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amaranth News and Stories from the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature

Fall Event Guide A Review of Donovan Hohn’s Moby-Duck A Few Minutes with Hiram’s Victorianist Fall 2012



Wr i t i n g & Literature for

Emerging Writers Workshop

am a ranth noun

1. a Vachel Lindsay poem published in The Congo and Other Poems in 1914 2. an imaginary flower that never fades 3. a highly nutritious golden seed 4. any of various annuals of the genus Amaranthus having dense green or reddish clusters of tiny flowers

Volume 1, Issue 2, Fall 2012

amaranth is a bi-annual publication of The Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature


Editor-in-Chief Graphic Design

Kirsten Parkinson Sarah Bianchi

contributing writers Brendan Curtin Devlin Geroski Francesca Luppino

contributing photographers Samuel J. Adams: 4 Sarah Bianchi: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 12 Karen Donley-Hayes: 9

mailing address Hiram College P.O. Box 67 Hiram, OH 44234

The Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature would like to thank the Hiram College Office of Institutional Advancement and the Office of Special Events for their ongoing support. Š The Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature, Hiram College



for W r i t i n g & Literature

On the cover: the Brainerd Stranahan bench in the gardens behind Bonney Castle

amaranth News and Stories from the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature



High school juniors and seniors explore new approaches to writing at our fifth annual workshop in creative nonfiction

fall 2012 8


A look back at spring of 2012









Creative writing major Devlin Geroski’s take on Hiram College’s Victorianist, Prof. Kirsten Parkinson

Junior Nick Sawatsky writes his way to success at Hiram

Lindsay-Crane intern Brendan Curtin reviews visiting author Donovan Hohn’s Moby-Duck

What’s happening at the Lindsay-Crane this year?


rom t he direct or

Plastic bath toys floating about the ocean.

The writing of historical novels, including one partially set in Cleveland. The future of fish. Medieval food. The topics that the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature’s visiting authors will be bringing to Hiram College this coming year are a wonderful and eclectic mix. At the same time, each of these writers, whether fiction or nonfiction, brings a common element to campus: a dedication to the crafts of research and writing that are the hallmark of books worth reading. We hope you’ll join us to explore these intriguing subjects and to share with us a love of the written word. The Lindsay-Crane Center is collaborating extensively with other organizations inside and outside the College this year to connect more people than ever to our programs. In February, we’ll be hosting our third community reading program in conjunction with Hiram’s Center for Deciphering Life’s Languages, Portage County libraries, and area schools. This year’s program adds an unusual twist, turning our attention from fiction to science writing with a focus on Paul Greenberg’s Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. Watch for more information on a month’s worth of book discussions and other cool writing- and fish-related events on our website ( and in the spring newsletter. We also want to thank the Center for Literature and Medicine; the Center for Engaged Ethics; the Environmental Studies Department; the Office of Institutional Advancement; the Office of Special Events; and Hiram Community Trust for working with us to extend the discussion of writing and literature beyond campus and disciplinary boundaries.


irsten Parkinson

2 amaranth fall 2012

Brendan Curtin

get to know the Lindsay-Crane Interns

Roxanna Coldiron


Year: Senior in Traditional College Major: Creative Writing Minor: Photography

Favorite Hiram classes: Rome to Tatooine, Writing About Nature, American Environmental History Memorable Hiram experience: Spending two years as a resident assistant on third Whitcomb Favorite books: Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr., Beyond the Wall by Edward Abbey, White Fang by Jack London, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss What I learned from the Lindsay-Crane internship: The Lindsay-Crane internship kept me writing over the summer, which is something I’ve always struggled with while being away from campus. It demonstrated the give-and-take between writer and editor and helped give me a glimpse of what it would be like to write in a professional setting.

If you’re a Hiram student looking for more information about internship opportunities with the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature, contact Kirsten Parkinson.


Year: Junior in Weekend College Major: Communication Minor: Writing

Favorite Hiram classes: Rhetorical Criticism, Survey of Journalism Memorable Hiram experience: For the course on Writing about Animals this summer, we visited the Field Station. I had never been there before, and it was nice and relaxing as well as educational. Favorite books: The Giver by Lois Lowry and Moral Relativism by Steven Lukes What you hope to learn from your Lindsay-Crane internship: I want to learn how to write quality personal yet newsy pieces and develop public relations and event planning skills. 3

writing full circle The fith annual Emerging Writers Workshop in Creative Nonfiction gives high school students the opportunity to experience truly immersive writing. By Brendan Curtin ‘13

4 amaranth fall 2012

a look back: summer 2012

I was eating a Dilly Bar®, and I was very happy. But not just because I was eating a Dilly® Bar. Standing on Hiram College’s Martin Commons in late June, I felt I had achieved a kind of homeostasis. I had reconnected to my Hiram College roots by working as a writing assistant for the Emerging Writers Workshop in Creative Nonfiction. The workshop, an annual three-day camp hosted by the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature and the Office of Institutional Advancement, is the same workshop that I attended as a camper four years prior in its inaugural year. Now, slurping ice cream with the professors I had studied under for three 5

years, two other creative writing majors, and the thirteen high-school students participating in the camp, my time at Hiram had become suddenly cyclical. I still remember the nakedness I felt that summer of 2008 when my writing first came under the scrutiny of two of Hiram’s writing professors. “I think some of [the students] are really shocked that we’re not more impressed by their writing,” said Assistant Professor of English Jeff Swenson, who heads the workshop with Assistant Professor of English Mary Quade. “The biggest struggle for [Mary and myself], maybe not the kids, is encouraging what’s good and discouraging what’s not necessarily good—to get them to understand that there are weaknesses.” It seemed like Jeff was speaking about me and my feelings in 2008. The shock. The vulnerability born from high-school courses emphasizing classic literature and formulaic papers that left a creative mind wanting. In my junior year of high school, I took the only creative writing class my school offered—a single-semester writer’s seminar. I devoured the coursework, but it proved inadequate for my appetite. For me the Emerging Writers Workshop was the first opportunity to interact with peers who shared similar passions and to work with faculty to revise my own creative writing—writing that had been a hobby but that, the workshop showed me, can become much more. The thirteen students in the workshop this summer spent the first afternoon in much the same way that I had—settling into the dorm; acquainting themselves with campus; and getting to know the counselors, writing assistants, professors, and each other. The next morning, the students experienced writing in true Hiram fashion. Split into two groups, the students spent part of the day with Jeff at the James H. Barrow Field Station where they hiked the trails and recorded their interactions with the flora and fauna of 6 amaranth fall 2012

Portage County. Another part of the day was spent with Mary in the classroom in Bonney Castle where they workshopped the pieces they had written before arriving at the camp. I lingered in the periphery during these times, waiting until evening when the other two writing assistants and I would oversee the students’ work in the computer lab—revising, critiquing, and giving candid advice, hoping a few might follow the path to Hiram College as we had. “To me,” said Swenson, “it’s about introducing [the students] to a kind of writing they may see as dull and giving them insight into a whole different world of writing they may not have known was there.” And it is a different world, which

some of the students begin to realize by the end of the three days. The concept of peer criticism—essential in every writing class I have taken at Hiram—was alien to most of the workshop students. As was holding class in a house—with a kitchen. And calling Jeff and Mary Jeff and Mary, not Professors Swenson and Quade. And talking the trade with these teachers while sitting on the brick walls of Martin Commons and eating ice cream sandwiches. And living in a dorm—with community showers and the threat of foot fungus. And eating at a dining hall with the possibility of Oreos for breakfast. And hiking into the woods as part of a class assignment. All this was unfamiliar to me as well when I attended the Emerging Writ-

Previous page: Emerging Writers Assistants help Professor Mary Quade with registration. Left: At the James H. Barrow Field Station, students practice writing about all that they see, hear, and touch. Above: Emerging writers read then workshop their essays. Photos on this page from the 2011 workshop

ers Workshop as a rising high-school senior. What Jeff and Mary showed me was unnerving. It counteracted everything I thought I knew about writing. Mary single-handedly razed my entire world. I have never thanked her for this, but I probably should. Most of the ways I approached writing—admittedly selftaught from lack of proper instruction— were startling misconceptions. But then I came to Hiram College as a full-time student, and over the next three years the English Department faculty built that razed world back up—the right way this time, which is part of the intention of the workshop. “Joyce was the brainchild of the operation,” said Swenson, referring to

recently retired John S. Kenyon Professor of English Joyce Dyer. “It started as a way we could get what Hiram does out into the community, but to be pretty mercenary about it, we want students to come here, and we want good students to come here. Students who like to write. It’s about getting students who belong at Hiram to Hiram.” Not much has changed since the first workshop four years ago. The prompt for the first writing assignment remains the same. The lessons Jeff and Mary teach have not changed—though fundamental rules seldom do. Mistakes the students made, I remember making myself as a camper, and as I watched them struggle I could remember exactly how it felt to have not only the rug, but the wall-to-wall carpeting of my

writing know-how pulled from under my feet. To sit with Mary in Gerstacker Hall as a camper and hear that my writing was not as good as everyone had been telling me was shattering. To have Jarrad Davis ’09, a writing assistant that year, cross out my first paragraph and tell me it was cliché was also shattering. But that’s what’s marvelous about the program. The professors and writing assistants do not do their shattering with menace, and once I accepted that my writing had flaws and could be better, they gave me the means to fix it. Their actions held nuances, and they seemed to say, “You see, your writing can be good. Come work with us and we will show you.” And so I did, as have several other former emerging writers over the years. We continue to study under Mary and Jeff and the other English Department faculty members, to enter and win writing contests, to publish books and essays, and to present papers at a national level. And so too will other emerging writers in the future, their journeys also becoming cyclical, they too metamorphosing as Hiram writers. ` 7

a look back: spring 2012

Visions of India: A Day with Thrity Umrigar The Lindsay-Crane Center hosted author Thrity Umrigar in March 2012. Francesca Luppino shares her experience.


By Francesca Luppino ‘12

ne morning last March, I was particularly excited as I walked to my Visions of India literature class. It wasn’t unusual for me to look forward to class; absorbing the cultural details and conflicts in the Indian literature we were reading made the course one of my favorites during my time at Hiram. But that morning was different because Thrity Umrigar, an author best known for her novel The Space Between Us, was visiting. 8 amaranth fall 2012

In Visions of India, I was having trouble feeling a connection to what I had read in class. The authors were talented and the topics were intriguing, but a class theme was the inability of authors to fully capture the essence of India. How could I, an American only recently learning about elementary details of India, feel confident in having an understanding of India or these authors’ messages? I hoped that meeting an author we studied could help resolve my confusion about understanding and connecting to India. I was one of the first students to class that morning and sat in my usual seat in Bonney Castle’s Kenyon Library, placing me between my professor, Kirsten Parkinson, and Umrigar. The author sat with her hands folded over her colorful blouse, observing each student entering the room. Her poise and quietness humbly demanded respect, and we responded by quietly waiting for class to begin. Umrigar was comfortable around students, insisting that we ask questions. In response to our initial silence, she asked, “Did you hate my book? Is that why you’re not asking?” After this halfjoking comment, and her later teasing of a late classmate, we felt more at home discussing her writing and asking her questions. Umrigar lived in India until moving to the United States when she was 21, so she added a new perspective to our class discussion—one that included firsthand experience in both India and the United States. The Space Between Us has a theme of female struggle specific to India because of the main characters’ immersion in Indian class issues. But Umrigar explained this theme in a way that made it universal, connecting the caste struggles that created conflict in her novel to reasons for conflict in all human relationships. My classmate and fellow senior

English major Maryann Hudak also valued Umrigar’s multicultural viewpoint: “When Thrity Umrigar came to visit our Visions of India class, one of the first things she told us was that good literature needs to be universal. It is not just an account of a single culture; rather, it defines what it means to be human. As a Parsi woman, she brought her own unique cultural perspective into our class discussion, and at the same time, I could feel that universal connection amongst us. We were a group of people who were united by our passion for literature.” Umrigar discussed how authors make that universal connection in response to our questions about The Space Between Us and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, another book we read for class. Midnight’s Children blurs fiction and historical fact in an attempt to convey truth about Indian culture and history. Umrigar explained that in Midnight’s Children, the narrator’s use of exaggeration allows for a certain kind of truth, whether or not it is factual. Readers are able to connect to the narrative through this truth, making an effective comparison of the narrator’s life to Indian history. When she talked about her own novel, Umrigar said, “Isn’t this the purpose of literature— that you use your imagination?” She highly advocated the writing of truth, regardless of the accuracy of fact. At her convocation following our class, Umrigar continued to explain the background to her value of truth. She started writing “hate poems” when she was about five and needed to express her anger about being punished. She secretly placed them in her parents’ room, thinking the poems would remain anonymous despite her being their only child. Despite her childish naiveté in this act, even her earliest writing expressed the truth of her feelings.

Umrigar started her writing career as a journalist because “it was a way to enter this mysterious world of words in a way that was respectable.” While her desire to tell stories was instrumental to her journalism work, she explained why she transitioned away from journalism: “I wanted to communicate my own stories, values, words, ideas.” She continues to value her journalism training for giving her discipline and a good work ethic. It allowed her to enter peoples’ lives and homes, showing her details of human behavior. After reading aloud from her newest novel, The World We Found, Umrigar gave some final advice to the audience: “I truly, truly believe, if you have a strong passion for something, devote at least 10 years of your life to it and see if it takes you anywhere.” Coming from a witty, wise writer, this advice inspired me to pursue my recent interest in creative writing.


continued on page 17 g

Top: Thrity Umrigar speaks at her noon convocation on March 20, 2012 . Bottom: Her novels, The World We Found and The

Space Between Us, on display for the event in the Pritchard Room of the library. 9

a look back: spring 2012

censorship: A Point of Necessary Connection

Young Adult authors defend teen fiction’s tackling of controversial subjects By Francesca Luppino ‘12

10 amaranth fall 2012


y first experience with novelist Chris Crutcher was in the spring of 2011, when I read Whale Talk as a writing assistant for a First-Year Seminar course on censored books. Initially I wasn’t impressed. The plot followed a teenage boy’s experiences with misfits, bullying, and abuse, and I didn’t feel a connection to the situations and characters. I saw value in his writing because I knew others could identify with it, but I didn’t understand why it was considered great by so many teachers and teens. I had been told that Crutcher is valued because of his ability to address controversial topics and provide a means of connection for people dealing with the tumultuous lives of teenagers. Crutcher has published fourteen books and is one of the most censored authors in the United States due to the difficult subjects he confronts, including death, sexual abuse, bullying, and mental illness. But it took meeting and interviewing Crutcher for me to appreciate his writing as irreplaceable for some young adults. The Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature, partnering with the Center for Engaged Ethics and the Education Department, brought Chris Crutcher to Hiram College in March to start the two-night Young Adult Author Symposium. It was the first LindsayCrane event focusing on the increasingly popular YA genre. Although his books are frequently banned, Crutcher is not troubled by the debate his writing provokes. During his talk, he explained that he prides himself on achieving the reader-character intimacy that causes his books to be censored. He said he wants to “tell it all” while modeling a bond with readers similar to the one Harper Lee achieves through Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. To create connection, he likes to write about humans pushing to the limits of

behavior as they try to survive, which often involves controversial issues. I started to see the importance of Crutcher’s work as he showed that his drive to write comes from the connection he makes with his readers. He has received feedback from his young readers on the sections of his books that were censored: “It was like you knew me” and “It’s good to feel there’s someone else.” He said about these responses, “That’s what it’s all about. If we let kids talk first, we wouldn’t have to have the argument about censorship.” His heartfelt point was that while some try to censor his writing, his YA readers sense a truth that they have not found elsewhere. These examples of reader-author identification reinforced the fact that while I might not directly relate to Crutcher’s plots, there are readers dealing with issues incomprehensible to me, and they need the point of connection they find in his stories. Hearing Crutcher’s satisfaction in reaching these people allowed me to realize the value and impact of his work. After addressing censorship, Crutcher gave the audience writing advice: that writers should tell stories of universal human connection. For example, everyone can relate to grief, he said: “Grief is one of the most important things we do. We are always losing things.” Yet, he also thinks that books should be about life, not death, so the concentration should be on finding life through hardships. The author should seek to “feel the fundamental thing of who we are.” Crutcher expanded on these themes when I interviewed him during his visit. He became a teacher after college because “there was nothing else to do, and it fit.” From teaching, he transitioned into child therapy, which eventually pushed him to tell stories that serve as a kind of therapy for young adults. His road to success in

I started to see the importance of Crutcher’s work as he showed that his drive to write comes from the connection he makes with his readers.

writing was a gradual progression as his interests in therapy evolved; he simply decided he wanted to tell about his experiences in therapy work. After he started writing, he said, “I just ached to be published; I wanted people to read it.” This statement exemplifies his desire to connect and help others; his want to be published seems selfless after hearing him talk about the help his writing provides for struggling young adults. Crutcher enjoys visiting schools because he witnesses how people respond to his writing and thus solidifies the relationship created through his books. He likes to observe children interacting at events, which helps him connect with them by first talking about his books and then the universal topics of life. He was able to experience this during his visit to Hiram College by meeting with all of the seventh graders at James A. Garfield Middle School in Garrettsville. As I’ve started to think of myself as a writer in the last year, I used a few minutes of my interview with Crutcher to ask him for advice. His dedication to connection proved true, even in our conversation; he was able to relate immediately to my unsure feelings as a graduating college English major with a newfound interest in creative writing. He emphasized a writer’s need for confidence and stated, “If you want to write it, you know how. Nobody makes stuff up. Write so people receive what you write.” His friendly, comfortable tone allowed me to connect with his advice; I realized that I should have confidence because I know how to write what I want people to receive. If it is true to me,

I can write to help others understand the truth I feel. While discussing his own uncertainty when starting to write, Crutcher said, “It felt right, but my belief in my capability wasn’t there. I was going to throw it away.” He said that he has since realized “there is no context for feeling stupid . . . if you can read and write emotional responses.” Crutcher’s discussion of censorship and the author-reader connection carried over into the following evening’s panel discussion with local YA authors J.T. (Jen) Dutton, Hiram College adjunct faculty member; Angela Johnson; Tricia Springstubb; and Mara Purnhagen, moderated by Rollie Welch from the Cleveland Public Library. The first question set the mood as Welch asked, “Do schools have the right to step away from a book?” Johnson avoided direct controversy, saying that censorship should be allowed to decide age-appropriate audiences. Purnhagen jumped in to adamantly say that censorship is “people desperately wanting control. They think if the children don’t read about it, they’ll never know.” This bold statement opened up a lively discussion ranging from publishing companies labeling books to parents’ rights in deciding what their children read to writing a series and continuing characters. While each author voiced her own opinions, all agreed that young adults have a need to connect, and censorship often works to block that relationship. Springstubb, like Crutcher, was highly


continued on page 17 g 11




of the

By Devlin Geroski ‘14

What does it take to be a professor of Victorian literature in today’s world? Devlin Geroski finds out in his interview with Prof. Kirsten Parkinson.

12 amaranth fall 2012


he shelves of Kirsten Parkinson’s office are lined with books, which is fitting for an associate professor of English and the director of the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature. More perplexing are the wind-up toys that mingle with her library. A panda bear, a frog, a cowboy, what looks like a walking nose, Winnie the Pooh, various pieces of wind-up sushi—they are legion. At the moment, the toys are static, but one can easily imagine Spongebob Squarepants on his purple jellyfish soaring past Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and skidding to a stop in front of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Parkinson hopes the collection is a testament to her fun side, a way of convincing students that she isn’t

a stuffy, scary Harvard University graduate. The toys certainly do bring a sort of gleeful charisma to her office, if the comics posted outside her door and the autographed Dixie Chicks picture in the corner of the room didn’t already. But don’t let her fool you into believing she isn’t a meticulous strategist. After all, she has to find some way to juggle her duties as a professor; an active contributor to literary criticism; the director of the Lindsay-Crane Center, a position she took up in May 2011; as well as a mother. “It is really tough,” she says about balancing her new responsibility with the others, “but it’s an administrative role that I can get really excited about.” As the director of the Lindsay-Crane Center alone, Parkinson is a “blanket overseer” of all Center events and organizations. Among other things, she coordinates authors’ visits to campus, comanages Hiram’s writing contests, works behind the scenes on Center advertising and publicity, seeks out professional development opportunities for students, and plans and chairs meetings with the Center’s Resource Council twice per year to decide on future directions for the Center. “One thing that helps me is that I have a lot of support at home and at Hiram,” she says. Parkinson explains that she and her husband, a faculty member at the University of Mount Union, are good at coordinating their schedules so that everything remains secure on the home front and that English Department colleagues are mutually supportive of each other’s goals and schedules. Another thing that definitely helps is her level of forethought and organization. She has a calendar that rarely leaves her side and an ever-growing number of todo lists so that she stays on top of things. Parkinson adopted this organized method of problem-solving early on,

and it has not only helped get her where she is today but also has influenced her interests from the beginning. “When I was a kid, I loved mysteries,” she says. “I was a mystery fanatic, starting with Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown.” It isn’t hard to imagine a young Parkinson borrowing the thorough, systematic detective strategies of her childhood heroes. Owing partly to her adoration for mysteries, Parkinson knew that she wanted to major in English when she attended Harvard as an undergraduate.

I fell in love with

Wilkie Collins, so my

junior paper was on The

Woman in White. Then I decided to write my

senior thesis on Wilkie Collins. That kind

of hooked me on the Victorians.

During her junior year, she took a year-long, one-on-one tutorial with a graduate student whose expertise was in detective fiction. During this course, Parkinson was introduced to British writer Wilkie Collins. “I fell in love with Wilkie Collins, so my junior paper was on The Woman in White,” she says. “And then I decided to write my senior thesis on Wilkie Collins. That kind of hooked me on the Victorians.” After graduating magna cum laude in English and American language and literature from Harvard, she attended

graduate school at the University of Southern California. She earned her master’s degree in English literature in 1997 and her Ph.D. in 2001. In between, she had a handful of odd jobs. She wrote for a controlled-circulation computer magazine called MacWEEK, held a secretarial position at a multi-branch bank, and even worked as a researcher for a prolific romance novelist. When she began teaching at Hiram College, Parkinson’s keen interest in Victorian literature tagged along with her; her area of expertise is 19th- and 20th-century British literature and culture. She teaches classes on Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Wilkie Collins, as well as a 19th-century British Literature survey course. “When I get to teach things like that, the area I probably know best,” she says, “I enjoy it because it’s sort of like coming home. It’s familiar.” This summer, she’s also been sharing her knowledge of 19th-century British literature outside of Hiram. Since June, Parkinson has given six lectures on aspects of Dickens’s life and works, including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, to introduce plays performed by the Rabbit Run Theater in Madison, Ohio, for its Dickens of a Summer Celebration. But she also likes branching out from her area of specialization, which Hiram’s supportive community allows her to do. Along with British literature, she teaches classes on Indian literature, gender studies, the cultural meanings of monsters, and even a class called “Writing about Food.” These classes give her a welcome chance to read and teach and learn about things she otherwise would not. Parkinson claims she has yet to teach a class at Hiram that


continued on page 17 g 13

nick Sawatsky featured student profile

After a successful first two years, junior Nick Sawatsky is already working on a life after Hiram. By Brendan Curtin ‘13


ick Sawatsky ‘14 came to Hiram College in the fall of 2010 knowing he wanted to be a creative writing major. “Writing wasn’t ever something I decided to do. It was just something I always did,” Sawatsky said. After choosing Hiram from among other small liberal arts schools, Sawatsky attended the Lindsay-Crane Center’s Emerging Writers Workshop in Creative Nonfiction (see story, page 4). Although he took part in the workshop posthigh school instead of as a rising junior or senior, the experience allowed Sawatsky the chance to meet the professors with whom he would be working as a Hiram undergraduate. Now a junior, he has already enjoyed much writing success. During his first year, Sawatsky was awarded honorable mention in both the Echo Student Literary Competition and the Barbara Thompson Contest in Short Fiction. As a sophomore, Sawatsky swept Hiram’s most notable writing contests, winning the Ralph and Marion G. Kroehle Contest in Creative Nonfiction and moving up to a first-place finish in the Barbara Thompson Contest in Short Fiction. Sawatsky was also awarded the Grace Chamberlain Prize in Creative Writing, an English Department scholarship given to a sophomore who shows significant promise in the craft. Sawatsky’s piece “Thank You for Running from the 14 amaranth fall 2012

Police” was published in the June 2012 issue of Stumble, a San Francisco-based literary and photography journal; it also appears on Stumble’s website. Sawatsky credits his writing classes with helping him improve his work to prize-winning and publication level. “I didn’t enter either into contests nor for publication in literary magazines before deconstructing [my work] within Hiram workshops and after getting extensive feedback from writing professors/saints,” says Sawatsky.“Without those workshops and without that advice, the pieces would not have evolved into what eventually found them acceptance.” With such a successful undergraduate career only halfway done, Sawatsky is already on the hunt for the perfect graduate school. He has a poster in his room on which he collects information about different grad schools. “Location matters, but reputation is most important,” Sawatsky said, hinting at an interest in the University of Iowa, a school commonly accepted as the Mecca of MFA programs. Personally, Sawatsky is partial to the work of Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Joyce Carol Oates. “I like Stephen King too,” he said. “I actually know quite a few professors who like him even though you’re not supposed to, really.” Sawatsky claims fiction as his primary genre, but like many writers, especially those young authors not yet embedded in any one form, he dabbles in others. “Sometimes I’ll get ready to write a fiction piece by writing rambling stream-of-consciousness poetry to get warmed up.” Despite his success, Sawatsky is still subject to the same whims of the craft as the rest of us: “I write every day but some days I really get a lot done and other days getting out a sentence is pretty tough.” Another challenge he faces is the break from classes over the summer. “I try to find people to read and critique my work. I miss that. Especially [comments] in fiction class from Mary [Quade],” Sawatsky said, referring to the workshop format of many Hiram writing courses. Sawatsky addresses these obstacles in resilient fashion, setting aside a certain amount of writing time every day—a strategy that has proved successful through his gamut of literary awards and ambitious graduate school prospects. ` Right: Nick Sawatsky, self-portrait

Moby-Duck and me

a book review

Brendan Curtin travels to New York in the company of visiting author Donovan Hohn’s Moby-Duck.


By Brendan Curtin ‘13

onovan Hohn will make you feel like an adventurer. Even I—turning the first few pages of Moby-Duck while standing in the Cleveland Greyhound Bus Terminal, seemingly surrounded by every vagabond and creep in the city—felt the rising thrill of adventure, which probably made the grungy man who asked if he could have my sunglasses seem more disarming than he would have normally. Internally, I saw myself as a miniature Hohn, likening my impending trip to Utica, New York, in the quest for more lucrative summer employment to Hohn’s inquiry into 28,800 bath toys accidentally dumped into the ocean—although his journey sends him to the remote coastlines of the Pacific Northwest while mine had me hopping dingy bus stops. I gobbled up the pages of Hohn’s book as monotonous highway landscape nipped past the windows. I was caught up in the chase for the small plastic Floatees and did my best to ignore an all-too-ironic stab at Greyhound Bus travel on page ninety-nine. But aside from affording my nine-hour journey a bit more pomp than it probably deserved, Moby-Duck is fascinating. At the same time, it made me queasy, but not because I was bussick. The facts Hohn presents about the severity of the human garbage problem are unnerving and made me want to put the book down. If only it were that easy. Hohn’s writing compelled me to turn the nearly four-hundred pages of his book, which are laced with an ambitious and sometimes overwhelming amount of detail about his journey. Hohn’s story and writing are engaging enough to draw readers into the depths of immaculately recorded details, to make us follow the author to the conclusion of the six chases he makes after the elusive, sun-bleached toys. The characters he meets along the way—Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a prophet figure among the beachcomber community and

publisher of the newsletter Beachcombers’ Alert!; Chris Pallister, a man with a passion for outwardly unseaworthy boats; Mr. Shin, an indisposed and reserved Korean—buoy the story forward, and I appreciated the spots of relief they added to the rip currents of facts about the degradation of our coastlines and the presence of vast gyres of trash circulating on ocean currents. How we as human beings have been able to pollute a place as vast as the Pacific Ocean is staggering. This thought sat thick and stagnant in my head as I watched the man who had coveted my sunglasses dig through a public ashtray in search of some lesssoggy cigarette butts from which he could nurse a few puffs. He had told me he was going all the way to Albany, but he wandered off into the streets of Syracuse, and the bus left without him. Hohn leaves no corner of the Floatee mystery un-probed and demonstrates true writerly devotion as he quits his job and leaves his wife and young son at home to hunt the tiny plastic flotsam. This level of thoroughness and sacrifice is what gives this book its clout. There is no room for what-ifs or how-aboutthats or did-you-think-of-these. Hohn misses nothing as he calls upon beachcombers and shipping records and boating captains and factory workers and environmentalists and many others to tell the story of the beavers, frogs, turtles, and ducks adrift in the ocean. He alludes to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flats, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and (of course) Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, a literary Rat Pack that I would not at all be surprised to see Hohn and his work join in the future. Consulting his trusty atlas and poking along faraway shores, Hohn reminds us that modern-day adventure is still a possibility. But his gutsy chase is filled with grounding facts netted along the way. These facts prove just how small we have made our world, and the images Hohn records of plastic-flecked coastlines are sobering indications of just how longlasting our decisions can be. From the time of the accident in 1992—when a container ship from Hong Kong jettisoned nearly 29,000 Floatee bath toys into rough seas—until 2011 when the book was published, Moby-Duck chronicles the journey of an author that was just as turbulent and adventuresome as that of the toys he chased. ` 15

FALL Event Guide Thursday, September 27, 2012 Pritchard Room, Hiram College Library, 7 p.m.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, Historical Novelist Pamela Schoenewaldt is a 1974 graduate of Hiram College. Her historical novel When We Were Strangers was shortlisted for the 2011 Langham Prize in American Historical Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy, and the United States. Her play, Espresso con mia madre (Espresso with my mother), was performed at Teatro Cilea in Naples. She taught writing for the University of Maryland, European Division and the University of Tennessee and now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her husband, Maurizio Conti, a medical physicist, and their dog Jesse, a philosopher.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 Kennedy Center Ballroom, 6:30 p.m.

Ruth Ozeki, Filmmaker and Novelist Hosted by the Center for Literature and Medicine Co-sponsored by the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature

Ruth Ozeki is an award-winning filmmaker and novelist. Her first novel, My Year of Meats, is a tale about global meat and media production, telling the story of two women on opposite sides of the planet connected by a cooking show. Ozeki was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut, by an American father and a Japanese mother. She earned a degree in English and Asian Studies and spent several years directing documentary-style programs for a Japanese company before she started making her own films. Her novels engage with contemporary food controversies (specifically, meat processing and genetically-modified foods), and Ozeki will be speaking about the role that fiction plays within these public debates.

Thursday, October 18, 2012 Pritchard Room, Hiram College Library, 7 p.m.

Donovan Hohn, Nonfiction Writer Co-sponsored by Hiram Community Trust and Environmental Studies Department

Donovan Hohn is the author of Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea, which was named a top book of 2011 by the New York Times and NPR. Hohn is the recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2010 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, Hopwood Awards in essay and poetry, and a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship. His work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Outside, among other publications. His January 2007 cover story for Harper’s was included in The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 2. A former English teacher and a former senior editor of Harper’s, he is now the features editor of GQ. He lives in New York with his wife and sons. 16 amaranth fall 2012

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wasn’t enjoyable, although she mentions it always helps to have students who are excited about the subject matter. She teaches her classes a bit differently depending on her audience, but she sticks to a basic, three-tiered philosophy. Parkinson explains, “My first goal is to get students to read actively and with a discerning eye, to be able to dissect what something is saying, how it’s saying it, and how it’s having the effect it has. The second goal is to teach students how to frame questions about what they’re interested in that they can then find the answers to. The third piece, of course, is helping students to learn how to communicate their ideas as effectively as possible. And I think that all of those skills are translatable to whatever field you go into.” Parkinson’s teaching philosophy encourages students to think independently, to dismantle the clockwork of an issue and search amongst the gears and levers and sprockets for a way to set their own solutions in motion. To foster intellectual growth, she simply awakens in her students a sense of wonder, leaving them with the opportunity to pursue their interests in the ways they want. She winds them up, so to speak, and leaves them to their own devices. `

Umrigar’s passion for telling truth through writing made me realize that my concern about understanding India accurately was irrelevant. Authors want to connect personally with their readers, and each one uses a different topic or means to do so. I can glimpse parts of India by understanding that I share universal human struggles with people of different nationalities, classes, and cultures. If I can connect to the writing, I have a better understanding of all people, including those more closely impacted by India than I am. Talking personally with our visiting authors this semester—not only Umrigar but the writers who were part of the Lindsay-Crane Center’s Young Adult Literature Symposium (see story, page 10)—was one of the best opportunities I’ve experienced during my time at Hiram. Each author seemed genuinely concerned with my interests and goals and encouraged me to pursue my interests in writing creative nonfiction and learning about culture, despite my worries. Their interest and encouragement pushes me to follow their advice to pursue writing, not because of their fame or publishing success, but because, like me, they value the truth they can communicate through the written word. `

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influenced by the realistic characters in Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. This connection between character and reader remained the ultimate goal for each author participating in the symposium. Johnson summarized the overall direction of the discussion: “Really, we want to see ourselves in books. The child knows when he is ready to go there.” As Atticus tells Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” The visiting authors seemed to hope children would make this kind of connection through reading and understand Scout’s realization that universal connection exists: “Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” `

Save the date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 The Lindsay-Crane Center will be hosting an Evening of Hiram Writers with readings by student contest winners from the year’s writing competitions. All are welcome to attend. 17

Spring 2013 Events Paul Greenberg

Paul Freedman

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 Kennedy Center Ballroom, 7 p.m.

Thursday, March 28, 2013 Pritchard Room, Library, 12 p.m.


Paul Greenberg’s award-winning book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food is the focus of Hiram College’s 2013 community reading program. He is also the author of the 2002 novel Leaving Katya and is a regular contributor to The New York Times. He has written for National Geographic Magazine, GQ, The Times (of London), Vogue, and many other publications. In the last five years he has been both a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow and a W. K. Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellow. A commentator on public radio programs including Fresh Air and All Things Considered, Greenberg lectures widely on issues of ocean sustainability. He has lectured and reported extensively overseas with assignments in Russia, Ukraine, France, the Caucasus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and the West Bank/Gaza.


The Chester D. Tripp Professor of History at Yale University, Paul Freedman teaches and publishes on medieval history. Much of his work has focused on Spain in the Middle Ages as well as on peasants and the church, but he also has a longstanding interest in the history of food and cuisine. He edited Food: The History of Taste, an illustrated collection of essays about food from prehistoric to contemporary times that won a cookbook award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination, his book on the demand for spices in medieval Europe, was published in 2008 by Yale University Press. His 1999 book Images of the Medieval Peasant won the Haskins Medal of the Medieval Academy of America and the Gründler Prize of the International Medieval Congress.

About the Lindsay-Crane The Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature is named for two poets who had close ties to Northeast Ohio. Nicholas Vachel Lindsay attended Hiram College from 1897 to 1900, and Harold Hart Crane was born in nearby Garrettsville. The Lindsay-Crane Center offers special opportunities for Hiram College writers and readers in every discipline. The Center implements the College’s Writing Across the Curriculum program (one of the oldest in the nation), brings professional writers to campus for intimate interactions with students and the public, mounts on-campus and regional writing contests, and vigorously supports the importance of a liberal-arts education in the 21st century. In addition, it offers students, community members, and other friends of the College rich experiences outside the classroom that contribute to intellectual and artistic pleasure and growth and maintains a deep commitment to interdisciplinary ventures with other departments and Centers.

To contact or support the Center:


Kirsten Parkinson, Director of the Center, 330.569.5323 Jenifer Warren, Assistant Director of Major Gifts, 330.569.5280

Wr i t i n g & Literature


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