Eckerd is known for its robust marine science program, but in the past few years, the creative writing program has begun to grow in both size and ambition. Senior Saunder Mayer, working closely with Associate Professor of Creative Writing Jon Chopan in an independent study this semester, aims to take the major to the next level.
The course, called “Literary Citizenship and the Writing Life,” combines the traditional workshop structure of a creative writing course with community outreach and discussions about how to establish oneself in the writing world. At Eckerd, Mayer and Chopan hope to strengthen the literary community’s presence on campus through a series of student and faculty readings planned for this fall.
“What we do in the classroom is mostly just focus on your work, which I think is important. But I think being a part of a literary community is bigger than that,” Chopan said. “The newspaper and the literary magazine have done well, but we don’t have much of a reading series. We don’t have much in terms of an experience for [students] to share outside the classroom. This seemed like a stepping stone for that.”
The work to improve Eckerd’s creative writing department doesn’t end within the college’s walls. Another important goal of the independent study is to continue to support Eckerd’s writers post-graduation.
“I know a big anxiety of mine is, after college, how am I going to be able to find a space to do this, or people to be a community with?” Mayer said.
Mayer’s intention is to lay the foundation for that space and that community. For example, recent graduate Anneliese Gelberg has also decided to take part in the independent study by following along with the syllabus, which includes space for workshopping, while she earns her master of arts in a teaching (MAT) in English at Smith College in Massachusetts.
“At Eckerd, I realized that writing, at its best, is a collaboration,” Gelberg said. “We need those other voices. We need that support system. It makes our writing better, and it gives us the space to grow.”
The creative writing program has made other recent strides. Professors are working to create a Bachelor of Fine Arts program. Also, courses like Professor of Literature and Creative Writing Scott Ward’s “Publishing and the Writing Career,” being offered this fall, as well as new internship opportunities with the “Eckerd Review,” teach students how to stay engaged in the writing world even if they don’t end up pursuing a career as a writer.
With 51 students currently pursuing a creative writing major and more expected in the spring as first-years declare their majors, prospects for the successful creation of a writing community look optimistic.
The first student and faculty reading is planned for Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. in Cobb Gallery, with more planned for the months of October and November.