Event Spotlight: Visiting Writers Kathleen Rooney, Martin Seay

lillianmirror-thief

by Robert M. Keding
contributor to the Underground

Packed in to a small meeting room in DePaul’s Richardson Library, a large audience gathered to hear authors Kathleen Rooney and Martin Seay read selections from their newest novels, and then answer questions on their creative processes and experiences within the literary world.

Martin Seay’s book is entitled The Mirror Thief, and follows three different con artists working in sixteenth-century Venice, 1950s Venice Beach, California, and modern-day Las Vegas in the Venice Casino. This bold debut novel, weaving together these three seemingly separate but mysteriously linked narratives, is a masterfully written tale, evoking comparisons to such work as Cloud Atlas.

Seay’s advice to aspiring writers is to do a lot of background research, especially for period pieces like The Mirror Thief. “Even if you have the facts and details right, you still have to make sure the dialogue flows correctly too. Otherwise you might just end up with characters that sound like the people faking British accents on the subway,” he told the crowd. To get the sixteenth-century portions of the story sounding right, he found himself reading a lot of literature of that time—especially Shakespeare.

Kathleen Rooney spoke about her recent novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. This is her second novel, and was just published by St. Martin’s Press in the first weeks of 2017. The story chronicles an aging Lillian, going for a stroll around New York City and recounting various moments during her life, from humble beginnings to a career as the highest-paid woman in American advertising.

Rooney’s advice touched on the differences between writing prose and poetry, another realm of literature which she is invested in. “It’s possible to accidentally sit down and write a great poem. It’s a task so durationally shorter and full of so many chances for happy mistakes… It is, however, much more difficult to sit down for an hour or two and come up saying, ‘Whoops, I just accidentally wrote a really well-crafted novel!’” The room, undoubtedly filled with aspiring writers, could certainly relate.

Be sure to look for The Mirror Thief and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, in bookstores now.

Scholarships for English Majors

books-1673578_1280

Applications due February 5th, 2017

The English department invites applications for three scholarships available to English majors: the Ellin M. Kelly, Ph. D. Endowed British Literature Award ($1500), the Honors English Scholarship ($2900), and the Mary Zavada Memorial Endowed Scholarship ($2800). Each scholarship has different requirements.

To be eligible for any of these scholarships, students must

  • be declared English majors at sophomore level or higher.
  • have completed at least two quarters at DePaul.
  • have completed at least three English courses with a minimum GPA of 3.5 in those courses.
  • plan to register in at least two courses in Spring 2017.

To apply for scholarships you must complete the following steps:

1.  If you have not done so already for the current academic year, complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid at https://fafsa.ed.gov/) and have the results sent to DePaul University. This is only required for need-based scholarships. Please note that you are not required to accept a financial aid package in order to be considered for need-based scholarships. You need only fill out and submit the application. Any federal financial aid accepted on your behalf through the FAFSA process is your responsibility.

2. Complete the General Application at https://depaul.academicworks.com/users/sign_in.

a.       Log into the DePaul Online Scholarship Application using your Campus Connect ID and password.

b.      Complete and submit the General Application.

i.    Once your application has been completed and submitted successfully, it will be marked with a green checkmark.

ii.   If it is gray, the application was not submitted successfully; try again.

3.  After submitting the General Application, you will automatically route to opportunities for which you qualify and more information is needed. If you are recommended for additional scholarships, you will be able to view a list of opportunities.  Apply for them by clicking on the blue “Apply” button beside each scholarship.  Additional questions or information may be required to complete the application process.

After Submitting an Application

If awarded a scholarship, you will be notified via email and you will see a notification on the “applications” tab of the scholarship application site under “active.” You must accept the award within the DePaul Online Scholarship Application in order to receive the money. You will also receive communication from financial aid stating that your financial aid award letter has been updated. If you are not selected for a scholarship, you will see a notification on the “home” tab of the website indicating your application was reviewed and not selected. Individual emails are not sent for those not selected.

If you have any questions, please contact Professor Jennifer Conary, Director of Undergraduate Studies, at jconary1@depaul.edu.

Available Scholarships

Ellin M. Kelly, Ph. D. Endowed British Literature Award, $1500

The Kelly Endowed British Literature Award recognizes the academic achievement of students who have demonstrated their dedication to the study of British literature.  Preference will be given to candidates with a strong interest in Medieval Literature and/or students who plan to go on for a graduate degree in English. Only Juniors and Seniors are eligible for this scholarship.

Applicants for this scholarship will need to upload the following documents with their electronic application:

  • A 400-500-word statement highlighting your dedication to the study of British literature as demonstrated through your coursework, including independent studies or research projects, as well as any related extracurricular activities or future plans.
  • An up-to-date transcript (unofficial transcripts downloaded from Campus Connect are fine).
  • An essay dealing with British literature from any period.

The Honors English Scholarship, $2900

The Honors English scholarship provides financial assistance to Honors students who are also English majors. To be eligible for this scholarship, you must be enrolled in the Honors Program and you must demonstrate financial need. Academic engagement and achievement will also be taken into consideration.

Applicants for the Honors English Scholarship will need to upload the following documents with their electronic application:

  • A 400-500-word statement highlighting your academic engagement and achievement in the English major and the Honors Program and indicating how this scholarship will help you financially.
  • An up-to-date transcript (unofficial transcripts downloaded from Campus Connect are fine).
  • A writing sample (a literary essay or a creative work produced for one of your classes)

The Mary Zavada Memorial Endowed Scholarship, $2800

The Mary Zavada Memorial Endowed Scholarship provides financial assistance to students majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing.  You must be in good academic standing and demonstrate financial need.

Applicants for this scholarship will need to upload the following documents with their electronic application:

  • An up-to-date transcript (unofficial transcripts downloaded from Campus Connect are fine).
  • A sample of your creative writing (short story, set of poems, essay, etc.).

 

 

 

Event Spotlight: Curbside Splendor’s Book Fort Fair

by Robert M. Keding
contributor to the Underground

Upon entering the Revival Food Hall, visitors feel the cold and snowy outside world fade away. Long aisles filled with people spread as far as the eye can see, encompassed by a warm glow of laughter and conversation. The Food Hall is filled with over a dozen different stations run by some of Chicagoland’s best restaurants, serving up their most popular dishes in all tastes and styles. The Food Hall is packed even on their slowest days, but things are especially hopping today. And that is because Curbside Splendor’s pop-up Book Fort Fair is currently underway.

Curbside Splendor is a Chicago-based independent book press, based out of Humboldt Park. In 2014 they were named the “Best Chicago Indie Publisher” by CHICAGO magazine. Curbside is the home of such fantastic work as Steve Himmer’s Scratch and Toni Nealie’s The Miles Between Me. Recently, they opened a book and record store in the Revival Food Hall, where they sell their work, the work of other independent presses, and hold events such as novella contests, literary readings, and book fairs like this one, to engage the public with Chicago’s ever-growing and prospering literary scene.

The Book Fort Fair, at first glance, seems to be their biggest event yet. Many tables line the already-crowded aisles towards the hall’s center, their surfaces packed with an unimaginable array of overlooked and underappreciated novels from Midwest authors. Representatives from Curbside stand beside their tables, speaking enthusiastically about the work, making connections and recommendations with the Hall’s visitors. The air is electric, as diners not only share the food on their plates, but also stories.

As the weather gets colder, and the days grow shorter, consider visiting the Revival Food Hall, located at 125 S. Clark Street in downtown Chicago’s Loop. Grab some friends, grab some food, and stop by Curbside Splendor’s shop to grab a good book to top the day off.

The shop is open from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM on weekdays. They are closed on weekends, except during special events such as the book fairs. Visit their website for more information.

Much Ado About an English Major Career

by Robert M. Keding
contributor to the Underground

It’s a dreary Tuesday evening on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus when Annette Hobbs Magier, Abby Saul, and Naomi Hoffman take the stage for a panel discussion on finding careers in publishing. Before them, in the small lecture hall, sit approximately fifty English majors, each with the same question on their minds: What in the world am I going to do when I graduate?

“I became the world’s best folder of children’s polos.”

For Magier, the answer was simple: “I’d always wanted to be [a magazine] editor, no doubt in my mind.” So how, then, did she go from that near-certain future to working in the boiler room of a Staten Island Ferry, then the children’s clothing section of Marshall Field’s, and now to the top of the marketing department for the publishing house Albert Whitman & Company? Well, to be frank, she doesn’t quite know herself.

Magier’s first inkling that editing was not in the cards came during a post-undergraduate NYU summer publishing program. “Have you all seen The Devil Wears Prada?” she asks the crowd. “Well the magazine [editing] world is exactly like that, not even kidding—absolutely cutthroat.” So Magier changed her plans and began to think creatively. She set her sights on New York City, home to the ‘Big Five’ publishing houses. But she couldn’t just get up and settle down halfway across the country overnight. “My father was a ship captain, so he was able to get me a job working below deck on a boat they were moving from the Great Lake to use in New York as a ferry… I told him how great of a story this was gonna make, and how it’d get my foot in the door… I was totally gonna make it—I didn’t make it.”

She did find herself in job interviews, however, with employers intrigued by her atypical resume. And it was in one such interview, at HarperCollins, where she learned the most useful lesson of her entire career—never limit yourself. She accepted a position in rights management, the kind of place where “nobody wants to be,” clearing the use of book excerpts for school textbooks. She eventually rolled on up into the Marketing Department, finding herself working with children’s books, no less, the very sort of thing she’d taken a liking to at her part-time job in the youth clothing section of Marshall Field’s. “It wasn’t a likely path, and it wasn’t what I planned, but I love what I do now,” she tells the room, a large smile spreading across her face. It seems that in life, just like in our favorite novels, the best endings are often the most unpredictable ones.

“I spent my senior year of college freaking out.”

Abby Saul had an unusual entry into the publishing world. Also wanting to be an editor, Saul enrolled in the same NYU program as Magier, with equally uncertain results. She recalls that by the final event of the summer, a job fair, she didn’t even bother attending. “I decided to just start being an online pest… I emailed literally everyone I could, looking for an opening.” An opening which she got when offered a small role working production: “It was my job to take the book from its finalized manuscript form, and to turn it into an actual finished product—something you could hold in your hands.” Saul had never before considered this part of the publishing process, let alone conceived it as something she might be interested in. “The first thing I worked on was doing touchup and Photoshop for a textbook entitled Structural Concrete,” she recounts, chuckling to herself along with the rest of the audience. “Not very interesting, I know.”

Fortunately, Saul soon moved her way up from Structural Concrete to such work as the Betty Crocker cookbooks. She found doing color correction on chocolate chip cookies much more enthralling than highway overpasses, but there was still more ladder-climbing to do: “Sometimes, in order to progress, you have to leave the place you’re at, jump over into some other publishing house or capacity, and then start working your way up again there.”

Eventually, Saul decided the next best move was to strike out on her own path. Just this past year she has become a freelance agent, a liaison between authors and publishing houses. “The slush pile is a real thing,” she tells the crowd. “Agented manuscripts get seen first in the business… Even as just a new agent I receive around 200 queries a week to sort through.” Although her path forward is not grounded, Saul is optimistic, quite liking the freedom that being her own boss affords her. Unlike other career paths which are clear and predetermined, publishing seems more about doing your own thing. Perhaps it is quite fitting that in such a creative industry, it is so often up to authors to write their own chapters in life.

“I ate peanut butter sandwiches for an entire summer.”

Naomi Hoffman starts off her tale by reminiscing about the time not so long ago when she would have been one of the students listening in the audience. As her senior year drew to a close, her parents kept asking what the plan was for life after graduation, a question all of us English majors have undoubtedly heard a few dozen too many times. Her response? “I’m not sure yet… I’m an artist, Mom.”

Her first summer after graduation was rough. She was strapped for cash and “just sort of listed about.” But, much like Magier and Saul, it was only because of this struggle that opportunities developed. Among other odd jobs, Hoffman found herself babysitting. And even though such work seems far from applicable on an English major’s resume (much like working the boilers on a ferry), she found it one of the most relevant experiences of her career: “Taking care of three kids at one time told me more about publishing than anything else in the world.”

One of Hoffman’s first industry jobs was redeveloping the literary section of Newcity magazine, then in its infancy. The path wasn’t easy, however. The magazine had few resources, and Hoffman found herself working very part time for little, sometimes no money. The hope was that if her new literary section was successful enough, the company would grow as a result, opening up space for her. In the meantime she worked more odd jobs, including “mindless” office work, but eventually she was brought onboard. She is also currently the Editor in Chief of Curbside Splendor, a small indie publishing house in Chicago which recently opened its own bookstore in the South Loop. In these capacities, Hoffman is able to spread her love for literature. It seems that ‘off-the-beaten-track’ is right up her alley.

But it was the final piece of advice that night which was perhaps the most poignant, echoed by all three members of the panel. That is—once you find a job, once you find a position which pays the bills and gets your foot in the door, ask yourself, “Is this where I really want to be?” As all three publishers proved, it is oh so easy to get stuck within your own headspace when it comes to what the future holds. But the most important thing we can do is to trust our gut, pursuing not necessarily what pays the most in money but what lends the most in love. Because even though publishing is an industry and writing novels is a business, we can’t lose sight of what drew us to literature in the first place—our hearts.

Making a Case for the Multi-Major

by Austin Shepard Woodruff
contributor to the Underground

Pick a major, follow the path set out ahead, and slowly tick off the requirements class by class. For most students, one major is more than enough to fill up the weeks of the quarter, and especially for programs that demand a student’s presence, attention, energy, and time outside the classroom, this single-major style of learning becomes a central focus in a student’s life. This style is often layered with repetition of a certain skill set. Upon graduation, students may have tendencies to categorize knowledge in particular ways rooted in place for the rest of their learning processes. ‘One major, one minor’ becomes a degree whose specificity marks its limitations. But this is only one way to approach an education. I believe that learning in formal educational settings is altogether more effective, more productive, and more powerful when students pursue more than one field of study.

I study literature and philosophy here at DePaul University and can vouch for the success of applying skills learned in literature classes to demands in philosophy classes. In the Humanities, especially, the skills one develops in a certain field are applicable to other fields. As a literature major, I learn to critically analyze literary texts and the construction of cultural identities; as a philosophy major I learn to engage with philosophical texts to grasp the frameworks of cultural foundations. Language and truth are as intertwined as literature and philosophy. One is the organ that functions; the other is the expression, the representation, of that function. Philosophy and literature affect one another—indeed they perpetuate one another, and frequently their respective grammars overlap.

The literature major develops a skill set that prepares a student for critical analysis; applying this faculty to other areas of learning becomes immediate and instinctual. The literature program, and other programs in the English Department, offers space for students to navigate their thought processes and explain themselves clearly in relation to specific cultural contexts. These are necessary talents for further studies and for success beyond the undergraduate degree. To study “literature” without “philosophy” may thwart the realization of potentially harmonious paths to knowledge. This is true of not only the pairing of philosophy and literature, but of all multi-majors. The multi-major shapes meaning and understanding in ways that create opportunity for further learning. Intersecting majors create a dynamic learning experience that goes beyond the usual narrow vision for opportunity in education.

Real learning happens in surpassing boundaries and overcoming limits, be they at the edge of epistemological frameworks or embedded in the very structure of belief. Ask of your discipline: what holds you? What do you hold? Ask yourself: how should we learn? How should I learn? While it is valuable to appreciate institutional strategies for organization of knowledge, so too is the questioning and reinvention of those strategies for every student.  Does ‘one major, one minor’ leave room for growth? Does it instill a sense of wonder for the multiplicity of the world? Does it inspire a thirst for meaning that defies enclosure? Readers should meditate on their choice of study carefully, especially at the beginning of every quarter and every school year. We should make a point to consider how we are learning and what we can do differently to appreciate the many changing modes of discovery in our world. Pursuing more than one major may be the first step.