Chapbook Poster

Whitworth University is holding a writing contest in which students will submit 10-20 pages of original writing in any genre, or combination of genres. These writers will have the opportunity to compete with other Whitworth students, and submissions will be read by our award-winning guest judge, Amy Leach!

Amy Leach is the Author of Things That Are, and as her work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature WritingA Public Space, Orion, and The Gettysburg Review, among other journals. Leach holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa and has been recognized with the Whiting Writers’ Award and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award.


Submission Guidelines:

Students should submit 10-20 pages of original writing in any genre (or a combination of genres). These entries do not need to be formatted like a chapbook and there are no restrictions on subject matter. Students may enter more than one manuscript if they wish.

Each student entry should include a cover page with their name, manuscript title, phone number, email, and major. The student’s name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript.

The deadline to enter work is 5pm Friday, December 1 at 5pm and entries must be turned into the English front desk.

The first place winner will receive $100, a small print run of their book, and a spot as the featured reader at the annual “Script” reading. The runner up will win $50.


A summary of some things I’m learning, and un-learning.

By Kalani Padilla



Structure (1)Structure (2)Structure (3)Structure (4)

It’s 1935, late February, and the worst of winter is melting from the bones of Chicago, Illinois.

Kenneth C. T. Snyder, just barely brought into the world, has been abandoned by his father, leaving him, his mother, and his siblings to brave the Depression all alone. Despite how grimly the next decade or so progresses for the Snyders, Kenneth’s older sister Marge makes certain that their family grows up with a love for all things art. He would later tell his son stories about finding shelter with his family in a room just above a movie theater, feeling the rumble of the cinema below, and wishing he could just drill a hole into the floor of that dirty room and see the films with his own eyes.

This desire takes hold of Kenneth all his life, and he eventually makes the move to Los Angeles, California with his little son Blake. There, he becomes a well-known, reckoned-with producer of children’s television. Kenneth hires Blake at the age of 8 to voice act for one of his children’s programs…and promptly fires Blake after his voice grows out of the roles.

But Blake’s ambitions were not to be crushed—not with a father and mentor as tenacious as Ken. No, Blake Snyder instead finds great success as a writer for Disney, and publishes one of the most infamous books in the film industry: Save The Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need. In this book, Snyder does something no screenwriter before him ever dared to do: turn the art of screenwriting—the art of story—into a step-by-step formula. The formula consists of 15 major story “beats” that good screenplays tend to hit, and often hit down to the minute.

For 12 years since publishing the series, Snyder has been called an inspiration, a fraud, and everything outside and in-between. No matter what side you’re on, it’s hard to look at Hollywood’s films today, line them up with the beatsheet, and deny Snyder’s influence on the industry.

Snyder’s 15 beats have become a common language among the screenwriting students here at the LAFSC. We’re discovering that so many of the films we love follow/fit into a real formula. And that formula…works for us, too. I’ve studied it. Tested it. Can you imagine? A literal 15-step staircase to the “perfect” story. An answer. A structure.

Ah, I already hear disgruntled murmurs in the crowd. But hear me out.

I know many of us have an uncomfortable relationship with structure. We want to write something fresh that no one has ever read before. Something only we could write. We want to shock and wow our audiences and flip their worlds upside-down. But we’re also tired of making our own decisions, aren’t we? We want to be told what’s best. What works and what doesn’t. In my screenwriting class, I’m finding that good storytelling falls somewhere comfortingly in between. Artful stories require both anarchy and structure.

What I mean is this: Structure grants universality to individual artistic expression.

Structure allows me to take all those crazy ideas that are floating around like a cloud in my head, and turn them into something that other people can understand. It allows me to write every tiny thing on its own square of paper, and give it its own place on my bedroom wall. That same wall grants my roommate Natalie access those ideas so she can help me spot, and even NAME the problems so that I can work through them.

Jeremy Casper, our screenwriting professor, still takes great care to remind us that Snyder’s Beats are not the end-all be-all. “They’re just the pieces on the chessboard,” he says, “the rules everyone talks about that you have to know before you can break them.” And Snyder knew this. Snyder was a complex human, like you and me, with an intangible connection to his father and the world around him that he wanted to share. And how did he do that? He wrote about it in a way that others would understand.

This week, I plunge with uncharacteristic certainty into the enormous task of finishing a feature-length script in just two months.


Wish me luck.


Concept Maps in the Fiction Writing process. Take a look at Dr. Clements’ amazing English students!

thumbnail_CharacterizationSingleShotDr. Jessica Clements’ EL 304 Fiction Writing students created and preserved a stunning and extensive picture of their learning through a concept map!

Dr. Clements says, “a concept map can be defined, within the writing process, as an invention strategy or brainstorming technique. It appeals readily to visual learners and is used to explore the boundaries/scope of a given topic or concept.” For a look into the making of this project, Dr. Clements describes that her students began by writing a “topic or concept in the middle of a sheet of paper (or in the middle of your screen), circle it, then write down EVERYTHING connected with it that comes to mind.” It is through this extensive process of (in this case) filling an entire white board with thoughts and connections surrounding the topic “Character Development” that Fiction Writing students can gain a better grip on such an important aspect of writing. She says the goal of a concept map is “not to limit yourself or to start analyzing before you’re done extending and expanding the wealth of possible ideas to follow-up on; you free associate for as long as your brain will allow.”

Meghan Laasko is one of Dr. Clements’ Fiction Writing students who expressed how much fun the exercise was for her and responded to the experience by commenting,  “Obviously, writing of any kind is hard. Trying to come up with a unique character is even harder. There is so much temptation in fiction writing to tell the reader all there is to know about the character in a single paragraph of specific description about the appearance of that character. This mapping exercise gave us ways to subtly include important information about our characters through the senses. This allows the reader to see the character as they can relate through their senses.” It is clear that such an extensive endeavor as a concept map is well worth the time of any writer. English Majors, take Fiction Writing, EL 304!



Codes, Victorians, and Zombies: A Conversation With the English Department’s Newest Professor, Dr. Kari Nixon!

Out of all the possible music genres one would anticipate Whitworth’s Victorianist Dr. Kari Nixon to enjoy, least expected is rap. However, her stunning interests in academia align with this same concept: mixing (as one would in a rap album) old ideas and aesthetics with what humanity has learned in the 21st century.

Nixon connected her interests in music with her passions regarding the Victorian Era and research in medical humanities. I asked why she pursued both English and medical studies and she replied, “Well, the Victorian era kind of lends itself to that… Those very basic foundations of science were all developed in the Victorian era.”
When she was an undergraduate student, Dr. Nixon tended to have an idealistic view of how sciences and statistics can affect the world. She passionately believed that, somewhere out there, there was a formula that could “solve the world.” While in graduate school, she learned about how fallible statistics and math could be; how the tools humanity uses are only as good as the humans who use them. It was at this point in her life that Nixon found a personal connection to those in the Victorian era. The 19th century scientists discovered some of the most foundational aspects of how the medical world functions. They discovered the law of entropy, the theory of evolution, the infinite expansion of the universe and germ theory. Nixon notes how anxiety-provoking these discoveries and ideas were in the time they were made. “The world is full of a lot of flawed and fallible systems… but we really want that ‘meaning framework’… I was seeing them go through the same kind of struggle that I did and that got me thinking about what some of the lesser-known discoveries were.”

Branching off of interests in English and medical humanities, Dr. Nixon shared of her passion for research. She states, “Research, for me, feels like my creative art. And I feel most in my creative prime just when I’m researching and buried in an archive.” One of her works on research is the book Endemic: Essays in Contagion Theory where she and Lorenzo Servitje explore the idea that knowledge of germs’ ability to spread can impact foreign aid and stigmas revolving around illnesses. Her interest in this research was largely driven by how monumental contagion theory was in the Victorian era.

Her passion for Victorian ideas and how they interact with modern times extends to her workspace. Her office shelves are full of old books that she has collected over the years while on her wall she posts some of her research about pregnancy tests and social media. On her door, she has magnets in Norwegian (a language she teaches at the high school level) beside a vintage poster warning about a household under quarantine. “I love the contradiction of like really old Victorian aesthetics and like techno-culture look… Because for me, the Victorians are both like kind of beautiful and stately, and kind of creepy.”

Dr. Nixon is excited to help students open their minds to the breadth of literature in her classes such as Victorian Literature and Modern Global literature. The idea that texts are far more than dusty old books is exciting to her. As a professor, Dr. Nixon appreciates both that research makes her courses more interesting, and that her students can help to open her mind to new ideas in literary studies. At the same time, Nixon is indeed a Victorianist and loves sharing those same dusty old books with students. To study a specialized field such as this means you must learn the language of that field. Nixon describes this technical jargon as “codes”

These codes and secrets are part of what attracts her to rap music. Nixon enjoys listening to music that involves what is called “sampling” (the technique of using a track from another song) and a large amount of allusion to other songs. Those techniques and references create an environment where “unless you know the other music you can’t really understand what’s going on in a given song.” This same concept is what drove Dr. Nixon into researching pregnancy tests and teaching students about the intricacies of Victorian literature.

While many tend to avoid the strange, creepy, and unknown, Dr. Kari Nixon is drawn to it. She is glad to join the Whitworth community here and to experience that passion that those in the English department share.

By Adira McNally

Beyond the Pinecone Curtain- English Professor Dr. Casey Andrews presents meaningful lectures to a wide range of learners.

Early in September, Whitworth English Professor Dr. Casey Andrews made a visit to the Waterville Library in Wenatchee Washington to give his presentation called “Great Writers and the Great War: Literature as Peace Activism” which mirrors his latest book, Writing Against War. 

Casey’s lecture and insights on peace movements within literature between World War I and II greatly impacted this quaint library community. Click on the link to a piece written by the Empire Press for more information and a sweet look into the influence that English professors are having on eager leaners and communities beyond Whitworth.


Pat Thomsen speaks with Humanities Washington presenter Charles Andrews following Andrews’ Sept. 6 presentation at Waterville Library. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)”

Erin’s Story- An English student’s study abroad experience with the Los Angeles Film Studies Center.

Erin Wolf
Junior at Whitworth
English Major
Film and Visual Narrative Minor
She is spending her fall semester studying at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center (LAFSC) in Los Angeles, California. The LAFSC is a semester-long program for students interested in finding a career in the entertainment industry. The program consists of an internship with a film company, as well as classes for short film production, screenwriting, narrative storytelling, and faith development in film.


Last weekend I sat on the beach at Santa Monica, camera in hand – a typical film student look. The battery was almost dead, the result of taking nearly 300 photos and videos in the few hours we’d been there. It was a sign that it was time to sit and enjoy what I was seeing with my eyes, not my lens. I was there with three of my roommates, and two of them had adventured onward toward the pier for food while I stayed behind with Alex.

Alex practices flow, which is a form of dance and movement that involves object manipulation (a little like a circus performer, almost like juggling, but cooler), using hoops, poi balls, or a levitation wand. It’s one of those things that looks a million times easier than it is (I may or may not have smacked myself in the face trying).

We’ve just hit the one-month mark of our semester at a film program here in LA. Alongside 21 other students from Christian universities around the country, we’re spending four months taking film classes and completing internships with companies in the real-deal film world at the LAFSC (Los Angeles Film Studies Center). It’s been an amazing month, filled with crowded tourist locations, In-N-Out Burger, beaches, theaters, movie nights, and lots of banana bread (thanks Mom).

But we were warned back in our first week that culture shock might begin to set in after about one month – Los Angeles often feels like a foreign country. As Alex flowed on that beach in the fading sun, she asked me how I felt about LA. Maybe it was the golden hour light getting to me, but I decided to answer her honestly rather than dealing in pleasantries: I love California, despite its traffic and weird trees and exorbitant prices on anything that isn’t an avocado, but I am conflicted. Part of the reason a lot of us are in this program is to determine whether Los Angeles is the place we can see ourselves building lives and careers. If we want to be in the film industry, it’s the place to be, and this program is our door into the business we’re after. And yet, I told Alex, I’ve been struggling with how to reconcile wanting this kind of life and still believing that I will always call the Pacific Northwest my real home. Feeling that I have two lives is odd; is my Whitworth life on pause while I build a new one here, waiting until I get back? Or is this my home now?

I spent the first eighteen years of my life in the same small town, which meant that there was only ever one place I could truly call home. When I got to Whitworth, I built that same sense of home; the house on Stevens Street, the study tree by the library, the same red door to come walking through at the end of every day. And then I packed everything I owned into my little blue Honda and voyaged to a strange land, one where the stars you’ll see are on Hollywood Boulevard and not in the sky, where the ocean is a stone’s throw away. I’ve created the feeling that I am divided between homes, and no matter which one I am in, I will long for the part of me that I left in the other.

The problem, I think, lies in believing that you can only have one home. It’s easier to find one place and stay there, never faced with leaving the people and places you grow to love, and I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to matters of the heart I am often inclined to choose what is easy over what will be worth the struggle. But thinking back to that beach at Santa Monica, watching Alex move gracefully to some unseen rhythm as she found her center of gravity, I can begin to believe that maybe I don’t have to choose. I can be at home in more than one place.

Written by Erin Wolf

Mark your calendars! Richard Rankin Russel Lecture – 9.19.2017

63938 On September 19th, Whitworth University will be hosting Dr. Richard Rankin Russel to hear his lecture “Who Is My Neighbor?”: Leopold Bloom and the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Joyce’s Ulysses.” Dr. Richard Russel is a Professor of English at Baylor University, an esteemed scholar of modern Irish literature, and a published writer. He is internationally recognized for his books on Northern Irish playwrights and poets, along with books about writers such as Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley.

Dr. Russel even shares a part of his past with Whitworth English Department’s very own Dr. Casey Andrews!

Casey Andrews and Richard Russel first crossed paths in July of 2012. Both Dr. Andrews and Dr. Russel studied and traveled for three weeks in Northern Ireland as part of a travel seminar through the Corrymeela Organization. Whitworth Professor Casey Andrews describes Dr. Russel as being a “highly published scholar;” someone who can and has “had tea with amazing writers.” However, Dr. Russel’s focus on Protestant Theology in James Joyce’s writing is what excites Casey most about Richard Russel’s work.

Please join the Whitworth University English Department in welcoming and honoring this astounding scholar, speaker, and writer. The lecture will take place on September 19, 2017 in the Eric Johnston Science Building, room 233. Mark your calendars!

An Enchanting Interview with Awarded Poet Susanna Childress

By: Emily Church

Before Susanna Childress’ campus reading on April 6th, I accompanied her for lunch in Whitworth’s dining hall and a discussion about her writing. Knowing that Childress was an awarded, successful writer, based on the research I had conducted before my interview like any good interviewer should do, I was nervous as I waited, in anticipation, for Childress’ arrival with Thom Caraway. She has received an AWP Intro Journals Award, the Nation Career Award in Poetry from the National Society of Arts and Letters, a Lilly post-doctoral fellowship, and her first book, Jagged with Love, was awarded the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. She was everything I wanted to someday be and I couldn’t believe I was getting this opportunity to speak with her.

Susanna Childress is a delightful human being. Once our lunch began, discussion flowed smoothly and, for the first time in weeks, I felt at peace. In our short span of thirty minutes, we covered everything from humor in writing, the magic of public readings, and how different forms call to us at different points in our life.

To feel prepared for my interview, I visited Childress’ website in order to get an idea of her style of writing, since I hadn’t encountered it before. I listened to some audio recordings of Childress’ reading some of her poems and was immediately drawn in. I was amazed by her ability to talk about these difficult, dark subjects while making her audience laugh in the process. When I asked her about the inclusion of humor in her poetry, she told me that while she had thought of herself as a humorous person in her personal life, she had never thought of her writing as humorous until after poet Billy Collins picked her first book to be awarded the Brittingham Prize. She said, “he mentioned how humorous it was and appreciated how there was a lot of whit in it, and I was like what?” It is not in the process of writing, but in the experience of reading her work to the public that finding that humor becomes a priority.  She finds that even though she doesn’t try for humor in the beginning, predicting that if she tried to be funny it would “fall very flat,” she thinks it’s a necessary element for her readers. “I do tend to write about darker subject matter and it seems to me that people are willing to go someplace hard if you’ve invited them into something more humorous…they will cry with you if you make them laugh. If you just make them cry, then they’ll recent you. My goal for every reading to make them laugh before I make them cry.”

Amid our talk about making people laugh and creating time to write in her busy life, she mentioned how she was working on a book of essays with a small independent publisher. I was curious about how her inspiration and process for the essays differed from her process of writing poetry. For Childress, the form of the essay was what she needed in her life right now. She stated how “one of the reasons that I moved to prose was that the circumstances of my personal life required of me a different escape. The way that I was processing the grief and the transition was very dramatic, and in some ways traumatic, and I couldn’t step into the chaos of poetry.” She talked with me about how since she doesn’t typically write narrative poetry, her poetry involves making a lot of leaps and the following of your subconscious. While, in hindsight, she thinks that this process could have ended up being a kind of therapy, it was too much to handle at the time. “The length of the sentence gave me something more restful,” she said. “I felt like the things that were happening in my life were all very connected and I couldn’t make those connections in poetry.” She needed space and a different kind of structure. For me, this discussion highlighted something new about the different forms in writing that I had never thought of before. Sometimes, due to the content of your writing, one form, or genre, may seem safer or more useful than another, even if this new form is different from what you’ve done before. I was amazed and I was inspired.

One piece of advice from Susanna Childress that is pertinent to young writers is the idea that in making time for writing, you will then want to write more. She said we, as students, should be rejoicing in the fact that right now writing is part of required assignments that need to be completed. Through juggling working full time and having small children, Childress understands the importance of those hours that she is able to dedicate each week to write. In creating a discipline for yourself, Childress said, “the discipline feeds the desire. By making time, you’ll want to make more time to write. Building that discipline is difficult, but could be worth it.”

So, keep reading. Keep writing. And go ahead and thank your wonderful English professors for assigning all those essays and workshop pieces. Plus, also thank them for convincing Susanna Childress to come visit our campus.


Emily Church (’17) is a graduating senior and the current managing editor of the blog. She is majoring in English Writing, as well as Sociology, with a minor in psychology. She enjoys hiking, discovering new writers, attending AWP, editing, and the prospect of working with juveniles after graduation. 

The Art in Sound, the Sound of Art: Susanna Childress’ Campus Reading

By: Kalani Padilla

Before I talk about Susanna Childress and her poetry, I want to dwell for a moment on the venue.

I still take a lot of (undeserved) pride in the 1.5 semesters I endured as a music major. I sympathize with the struggles of friends now braving upper division theory and ear training classes; I criticize this melodic line or that chord, this translation or that key change; I monopolize the Lantern for long study hours and leave highly-trained musicians to use the lounge just outside the bathrooms. Even before non-music majors, I pretend to qualify as an honorary. After finding out Susanna Childress would be reading in the recital hall, I told people they should “come early,” recalling my own memories of the room being full to overflowing with hosts of loving peers, and hordes of procrastinators (trying to get their last three required recital hours all on one night).

The recital hall is a special place, but when I pushed through the door, I immediately started to prickle with past anxieties. I was remembering all the tears I’ve seen shed— all the tears that I’d shed—in that room as a voice student. Though seeing the room filled with people from my new home department made me feel protected, I also felt like a traitor and a coward. So you’re back, I felt the room say, what are you here for? What are you here as?

And yet, I was given, by Susanna Childress’ performance, the audacity to answer both. Childress’s poems, (and the kind voice with which she gave them) were open invitations to each of us to share in her joy and vulnerability. Her confessional and inquisitive writing compels us to identify with all these jagged notions of love, from the viewpoint of child, father, wife, stranger, daughter. These were poems about the physicality of solitude, the familiarity of strangers, the predictability of intimacy. Poems about learning to embrace that which could cut you. Poems about worlds small enough to cradle like a bird. Poems infused with the laughter and tears that inspired them.

And when she sang, when she sang! I feel like we’re so selfish as audiences, to be projecting our own sorry images onto those brave enough to take the stage. But it happens. I closed my eyes and remembered what it was like to give the gift of my voice without the assurance of it being accepted. Speaking with her after her reading, she laughed when she stated that she wasn’t a trained singer, and I marveled to myself about the journey in-between that, and the stack of fully produced albums to her left. Here was Susanna Childress, boldly demonstrating to us that art is loving the things you’ve created so much that you must share them—even when, and especially when it makes you vulnerable.

This morning I listen to a song cascade from the Lantern’s grand piano down to Main Street, with Childress’s Jagged With Love open on my lap. From here I know the quietude, the turbulent grace, and honest longing of art, and that the sound of the heart is equal parts poetry and song.

Kalani Padilla (’19) is a student of English, Theology, and Film & Visual Narrative at Whitworth University. She is also involved in the music program as a singer and Campus Worship leader. Most of all, Kalani is a proud kama’aina, inspired in all things by the people, culture, and Creator of her home in the state of Hawai’i.