Graduating Senior: Bryn Cavin

1.) What is your major and minor(s)? What is your hometown?

English Literature and Writing, with a minor in Editing & Publishing. I’m also in the Honors program, if that counts as a minor of sorts.

My hometown is Aberdeen, WA.

2.) What are memorable experiences you’ve had as an English Major here at Whitworth? This can include travel/outside of class, as well as specific classes.

I’ve been unbelievably lucky in all the experiences that I’ve been able to have through Whitworth over the past four years. It’s difficult to choose which ones to write about here.

During the fall semester of my junior year, I worked as an intern for the Smithsonian Latino Center in Washington, DC. It was an amazing experience to be able to work as a writer and editor for a major cultural institution, and to be able to learn from museum professionals about all that it takes to run a place like the Smithsonian. Over the course of the semester, I wrote the language for two complete fundraising campaigns, which raised over $16,000. I also helped prepare for and staff the press announcement for the establishment of the Molina Family Latino Gallery at the National Museum of American History, which is set to open in 2021. This gallery will be the first permanent space at Smithsonian dedicated to the representation and celebration of Latino history and culture, and I am honored to have played a tiny role in bringing it to life. My work with the SLC was humbling, and I’m so thankful for the ways in which it prepared me to be a better, more responsible writer and editor after my graduation from Whitworth. Also, the other interns and I got to go into the museums before they opened to the public as part of our Smithsonian Seminar classes every Friday, and something about empty, silent museums is seriously the most magical. I spent a great deal of the semester feeling like a character in Night at the Museum 2, and I can’t recommend that experience highly enough.

Bryn Cavin at St. James’s Park in London during her study abroad trip.

This January, I was able to spend a month in London on the British Culture Through the Arts study program. It was a dream to have the chance to dwell in the same space as so many of the writers that I’ve studied in my classes, attend theatre performances nearly every night, and spend hours roaming museums and bookshops. I don’t think that I’ll ever stop wishing that I could have hit the world’s pause button on the mornings that I spent reading in Hyde Park.

I’m incredibly grateful for all of my on-campus experiences as well.I’m already homesick for the seminars and poetry workshops, homework sessions in the Westminster lounge, long evening conversations in Laurie’s office, and chatter with all of our wonderful professors during my shifts at the front desk.

3.) What are your goals for after graduation?

I’ve been accepted into the University of St. Andrews as a postgraduate student to obtain my MLitt in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture, global pandemics and travel restrictions permitting.

4.) What are your plans for the remainder of senior year?

That’s a bit up in the air right now, what with the madness of the current global health situation. I’m definitely heartbroken that I won’t be able to finish my last semester at Whitworth in the way I expected to. Even so, I am looking forward to working with the rest of the Rock & Sling staff to put together my final issue as the journal’s Assistant Managing Editor, and I’ll be joining as many conference calls and WebEx meetings as I can for these last months of book discussions, editorial meetings, and writing workshops with the people I love so dearly.

5.) What advice do you have for new majors coming to Whitworth?

I’m sure new English majors will be sick of hearing this within the first week of classes, but I would really encourage anyone new to the department to be intentional about visiting profs during their office hours. Some of my very favorite conversations from the past four years started out as quick check-ins during office hours (one time, Laurie and I got so caught up in our conversation that we accidentally stayed in her office talking for four hours after class).

I would also recommend getting as involved as possible with all the wonderful things that our department does. I would not have been able to build nearly as strong of a support system here had I not joined Rock & Sling’s staff or gone to as many readings and department events as I could.

I feel so lucky to have had these things that are going to make leaving this place so difficult, and I’m so excited for everyone who still has all of this and more on the horizon.

Joshua Robbins Reading

On November 4th, the Whitworth English Department had the pleasure of hosting award-winning poet and alumni Joshua Robbins as the year’s Amy Ryan Endowed Poet. Mr. Robbins gave an incredibly lively reading—at times looking much like a symphony conductor—and shared memories of his time at Whitworth between poems. His poems, shared both from his collection Praise Nothing and from the collection he is currently working on, blend the urban and the spiritual in a way that made the rest of the room fall away while he read. 

Joshua Robbins

Mr. Robbins also visited several classes and ate lunch with a group of students in the Sodexo cafeteria. I had the privilege of attending that lunch and listening to Josh speak about mental illness, poetry, education, and many other topics. His passion for the written word was evident in the way he talked about both teaching and poetry, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy sharing his experiences both of writing in general and of his time in the Whitworth English Department. Personally, I found it fascinating to here about some of our senior professors like Leonard Oakland and Laurie Lamon in an earlier part of their careers. It certainly came as no surprise when Josh told us that it was our own Laurie Lamon who opened up the world of poetry to him for the first time. 

Joshua Robbins’ poetry dances the line between sacred and irreverent in a way that forces his readers to confront the divine in the mundane and the mundane in the divine. Several of the poems he shared during his reading are written in the voice of God. (Whether it is the Christian God or not was delightfully ambiguous.) Josh referred to them several times as his “little weirdos,” but the courage to attempt such a sensitive task as speaking with the voice of God shows a certain strength of poetic character. Poets are nothing if not audacious, and Josh Robbins shows audacity in spades. The Whitworth English Department is happy to have hosted his reading and proud to claim him as one of our own. 

Alanna Carlson

Alanna is a junior/senior in the Whitworth English Department following both the Writing and Lit Tracks and minoring in Medieval and Early Modern Lit and Editing and Publishing. When she’s not corralling her munchkin David, she’s busy being the assistant fiction editor for Rock & Sling or snuggling her pup Ruthie while curled-up with the best creative non-fic she’s been recommended in the past week.

Student Meetings With Chia-Chia Lin

Two weeks ago, several students had the chance to meet with Chia-Chia Lin, author of the New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice: “The Unpassing: A Novel”, and a Finalist for the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. During these one-on-one meetings, Lin reviewed fiction pieces submitted by the students, and offered them feedback on their writing. The following reflections on those meetings are from just a few of the lucky students who had the opportunity to meet with her.

Chandler Wheeler

Chandler Wheeler, a senior English Major and Theatre Minor, described his meeting as an “encouraging and meaningful experience.” Chandler explained that Lin offered advice on how to improve “chronic tension… through fleshing out the relationships between characters” within his story, which is something he looks forward to applying towards other fictional writing. He enjoyed being able to talk to Lin about the vast amount of ways experience as a writer can be beneficial post-degree.

Gabriel Meek

Another senior English Major, Gabriel Meek, said that meeting with Lin was intimidating at first, as he did not know what to expect and often writes more poetry than fiction. He explained that Lin was very welcoming, and genuinely wanted to talk and give advice about his story. Gabriel is more commonly a poetry writer, and described a valuable conversation he had with Lin about how poetry and fiction go hand-in-hand. The advice Lin offered that he found most interesting and plans to focus on in the future involves ambiguity in his writing: “Let the central object be central.”

The personalized signing of “The Unpassing: A Novel” that Hannah had received from Lin at the reading.

Hannah Fookes, a Junior double Major in English Writing and Spanish Language and Literature, said that Lin “encouraged me and gave me her copy of my story with all her notes and annotations.” She almost forgot Lin was an author because Lin was so personable and friendly.  Hannah came away with the new view that “the more specific I make a character, counter-intuitively the more accessible that character becomes.” She plans to apply Lin’s advice to her creative writing in the future, as grounding is an integral access point for any reader.

All students agreed that her advice was more than applicable; not only to the pieces they had read, but to all forms of writing. We are honored to have had this opportunity for students to work with a published fiction author, and hope to offer more like it in the future. Lin encouraged students to continue writing, no matter where their lives and careers may take them after their time here at Whitworth.

The Huffington Post Featuring Dr. Kari Nixon

Last week, our amazing Victorian Literature professor and Medical Humanities specialist, Dr. Kari Nixon’s article, “I’m A Mom and A Vaccine Researcher. Here’s Why You Should Vaccinate Your Children” was published in the Huffington Post. Offer Dr. Nixon your congratulations when you see her and please read, enjoy and share her article, here!

Keep up with Dr. Nixon on her website, – which is currently filled with zombie content just in time for the latest release of Game of Thrones – and her twitter account, @halfsickshadows!

Congratulations to Dr. Bert Emerson!

Congratulations to Dr. Bert Emerson for winning a National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Stipend Award in support of his book project in 19th century American literature and culture!

The Whitworth English Department is so lucky to have Dr. Emerson as a part of its wonderful faculty. Check out the link to the press release below to learn more.

Adventures in Portland: Rock & Sling at AWP 2019

By Gabriel Meek

Eight students and three professors spent a good portion of their spring break in Portland for AWP, representing Whitworth’s in-house literary journal, Rock & Sling. AWP is the Association of Writers and writing Programs, and it puts on a humongous literary conference each year. The conference holds hundreds of panels, featuring thousands of writers and editors, contains a book fair with over eight hundred lit mags and presses, and is attended by over 12,000 people. 

For an introverted, first-time attendee like myself with no real grasp for what the conference would be like, it was a little overwhelming to say the least.

However, it was overwhelming in a good way. I was surrounded by books, lit mags, fellow writers, coffee, more books and lit mags, and as many presses and journals to talk to as I could ever want. I spent most of my free time wandering around the book fair being handed free lit mags (I know—What?) and collecting buttons (check out my new lit mag button collection on my backpack). 

One of the coolest things to experience was meeting many of the writers we’ve published in the pages of Rock & Sling. Recognizing that I had read these poems and prose pieces through the entire length of the editing process, from slush-pile reading to copyediting, and that now I was meeting the people behind these amazing words was fascinating. Also, simply watching the surprised reactions as people walked past the Rock & Slingbooth, its glorious bedsheet art of Jesus Christ fighting a bear on full display, was hilarious and life-giving.

The most amazing panel I attended was a reading by Marilyn Chin, Carmen Giménez Smith, and Maxine Hong Kingston. These three amazing women writers shared the stage and their poems. Maxine Hong Kingston was so excited to announce she is a new grandmother, which made her so happy as well as the crowd. It’s a very unique experience to read someone’s words in a classroom and then to actually hear them read those words in person.

Honestly, it was amazing to be surrounded by so many people all speaking the same language, one of writing, submitting, editing, and publishing. 

Despite all of this, my AWP 2019 experience will forever be defined by something completely separate that occurred on the way back. It’s summed up by the title of a collab poem Meghan Foulk, Emily Hanson, and I created during a few extra hours we had: “To the tire that left us.” One of our tires had unexpectedly come off the car an hour and a half away from Spokane. Although we spent some extra time on the side of the highway, every Whitworthian who made the journey to AWP got home safely with a few more stories to tell than we had when we left.

Mark Your Calendars for the 2019 Whitworth Film Festival!

Film minors! (And friends/lovers of film), 

The 2019 Whitworth Film Festival is happening in April! Mark your calendars for Saturday the 27th at 7PM for an evening of watching good movies (including student work!) and possibly eating some snacks. The festival will be held in the Robinson Teaching Theater. 

As part of the film festival each year, we accept and review student submissions of film and animation work. We will be selecting 1st-3rd place winners, AND, based on the number of submissions we receive and how long those submissions are, your work could be shown at the festival! Find a friend (or 3 or 4) and make some movie magic happen.

Submissions are open NOW and will be accepted through April 23rd. (This gives you all of spring break to shoot/edit). Anything from a few seconds up to about 25-30 minutes is eligible for consideration. Eligible films and animations must include major contributions by current Whitworth students, but feel free to collaborate with your non-Whitworth friends, and be sure to invite them to attend the festival with you. We will accept no more than two entries per student.

Use the Google Form link below to submit your film. Submissions must include a YouTube or Vimeo link to your film (no file uploads). Please submit only those films that have been made in the last 12 months (since last year’s festival).

Please visit this link below to submit your work!

If you have any further questions about criteria for submissions or other festival-related inquiries, contact Erin Wolf at

Happy filming!

Poetry of Witness

Whitworthians, English lovers, alumni and friends,

As our local community, nation and world experience divisiveness, tragedy and uncertainty, it is imperative that we remind one another of the power of witness. Dr. Laurie Lamon and her creative writing students have aimed to add poetry to ethical conversations by writing poems of witness (some of which are featured, below). Please join the Whitworth English Department and Dr. Lamon’s students in exploring poetry of witness in this season.

Poetry of Witness is an enormous phrase that to me speaks to the core of the relationship between art and truth. Witness means that one is present to; that one is compelled to speak the truth. This is the definition, if there can be one, of poetry writing. But as a sub-genre, Poetry of Witness places the speaker in the space of the other, whether that be fellow human being or animals or geography.

Laurie Lamon
By Anonymous

For me, a poem of witness is a political poem, a poem that makes a statement about the world, and in which I urge the reader to reconsider or look at the world through a new lens. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically a bisexual person, inclusivity is very important to me, and I wanted this poem to reflect the importance of thinking outside of categorical boxes, and appreciating the world for what it is: a beautiful spectrum of diversity in all shapes and forms.  -Anonymous

By Elyse Herrera

For me, a poem of witness works to utter what there may otherwise seem to be no words for. Works of witness give an identity and a story to the person, thing or idea that is in need of advocacy. Poetry of witness aims at truth, and in doing so, evokes change. -Elyse Herrera

By Bryn Cavin

For me, poetry of witness means connecting moments of individual experience to the world outside of oneself.  Poems of witness have the responsibility of presenting truth in a way that cannot be disputed.  I wrote this poem after visiting the White House with the other Whitworth Smithsonian interns last semester.  The quote from the Secret Service agent stayed in my mind for a long time, and it sort of felt as if I had no choice but to put it into a poem.  -Bryn Cavin

By Hope Mallet

My poem of Witness is about a young boy I knew when I was 9 years old named Dylan. He was being fostered by my neighbors across the street who treated him so terribly that my family had to report it to child protective services after he already had one of the worst child abuse cases in all of the United States from his past. When the foster care system took him away from my neighbors who could never again serve as foster parents, we were never able to see or talk to him again. Thus, this poem is called “What Dylan Taught Me.” -Hope Mallet

By Aaron Slape

My poem kind of blends between being a poem of self in the world and a poem of witness as it has elements of both. The poem was about an encounter I had with a raccoon one night walking home. I find more subconscious themes in it each time I reread it so there is a lot going on. With that I think its one of those pieces that are really up for the readers interpretation. -Aaron Slape

By Hannah Mumm

This poem was written about my mother, who provides in-home childcare. Her work can be taxing and underappreciated at times, but hers is a labor of love. Through the years, she has been a second mama to countless babies -Hannah Mmmm

By Ashton Kittleman

Poetry of witness gives a voice to experiences and people that may usually be marginalized or forgotten. It’s a way of showing, rather than telling someone else of an experience. These poems provide a greater opportunity for empathy and understanding. -Ashton Kittleman

“Imagining Lasting Peace” with Dr. Andrews in the Spokane Community

In November 2018, the Spokane County Library District invited Professor Casey Andrews to give a lecture at a couple of local libraries related to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. The talk is entitled “Imagining Lasting Peace: British Literature, War Memorials, and Armistice Day 1918-2018” and it integrates Prof. Andrews’s research in literature, peace studies, and political theology. One of the events in Spokane Valley was filmed for eventual broadcast on CMTV. Below is a link to the video on the library district’s YouTube channel.

Take Your English Expertise to Washington, DC!

It was such a wonderful opportunity for me to gain an insider’s view of all that it takes to run an institution like the Smithsonian.

Bryn Cavin

Did you know that Whitworth offers a semester-long study away internship experience in Washington, DC? The Smithsonian Semester gives students of all majors the opportunity to apply their area of study to an internship with The Smithsonian Institute! Read Bryn Cavin’s story from her time in Washington, DC below!

Hi blog readers!  My name is Bryn Cavin, and I am a junior English Literature and Writing major with a minor in Editing and Publishing. I spent the fall semester interning with the Smithsonian Latino Center (SLC) in Washington, DC.  I worked primarily with the Advancement team, but the SLC is one of the smallest units within the Smithsonian, so I had the chance to get to know most people in the office quite well.

One of my main projects at the SLC was to write the language for the Thanksgiving and year-end campaigns, and help the staff prepare for the press event for the newly-announced Molina Family Latino Gallery at the National Museum of American History.  It was such a wonderful opportunity for me to gain an insider’s view of all that it takes to run an institution like the Smithsonian. I met so many amazing people, and I’m so thankful for the chance to have been a part of the work that they are doing across the Smithsonian.

Living in DC was a marvelous adventure.  I loved having the chance to explore and get to know the city.  I think I may have spent more time in the local theaters than in my apartment!  I traveled to New York City with my roommates (which was super amazing–I got to see Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway and I’m still screaming about it), heard Michelle Obama speak at the Capital One Arena on her Becoming book tour, and watched lots and lots of sunsets over the Capitol from the roof of our apartment building.  I had such a wonderful time in DC, and I miss it all terribly.