becoming, and also about who we were as a nation. These notes began to overlap and speak to each other and, soon enough—by soon enough I mean, after a lot of hours at the desk— the book’s path began to reveal itself to me.

 Guidebook To Relative Strangers talks a lot about your experience with race and motherhood. How has that shaped your writing?

Initially, I thought that I was writing a book that explored the early years of motherhood. That was the new thing in my life at the time that I thought was the most interesting. I’ve been a black woman in America for several decades, and so my understanding of what it means to be black in America hasn’t really changed. The book does explore motherhood, but being a mother changed my approach toward my writing, my communities, and the world at large. For instance, on a trip to Aroostook County, here in Maine, I took a long walk through Presque Isle with my daughter. She was only about 9 months old, and as I pushed her stroller through town I had interactions with people I never would have had if I were walking the same steps alone. My daughter expanded my sense of commitment to hope, to possibility, and to actively working to build strengthening connections between vulnerable communities. To write about motherhood meant writing about why and how this was. I became more aware than ever of our vulnerability, so to write about motherhood meant to write about the past and present traumas that my black daughter and I must live with every day. This awareness of vulnerability is partly due to the presence of my child in my life, certainly, but it is also due to the awareness cultivated as a result of living a politically, historically, and environmentally conscious life for all these years.  

How would you describe your experience in writing Guidebook To Relative Strangers?

I had already published four books of poetry and edited three anthologies by the time Guidebook to Relative Strangers was published. So I was familiar with what it meant to be a writer. Still, there are some differences in writing prose. When I first turned my attention to writing prose, years before this book was published, it would take me an impossibly long time to finish anything once I’d gotten past the first 5 pages. This was because I wanted to start every new writing day as I might with a poem. I would reread what I’d written thus far before I started the next new word. So, if I’d written a lot of pages, I’d find that I would spend my whole writing time rereading rather than writing forward. With the project that became Guidebook to Relative Strangers, I was constantly taking notes as I moved through the world. I journaled regularly on my trips around the country, and I found myself taking notes on a lot of the follow up research that came out of things I discovered on those trips. I journaled about my daughter and the ways she was influencing how I saw the world and how the world saw me. While I was gathering the notes that would eventually develop into the essays in Guidebook to Relative Strangers, I employed the attention to every word I’ve trained as a poet, but I figured out ways that I could productively concentrate my attention on writing new lines to keep the energy moving forward. So the writing of this book felt like writing a carefully crafted letter to myself, or to my daughter, or to a close friend who might want a guidebook when the walked out into the world. The lessons I’d learned in the years leading up to this book made the writing of this book go that much more smoothly.

Are you currently working on any projects?


What are your reading recommendations?

Read what you love. Then find something that shares some commonalities with what you already know but is also quite different. Read widely. And read frequently. I can tell you ten of the books I am loving right now, and maybe you’ll discover something you love along the way. Notice that I am incredibly ecumenical where genre is concerned. The point is to read good writing. A lot of it.

Dungy’s Book Recommendations:

Deep CreekFinding Hope in the High Country, Pam Houston (memoir)
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng (novel)
Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, Jake Skeet (poetry) for black girls like me, Mariama Lockington (middle grade) Notes from No Man’s Land, Eula Biss (essays)
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, (middle grade)
Holy Moly Carry Me, Erika Meitner (poetry) An American Marriage, Tayari Jones (novel) Heavy, Kiese Laymon (memoir) The Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin (speculative fiction)

Guidebook To Relative Strangers :


Poet Cheryl Savageau comes to UMF

By Robert Drinkwater

On October 16th, Cheryl Savageau who is of Abenaki descent came to UMF and read us a few of her poems from her books. The event was kicked off by UMF’s new president Edward Serna, who recognized Indigenous People’s Day. Afterwards Cheryl Savageau came on stage and began her reading. Her poems not only her heritage, but also her upbringing, and a lot of it was about nature and her family.

One thing that I noticed from her poems was that she wasn’t afraid talk about her heritage, growing up of Abenaki descent. One of her poems was a detailed account about how one her her college professors told her to stop writing about natives because it made people feel guilty. Another poem, “Looking for Indians” was a poem about her childhood, learning about her Abenaki heritage from her father.

Another thing that I noticed about this poem, was that Savageau did a phenomenal job at providing us a detailed description of these mundane activities that she did with her parents as a child, such as fishing, and gardening, things that can make anyone reminisce about our childhood and think about the fun activities that we did as children with our parents that created some of our best childhood memories. I also enjoyed how towards the end of the poem we get a detailed account of her father telling her about the Abenaki tribes and how they “roamed the thick new england forest/ they hunted deer in winter/ sometimes moose, but mostly/ they were farmers and fishermen”. I felt like this excerpt gave me a clear picture on the Abenaki people.

I also enjoyed the poems about when she was in high school. She told us that she was in a band. This poem was about her experience as a high schooler playing in a pub as someone who is underaged. Another poem she read was a list of reasons why her family members drink. This was originally written when she was a child because she was curious as to why her family members drank alcohol. It was a comical and overall enjoyable poem as she listed her family members reasons, some of which included: being married to someone, being in college, and just wanting to see the bottom of the can. She also mentioned how the Abenaki believe that they come from trees, which I thought was fascinating learning about this culture.

Cheryl Savageau has three books of poetry, Dirt Road Home, Home Country and Mother/Land, and in 2020 she will be coming out with a memoir.

You can buy Mother/Land on amazon:

Dirt Road Home:

Sigma Tau Delta Writers Workshop

By Robert Drinkwater

On Saturday, October 5th through October 6th, I had the pleasure of going to the Writers Workshop with Sigma Tau Delta at Camp Kirkold in Readfield, Maine. We left UMF at around 3:00pm on Saturday. When we arrived we got to pick out cabins and help collect firewood. after we collected the firewood, we made our way down to the lake, where there were two benches. A bunch of us, including myself took pictures of the lake, really capturing the beauty of Maine. We sat down on the ground or on one of the benches and did our first writing exercise. For this writing exercise, we had to write about an object near us and describe it in immense detail. Describe how it looks, the texture, what’s around it. Pretend as though this object was the most important thing in our life. We had about fifteen minutes to write about this. When we were done, we continued to walk down the trail where we saw a chimney with nothing else around it. It looked like something out of a horror movie. It really set the mood for spooky season.

Eventually we made it to our next stop for our second writing exercise. For this exercise we had to remain completely silent and write about every sound we hear. After that we made our way to our third and final stop to where there were a few picnic tables and for this exercise we had to write a poem backwards, that had to be twenty lines and we had to use words from a list that was provided. This resulted in an interesting poem to say the least that involved talking coyotes and nosy cicadas.

By the time that we were finished with our writing exercise, Tegan met us at the picnic tables and said that our dinner would be ready soon. We made our way over back to the campsite and gathered around the campfire as the sun began to set. We cooked rice and beans. Having it after a long day of hiking made the food all the more delicious.

After we all finished our meals we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores . Afterwards we huddled around the fire to keep ourselves warm in this Autumn weather. The next morning we all woke up fairly early. Three of members of our group had to leave because they were not feeling too good, but our remaining group went down to the dining hall where Tegan made us pancakes. Afterwards we did our next writing exercise, which was a scavenger hunt. For this we we given a clue to a hidden writing prompt that would be somewhere around the area. Each prompt had something to do with character creation. For instance, for our first prompt we had to list the physical attributes of our character. For another prompt we had to write a monologue that gave a bit of a backstory to our character. By the end of this exercise, we knew our characters backstory, motivations, fears, flaws, and weaknesses. This is the type of exercise that I would recommend to anyone who really wants to get to know their characters. With each writing exercise, all of our characters became more developed and human. I found myself getting invested in these characters and their stories. We concluded our camping trip after the eighth and final prompt, which was to write about an event that would change our characters nature. These prompts were thought provoking and made me more conscious of the importance of knowing your characters when you are creating a story. This writing retreat was an excellent way to practice writing and experience the great outdoors of Maine.

Interview With Poets Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown

By Robert Drinkwater

Tonight at 7:30pm in The Landing, poets Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown will be reading for us. Nickole Brown is the author of Sister: A Novel in Poems, published in 2007. Her second book Fanny Says won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry in 2015. She has a chapbook called To Those Who Were Her First Gods that won the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize. She is currently the Editor for the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and teaches at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA program and the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA. She lives with her wife Jessica Jacobs in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jessica Jacobs is the author of poems about love and marriage called Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going and Pelvis With a Distance that is a biography of poems about Georgia O’Keeffe that was the winner of The New Mexico Book Award and the finalist for The Lambda Literary Award. She has also worked as a bartender, rock climbing instructor, and professor. She now serves as Chapbook Editor for Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives with her wife Nickole Brown in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jessica Jacobs Interview

Jessica Jacobs
  1. How would you describe your poetry?
    My most recent book, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, is a collection of love poems written during the early years of my marriage, exploring what it means to share your life with another person—such as learning to balance moments of great joy with all the compromise and self-assessment such a relationship requires.
  2. What inspires you to write?
    I’m most often driven to the page by either an image or a question. The former is often something I notice while out on a run or bike ride that I don’t want to forget, some strange sight or surprising sensation, while the latter is often more long-lasting, more reflective of some enduring obsession.
  3. Are you working on any projects right now? If so, what?
    Well, some of those questions/obsessions that currently have me in their grip are the big ones: Why are we here? What does it mean to live a good life? Is there a concept of God that makes sense to me? So, I’ve begun delving into Midrash, which is a collection of rabbinic writings about the Torah, which is allowing me to think alongside sages from many centuries. From these studies, I’m writing poems and essays that draw on these texts, trying to capture the contemporary relevance I’ve found in these ancient texts.
  4. Your poem A Question to Ask When the Honeymoon is Over was featured on Screen Door Review. What is the origin and meaning of this poem?
    This was a poem that grew from a moment in which the person I was fell far short of the person I wanted to be. It’s a poem of deep vulnerability and guilt, but also one in which I want to hold myself accountable, hoping to chart a path toward right action in the world.
  5. Who are some of your favorite writers? Why?
    I love writers who bring the news, by which I mean: they give the world I thought I understood back to me in a new way. In poetry, Laure-Anne Bosselaar teaches me resilience and the crafting lines with beautiful music; Matthew Olzmann, humor and abiding curiosity; Patricia Smith, how to look unflinchingly at violence and deep sorrow and write about it with honesty and style. In fiction, I think everyone should read Richard Powers’ The Overstory, one of the most moving—and hopeful—books I’ve read about our need to engage with and fight for the natural world.

Nickole Brown Interview

Nickole Brown
  1. When did you realize you wanted to be a poet?
    The first sparks for this mad little fire started when I was fifteen, back when I was young enough to fearlessly (well, recklessly) scale a rickety fire escape downtown with a few like-minded pals to recite Rilke to a gathering of curious and cranky crows that perched up there. That was the summer of my sophomore year in high school, back when I was lucky enough to participate in the Governor’s School for the Arts, a program funded by some higher angels in the state of Kentucky who, with their gift of just a few weeks worth of poetry, changed the entire trajectory of my life. You see, books weren’t exactly a thing in my house as a kid, and being a writer was never an option I could have considered otherwise. I was raised up on the literary equivalent of grease and plastic—if you don’t count the King James, there wasn’t anything to read in the house but Cosmo or maybe a potato chip bag or two. At that tender time in my life, the exposure to poetry (nevertheless the idea that I had a voice and could learn to use it) was a revelation. I’ve held fast ever since, pushing through decades of odd jobs and failed drafts and rejections to land myself where I am today, more than a bit weary but ridiculously grateful that my compass was set at such an early age.
  2. How would you describe your poetry?
    Narrative, mostly. And a touch irreverent, cut as it is from the cloth of my maternal grandmother, a woman who helped raise me and could tell a story a mile long and just as deep, peppered with an occasional f-bomb and always ripened with select details. From her, I learned just how story can define a person, how the right story can show a person who they are when they forget, and sometimes, how it can change the way we’re able to carry the heaviest facts of our lives. For me, this means that poetry fits together the most jagged edges of my most broken times. By this I don’t mean to say that with my writing I make
    sense of things that have happened, but it does help, making what could be impossible tragedies into something possible to swallow. In my poems you’ll also see traces of the mud from which I sprung, that working-class Kentucky I once fought so hard to escape, that thistled nest of home to which I always return. The dialect of that place is in my poems, too, as are those fierce bonds of family and
    origin that make me who I am, both for bad and good. As such, you’ll likely find in my writing one-too-many mentions of my mama, and forgive me if I’ve got my ear cocked to the katydids and cicadas up in the trees. I wait all summer until they start singing in June, and their humid song is the base-note and through-line of most all my signing.

3. What advice do you have for new writers?

This depends entirely on the writer, really, which is one reason why I always begin and end every creative writing course I’ve ever taught with one-on-one conferences. Writing is one of the most intimate acts of creative art there is, and while revision requires a firm grip on craft, it’s often soul work, requiring a degree of courage and vulnerability that no one piece of advice administered to a whole group could approach. I suppose if I had to think of any answer to this question, it might have something to do with my definition of a writer, and that is a person who holds steadfast to this world with a deep, muscular awareness, using all their senses to pay attention to what’s around them. If you’re a writer, you’re a noticer, someone who doesn’t turn away and who works hard never to turn experience into abstractions and generalizations. So, my advice then? Pay attention, even when it’s most difficult and it might be easier to turn away. Pay attention, even when you’re bored and think there’s nothing to see. Listen to what
your skin and tongue and ears can perceive; use your eyes to look until you un-see whatever it is you’re looking at, then look harder. Put down your phone and be exactly where you are.

4. What projects are you currently working on?
Since 2017, when I moved with my wife to Asheville, North Carolina, I’ve given myself over to something I’ve always wanted to do—to study and work with animals. As such, I’ve read fanatically every book of animal behavior and anthrozoology (the study of the relationship between humans and animals) I could get my hands on, and I’ve also been volunteering at several places that give animals sanctuary and shelter when it’s most needed, including a farm sanctuary called Animal Haven and a wildlife rehabilitation center called Appalachian Wild. I’ve worked hard to write some of what I’ve learned and experienced since, but I’m careful not to write the kind of pastorals that always made me (and most of the working-class folks I’ve known) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it. I yearn for poems to speak in a queer, Southern-trash-talking kind of way about nature beautiful, damaged, dangerous, and in desperate need of saving, and well, I’m trying to write them. A chapbook featuring the first nine poems called To Those Who Were Our First Gods won the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize, and this coming January 2020, Sibling Rivalry Press will be publishing The Donkey Elegies.

5. Out of all of your accomplishments, which one are you the most proud of? Why?
Tough question. I think the students I’ve had—if I can be so greedy as to call them mine—always make me feel the most proud, especially when I see them years later, thriving and still writing. But in terms of my own poems, I think the longevity of my first book, Sister, has been a surprising source of pride in my career. When I first published that novel-in-poems with Red Hen Press in 2007, I did so with much trepidation—the deeply confessional nature of the book was a tremendous risk, and I wasn’t sure at all how readers would receive poems that dealt so frankly with childhood sexual abuse. Fast-forward a decade later: not only were these poems reviewed widely and positively, but the poems seem to be a continual resource for survivors. In 2018, Sibling Rivalry Press reissued this book with a foreword by poet Rebecca Gayle Howell and an afterward by Sue William Silverman, both of whom talked about the importance of the book in the “me too” movement, a thing that didn’t even exist when I first wrote and published
those poems. I was also given the opportunity to pull together an interview of sorts published in the back of the reissue that serves as a guide particularly for those attempting to write their own way through this difficult and often devastating trauma.

You can buy Take Me with You, Wherever You‘re Going By Jessica Jacobs on Amazon:

You can buy Sister: A Novel in Poems by Nickole Brown on Amazon:

A Question to Ask Once The Honeymoon is Over by Jessica Jacobs:

Keynote Speaker: Lisa Brooks

By Robert Drinkwater

On Friday, September 27th, Dr. Lisa Brooks visited UMF as a keynote speaker for UMF’s New Commons project The Canoe. Dr. Brooks is a professor of English and American studies at Amherst College. She is of Abenaki and Polish heritage and she has written several essays and books. This isn’t Dr. Brook’s first time here at UMF either. She visited a few years ago as a Libra scholar in 2012. For this event Dr. Brooks talked about the Wabanaki tribe and how this land in western Maine is their land. The event started off with our own professor of English, Kristen Case as she listed off the upcoming New Commons events coming up as well as introduce Dr. Brooks as she began her presentation.

Dr. Brooks started the presentation by showing us a map of land that the Wabanaki once inhabited. New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, part of Quebec, and Nova Scotia were once Wabanaki lands. Throughout the presentation Dr. Brooks shared her knowledge of this group of natives. The Wabanaki used canoes to travel down rivers because it was a faster way of traveling. These canoes could contain up to twelve people. Brooks also shared a poem by writer, Cheryl Savageau, who is also of Abenaki heritage, who will be giving a poetry reading on October 16th, from 11:45am-1:00pm. As a student living in Maine, I’ve never really thought about the culture of the indigenous people who once resided on this land. Who had their own culture, history, and traditions. I found myself fascinated with the language as Dr. Brooks began her presentation speaking in the language of the Wabanaki. The Wabanaki tribes have three different languages: Abenaki-Penobscot that is spoken, Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, and Mi’maq. I learned a lot of insight about this group of natives, as I don’t often think about who resided here before the colonists came here.

Upcoming Bookish Adaptations

By Robert Drinkwater

Book to t.v. and movie adaptations are coming and I don’t know about you, but I’m hyped. It seems that each streaming service is in the process of making some of our favorite books into live adaptations whether it be The Wicked Deep adaptation coming on Netflix, or Hulu’s Looking for Alaska. To say that I’m excited for what’s to come would be an understatement. Here are some upcoming t.v./ movie adaptations in the works or coming out soon.

Looking For Alaska

I’ve been looking forward to John Green’s debut novel Looking for Alaska for some time now. This was the first book that got me interested in reading Young Adult literature. This book follows Miles Halter, a sixteen year old obsessed with the last words of famous people, decides to transfer to a boarding school down in Alabama, Culver Creek in hopes of finding “The great perhaps”. There he meets Chip “The Colonel”, hip hop emcee Takumi, and Alaska Young, whom he quickly becomes infatuated with. Green has a way of writing fleshed out three dimensional characters making it one of the most unforgettable Coming-of-Age stories that I have read. I found myself growing attached to these characters over the course of the book. As this book progresses we learn more about each character all leading up to a tragic event that happens about halfway into the novel. Hulu has bought the rights to this book and Looking For Alaska will be a limited eight episode series coming out on October 18th.

Looking for Alaska :

The Wicked Deep

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw, follows Penny, a seventeen year old girl who lives in a rural town in Oregon that has a dark past. About one hundred and fifty years ago three sisters who were accused of witchcraft get sentenced to death. Every year following their deaths the spirits of these sisters inhabit the bodies of girls that were about the age they were when they were murdered and they drown several boys in that town as revenge for their deaths. Most of this novel takes place in the present with Penny who has accepted the fate of the town until a mysterious outside by the name of “Bo” shows up that raises the stakes for her as she is soon faced with a difficult decision. This novel gives me a halloweenish vibe. It could be the witches, or the spooky premise, but that’s all the more reason to be hyped for this adaptation (After all it has been described as “Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic”). This adaptation is still in the very early stages, but Netflix recently bought the screen rights. As of right now it is unclear on whether it will be a miniseries t.v. show or a movie, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing this adaptation on screen.

The Wicked Deep:


This is one of the most recent adaptations that I found out about, and after seeing the trailer, I have to say that it looks interesting. Dickinson is an upcoming comedy that will appear on Apple TV+ on November 1st. It follows … you guessed it Emily Dickinson! From the looks of the trailer it seems like it will explore the early life of the titular poet as she navigates through the conservative society of that time period. It also looks like it will focus more on the relationship between Emily Dickinson and her sister in law Susan Huntington Gilbert whom Dickinson has sent several letters to during her lifetime. This show looks like it will be a unique take on an adaptation based off of a literary figure. I’m not sure how historically accurate this will be, after all she does say “dude!” in the trailer, but I’m sure it will be especially entertaining. This show will star Hailee Steinfield as Emily Dickinson and Wiz Khalifa as Death.

To All the Boys: P.S. I still Love You

Last year Netflix blessed us with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, an adaptation of Jenny Han’s novel of the same name. In 2020 will be getting the sequel for that movie that is also based off of the second novel in the series. The series is a trilogy so there will likely be one more movie after the next. Will Lara Jean stay with Peter K? Or will somebody else enter the picture? We will find out soon enough on February 12th, 2020. Just before Valentines Day!

P.S. I still Love You:

His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series has been one of my personal favorite fantasy series for some time and I am excited to see it getting adapted int a TV series on HBO. The first book took place in an alternative world, with a Victorian era style. Every human in this world has a daemon that is sort of a companion to the person. The daemon and their person cannot be separated at too much of a distance or they will be physically hurt. This is a series for all ages to enjoy. It is full of unforgettable action and adventure. The HBO series will star James McAvoy as Lord Asriel, Ruth Wilson as the cruel Marisa Coulter, and Dafne Keen as the main heroine of the series Lyra Belacqua. The first season will consist of eight episodes that is set to premiere on November 4th on HBO.

His Dark Materials:

Interview With UMF English Major Vanessa Brown

By Robert Drinkwater

Vanessa Brown is a senior English major here at UMF. She is currently one of the leaders in Clefnotes, and plans to be taking a travel course to Paris, France in May as her last elective course here at UMF before she gets her degree. In this interview we discussed her passions as an English major, why she chose her concentration, and her role in Clefnotes.

Every English major has a concentration. What is your concentration?

My concentration is Race Studies in literature and music. Mainly because when I made my proposal I wanted it to be something that had to do with my own personal identity as well as music. Growing up I had a white mom and a black dad so I’m biracial and I thought that race studies in general is something that always interests me and in the future I hope to write more stuff on mixed race children and mixed raced literature as well, and just contribute in that aspect. The music part is just that I grew up in a very music oriented family and I joined Clefnotes so I do a lot of singing. My dad also did a lot of music when he was growing up, so I wanted to incorporate music in that aspect. It has always been an important part of my life.

In May you’ll be taking a travel course to Paris. Can you elaborate on your decision on taking this course?

Kristen (Case) actually reached out to me last semester during a New Commons course because she thought that it would be a good fit, and I was like ‘yes!’, not only because it’s going to Paris, but it was an opportunity for me to learn about English language writers and their influences in writing stuff that is either based in Paris or has Paris influences, and I’m not completely familiar with and I thought it would awesome to go on this trip for, as well as find more writers, or artists, or musicians that were influenced by France or Paris specifically, and learn about that more. It’s also my final four elective credits, and it’s one of the opportunities that if you have the chance to travel, take advantage of that because you’ll never know how many of those opportunities you’ll get again.

This year you’re leading Clefnotes. Can you decribe what that’s like?

Leading Clefnotes has definitely been a new experience for me, it’s music so I’m very interested, and it’s also a student run group so you’re also dealing with people that are of your own age or slightly younger, so at times it can very difficult, but for the most part, it’s a great experience, it’s something I’m learning from. I’m learning leadership skills from it and being able to communicate with my peers very well as well as talk with not only people inside my group, but so people outside this group, about music and performance. This year we lost a lot of good people so we’re really looking for more people to join our group. Clefnotes was the first group that I joined on campus, so it holds a very special place in my heart because it was one of the things that helped me connect with the community. A lot of people can connect with music even if they think that they’re not musically inclined. A lot of people enjoy watching it or performing it. I’m also not the only one leading Clefnotes right now. Kate Graeff is also leading it. She is a sophomore and she is awesome. We’re doing our best to lead the group, and as of right now things are going really well.

Do you have any plans on what you’ll be doing after graduation?

The goal right now is to take a gap year and then look into graduate school. I want to look more into African American Studies. It’s really where my central interests are and in terms of career wise, I will always hope to do something that’s in that field. I don’t like to limit myself in what I can do, but if I can do something that’s either African American studies based or music based, that would be the best, but the hope is grad school.

How would you describe your experience here at UMF as an English major?

Enjoyable. I do enjoy being an English major, a lot. I initially came to UMF as a theater major. I knew I was always good at writing and reading, but I never had the confidence in believing that could be an English major, but second semester of freshmen year I changed because I realized that I have a passion for writing and I have passion for so many different things that can go along with reading and writing and we have so many passionate and great professors at this school that are so interested in what you bring to the table. Even if it’s something they’ve seen before, they want you to bring yourself into it, and I admire that so much. As an English major too, it’s been good because I’ve been able to stylize it in a sense so that I can be true to myself. Most majors, it’s hard to find yourself in it. You have an interest in something, but it’s not, like completely what you want to do, but having the opportunity to make your own concentration and being able to take classes that suit to your interests, or even taking an independent study. I haven’t had the chance to take that yet, but having that opportunity as an English major is amazing.

Interview With Shana Youngdahl

by Robert Drinkwater

I had the pleasure of interviewing Assistant Professor of English, the faculty advisor to The Sandy River Review’s The River, and the director of the Longfellow Young Writer’s Workshop, Shana Youngdahl about her debut young adult novel As Many Nows as I can Get where we discussed her novel as well YA literature in general.

What inspired you to write As Many Nows As I can Get?

There were several different things that I was thinking about. The trigger event was probably that I knew a couple people in high school that I heard had died. And I couldn’t write poems about that. I knew that I needed to write a novel about them. It has nothing to do with the people that I knew, but I knew that it needed to be a YA novel.

What have you learned from writing your novel?

Well, I learned a lot about plot. Which isn’t something we think about poetry in the same way. It really forced me to think about long term stories and characters, and characters intentions in new and different ways.

What do you hope that readers will take away from this book?

Well, that’s complicated because they get to have that experience on their own. I would hope that one of the things that comes across in the story is that everybody makes mistakes. Everybody at some point in their lives makes some catastrophic mistake or nearly catastrophic mistake, and that doesn’t have to define you, it’s part of your story. It can change you, but it doesn’t have to define you.

What interests you about YA Literature?

What doesn’t interest me about YA literature? I think there are so many interesting conversations happening in the space of young adult literature right now about the importance of multiple and diverse voices about what it means to grow up in our culture now. I also think that there is a lot of experimentation going on in terms of the form of the novel. I also think that we’re not usually genre separated in bookstores because they don’t have enough room for that. There ends up being a lot of cross pollination in conversations between authors who write very different things that lends itself to a really exciting space. There are good reasons why it’s getting so much attention now.

Are there any books that you are currently reading and do you have any YA recommendations?

Right now I’m reading Julia Drake’s The Last True Poets of the Sea. It’s coming out in the next week. She is going to be in Farmington on October 7th at Devaney, Doak, and Garrett. I just read Samira Ahmed’s second novel Internment. Which is a great example of the resistance literature happening in YA literature right now, and I loved Julie Berry’s The Lovely War. There’s not a lot of young adult historical, but that is one of them and it is fascinating. It does a great thing with form. The speaker of the book is Aphrodite and she is telling this love story. American Panda by Gloria Chao is also really good, and I’m teaching Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi in one of my classes.

Shana Youngdahl’s book As Many Nows as I Can Get can be purchased on Amazon and at DDG

Other books mentioned:


American Panda

The Last True Poets of the Sea

The Lovely War

Leadership Award


UMF student from Windham honored with International Student Leadership Award

FARMINGTON, ME  (May 15, 2019)—
University of Maine at Farmington senior Tegan Bradley, from Windham, has recently been honored with a Student Leadership Award by the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta.

She is one of only three recipients of the 2018-19 leadership award.  Introduced in 2008, the competitive Student Leadership award recognizes student members for demonstrating outstanding service and leadership on the chapter level.

Bradley joined the newly installed UMF chapter of Sigma Tau Delta in 2017.  During her time as a member of the honor society, she has served as both treasurer and vice president.

Her outreach to individual members and ongoing dedication to the society’s goal to promote interest in literature, writing and the English language has helped to advance the organization on campus. Her leadership was instrumental in bringing honor society members together to obtain official recognition of the UMF chapter by the University’s Student Senate.

A creative writing major, Bradley was awarded funding through a competitive Proctor & Gamble grant last fall to complete an urban internship in The Telling Room in Portland. She is planning to graduate from UMF next fall and wants to pursue a career in teaching creative writing and publishing.

Sigma Tau Delta has more than 900 active chapters worldwide and inducts approximately 9,000 members annually. The organization presents awards annually in the areas of writing, performance and service.
Photo Caption: Tegan Bradley
Photo Credit: UMF Image

Humanities Spring Reception 2019

Spring was (and, as of May 13, still is) late in coming this year, but the annual Humanities Spring Reception arrived right on time, providing a bit of sunshine (well, emotionally anyway) in a gloomy spring and on an otherwise gray day.






Pre-ceremony and post-ceremony music was provided by English major Cora Curtis.


Faculty member Pat O’Donnell read from her most recent novel, The Vigilance of Stars.

The Spring Reception also provides a chance to acknowledge student accomplishment from the preceding year.


Pictured from left to right, Eireann Lorsung, Annie Moloney, Tegan Bradley, Sabine Klein, and Master of Ceremonies Christine Darrohn.

Two students from the Humanities who received Wilson Scholars awards for Spring semester were recognized: Annie Moloney, Creative Writing/English, whose project “To Touch One Another: Ethical Boundaries of Human Violence” was sponsored by faculty member Eireann Lorsung; Tegan Bradley, Creative Writing, whose project “Hair: A Graphic Narrative” was sponsored by faculty member Sabine Klein.

Currently off campus for a study abroad program in Peru, Andrea Swiedom (Creative Writing/English) was recognized as a Wilson Fellow, for the project “The Recipe Commons,” sponsored by Luann Yetter. As part of her project, Andrea has created an active blog called The Recipe Commons: Telling Stories of Migration Through Food.




Each year, Islandport Magazine sponsors a writing contest. In 2019, several UMF students performed well in the contest, including prize winner (and Creative Writing major) Aimee Degroat (for the story “Down to It”), and honorable mentions Meagan Jones (Creative Writing; standing, to the left), for the story “The Wish,” and Bethany Wicks (Creative Writing; standing, to the right), for the story “Frosted Windows and Salt Stains.”

The Spring 2019 BFA Senior Award went to Kristine Sarasin, who was present but somehow didn’t make it into a photograph by herself, although you can see her in the background behind Megan and Bethany in the picture above.

The UMF English Department offers two yearly awards to students in English, the Maude L. Parks Award and the Eleanor Wood English Scholarship. The Maude Parks Award is given to a junior student at UMF demonstrating excellence in communication arts in the field of English. The Eleanor Wood English Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding junior or senior English Major (including Creative Writing and Secondary Ed-English) who has been a student at UMF during both his/her freshman and sophomore years. It is to be based on academic achievement in the field of English.


Awarded Honorable Mention for the English awards were Kasey Erlebach (English/Secondary Ed-English), Syl Schulze (Creative Writing), and (not pictured) Margaret Pomerleau (English/Secondary Ed-English).

The Eleanor Wood Memorial Scholarship winner was Zoe Stonetree (Creative Writing), above. The Maude L. Parks award winner was Andrea Swiedom (who is still in Peru). Zoe and Andrea were multiple winners this year, as Zoe was also the recipient of the Alice James Books Director’s Chair Fellowship for fall 2019, and Andrea was also named as the recipient of the Beth Eisen Memorial Scholarship.

The reception was also a time to recognize members of the UMF branch of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society, including newly inducted members, Rowan Bagley, Grace Barnard, Juliana Burch, Aimee Degroat, Ali Hooper, Jennie Ingall, Meagan Jones, Darby Murnane, Liz Niznik, Billie Rose Newby, Bethany Wicks, and Meaghan Wildes. Also recognized were the slate of officers for 2019-20: Tegan Bradley, President; Billie Rose Newby, Vice President; Liz Niznik, Secretary; and Grace Barnard, Social Media Liaison.

Photography by Bob Bailie.