There and Back Again: Writing Home from Oxford

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By: Kristen Bertsch

I think that stories are the most important things we can collect in our lifetime. The more I explore my life, the more I am convinced that the joy and wisdom of life come through the accumulation of stories. Stories are how we learn about ourselves, others, and the world around us. I’ve said so before. That’s kind of the thesis of my own little blog, which I maintain during my travels . I use this blog to collect my own stories, my own as well as those I pick up in my adventures.

This time my adventures are taking me through Oxford. I’ll be here for three months, studying writing and linguistics (anticipate a future post about language and the formation of meaning). My last adventure took me through six countries in three months, and I spent no more than four days at a time in one place. This adventure is very different. I’ll be existing here for a little while. And that means it’s time to start writing home.Oxford Phtoo Kristen

I mean many things when I say “writing home.” First off, I mean that I will be writing letters to those I left behind in the States–my loved ones who together create “home” for me. As privileged and honored as I am to be taking this opportunity, it comes at the price of a temporary loss of home. To alleviate that loss, I spend my days writing. I write here, in my journal, in my letters, professionally, and academically. It’s what I do and I love to do it. It keeps me connected to my home, reminds me of what I will return to in three months time.

But the writing I do also serves the secondary but equally important purpose of creating a new sense of home where I am now. This is where I talk about storytelling. Narratives are the stories we tell to inform ourselves and others about the reality. The words I write are my narratives, and they inform the reality I am fashioning for myself here. To call Oxford “home,” I have to be a part of Oxford. I have to have stories that put me here and make this place and these people important. I am writing myself a role in the story of this new world with all the people I meet, the places I go, and all the beautiful things I see. Then I will be part of their story, and they will be part of mine. When I write home, I am writing myself “into home.”

This first week has been a gracious adjustment period. Despite having assimilated once before, I am still surprised by my own quickness to goof up here. Last year, in my first week of travel, I severely burned myself cooking, resulting in a trip to the local hospital (the scars are quite charming). This week I have only shattered a glass diffuser, committed two traffic violations, and insulted the tea staff by taking a cup too early. I do think I’m writing myself as a bit of a nuisance. But every home has one. I hope that by the end of the week I will have written myself into waterproof shoes.

To all of those who receive my letters and who read my blog, you are playing a vital role in the confirmation of my home here. Thank you for reading, and please write back.

 

Kristin Bertsch (’17) is a junior English/Writing major at Whitworth, pursuing a future in graduate school and a career in travel writing. Kristin studied abroad last year in Britain and Ireland and will study English at Oxford University during spring of 2016. In addition to her studies and contributions to the English Department blog, Kristin works as research assistant to English Professor Dr. Pam Parker and as archiving assistant to Library Director and Art Professor Dr. Amanda Clark. Kristin is an active supporter of local art and theater and a frequenter of Spokane Poetry Slam.

When Technology Meets the Self-Centered Artist

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By: Jacob Millay

I am a young person. As such, I am supposed to be up to date with all the interesting innovations and cultural movements that are occurring around us.

Honestly, that is a lot of work for me. However, I have kept up with one particular important phenomenon that has come about in the last ten years. The rise of streaming music has exploded recently.

Music on the internet is not necessarily a new thing, but as internet speeds and storage capabilities have increased in recent years, listening to music has gotten easier and easier. Now anyone with a smartphone has the majority of recorded music available to them in an instant. It only takes a few clicks, and then the free music starts pouring out. There was an additional Christmas gift for some as well this year, as The Beatles entire anthology of music was made available for streaming.

While I do not have any strong opinions on The Beatles, other musical artists have taken the opposite path of them recently. Taylor Swift, Adele, Prince, Radiohead, Coldplay, and The Black Keys have all withheld records from being streamed on various services, with the most popular one being Spotify. The main claim is that music streaming has reduced record sales and has hurt the artist where it hurts most: the pocketbook.

While Spotify is not clear on how much it pays artists for each play, it is clear that artists are not going to be raking in cash unless they are supremely popular. Artists who get hundreds of millions of listens will get a hefty paycheck from Spotify, while smaller artists will probably not get much.

Some artists took a different approach to the streaming “problem.” The Jay-Z headed streaming service, Tidal ,had the focus of providing adequate compensation for the artists who chose to use their service. However, with a large price tag for the premium service, Tidal has little impact on the streaming game at this time. People have stuck with the giant Spotify so far.

From my perspective, this whole streaming issue is, frankly, laughable. Some of the largest and most popular musical artists in the world, who sell out stadiums wherever they go, who sell t-shirts to every concert goer, who get radio play for every single that they release, and who sign huge record contracts with the largest record labels, are taking a stand for the integrity of the artists. Seems a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?

Probably the biggest proponent of moving away from streaming is the pop superstar Taylor Swift, who currently makes $80 million dollars a year, is complaining about Spotify. She said “On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.” ( http://www.businessinsider.com/taylor-swift-explains-why-she-left-spotify-2014-11)

While placing value on art is an important goal, Swift seems unaware of the potential consequences of her actions. Rather than people going out and purchasing her album if it is unavailable on the convenient service that they already use, people are just as likely to find a shadier way to get the music. Additionally, Swift made this decision basically to push album sales. She was hoping that people would go out and buy her album since they cannot stream it. That is a pretty poor reason to make the decision to withhold music from people.

Let’s take a step away from the millionaires complaining about not being paid. Spotify has more benefits than just to make money for the artists. It provides a outlet for people to share music. I personally share playlists that I make on Spotify pretty frequently. It also provides for music discovery. If you like this artist, then you should try this one too. This means that more music is being discovered and listened to. Spotify has been incredibly instrumental in my own discovery of different music that I enjoy. And beyond just listening to the music, it also has also incited action on my part to go out and see those bands live, purchases merchandise, or buy the album themselves, all of which never would have happened if I had not first listened to their music on Spotify.

For the 1% of the music community to look at Spotify and say that it is “bad for music” is a ridiculous attempt at a cash-grab by those who already making more money than anyone else.

How, though, does this connect with English? Are you just rambling about music, Jacob? Well, yes. But it also connects with English. Think about the proliferation of E-Books that now exist. Kindle and Nooks and BOOX are now just as popular as other forms of reading. Just as in the music industry, some authors have railed against the proliferation of this technology. Ray Bradbury, Maurice Sendak, Jonathan Franzen, and Ursula K. Le Guin all have railed against E-books. Similarly to music, they say that it reduces the importance of what is read, it promotes piracy, and it will cause authors to make less off of their books.

These may be important points, but again it seems like people are afraid and unaware of how technology can be helpful. Environmentally, E-books are far less wasteful than normal books. The convenience factor outweighs the woes. And finally, power is returned to the people. Before, to get a book published an author had to go to one of the major publishing houses and hope for a deal, but now the author can connect with an audience just that much easier through an online marketplace. One more middle man has been removed. E-books just might be helping the industry as a whole.

And E-books have been around for almost a decade now and the printing industry continues onward. It did not have apocalyptic consequences like some imagined. Instead there are separate markets for different people to use and appreciate.

Perhaps we are all just scared of new technology and the impact that it might have on the status quo. But as we move forward, I think the negative consequences will fall to the wayside while the good rises to the top. So don’t be afraid. Buy all the new gadgets that you want.

(It should be noted that I was listening to music streamed on Spotify the whole time that I wrote this)

Jacob Millay (’16)  is an English Education major at Whitworth University. He is a master of consuming, whether that is the newest David Fincher film, the newest Death Cab for Cutie album, or his mother’s spaghetti. He wishes he had any plans for after graduation or for next weekend, but, alas, he has none.

Recently Published in the The Cresset: A review of literature, the arts, and public affairs

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The most recent issue of The Cresset featured two Whitworth names.

Associate Professor of English, Charles Andrews published a review of the recent movie version of Vera Brittain’s memoir Testament of Youth titled “Learning to Live with Ghosts” as part of his research of the British peace movement.

Testament-of-Youth

Also appearing in the same issue is a poem, titled “Losing His Religion” written by Whitworth alumnus Michael Schmidt (’13)
 

“Secrets” by Devon Clements (’18)

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Enjoy this short story written by one of our contributing writers, Devon Clements. 

His discretion on this mission was of paramount importance. His superiors had stressed that repeatedly during his morning briefing, and as he now silently crept through the shadowed terrace which ran parallel to the exterior of the building on his left he reminded himself once more. He had been given this assignment just less than an hour ago allowing little time for proper mental preparation, leaving him now more than a little concerned over the task that lay ahead. As he continued his silent approach he came to a large wooden enclosure containing only one access point, a gate sitting on rusting and stagnant hinges of a black metal he didn’t recognize. He stopped, considering, and processed his options, “do I scale the fence? Or instead risk the noise of the gate?” which appeared to be unguarded. After much deliberation he decided the risk of being seen atop the barrier was equal if not greater to the known threat of the gate. As one slightly unsteady hand reached toward the latch he heard a rustling off to his right and immediately withdrew his outstretched arm and ducked behind the wooden enclosure. No sooner had he done this that a great roar erupted to his immediate right. The sound of some great and terrible beast echoed throughout the stillness, a cacophony of growls and snaps accompanied by the pawing of dirt. He sunk closer to the ground his heart racing, hoping beyond hope the beast wouldn’t draw attention to unseen enemies and that it would be contained on the opposite side of the adjacent wall. It was then that he noticed the rocks at his feet and with a quick decision he laid down the rough wooden stock of his rifle and scooping a handful of pebbles in his hand, flung the cluster as far as he could to his distant right, hoping to deter the animal. As the sediment clattered into the far side of the partition and the surrounding brush, he heard the great brute dart away towards this new intruder.

Disallowing time for the animal to return he reclaimed the hefty, yet comfortable weight of his firearm and proceeded to unlatch the gate and gently push it inward. It gave an eerie screech as it swung open, but the noise paled in comparison to the recently departed cries of the creature and without hesitation he slipped quietly inside the timber outskirts. He found himself in a large rectangular forested area, bordered on one side by an enormous structure covered in a vast array of windows and doors. The building vanished into the horizon above him and seemed to be constructed of a red stone which he was unfamiliar with. The other three sides of the region were restricted by the same expansive fence from which he had just passed through its tall wooden planks restricting light as well as his vision to the outside world. Standing in the middle of this compound was a strange structure he didn’t recognize, yet that seemed slightly familiar. It was comprised of a pointed apex roof on one end covered with a striped tarpaulin in bright shades of crimson and gold, adjacent to this was a long wooden rod from which dangled some foreign objects which he couldn’t recognize. These alien appendages consisted of long chains wrapped in some form of rubberized coating, dangling near the ground attached together by a board of hardened polymer plastic. He was astounded for he could make no sense of the structure which stood in front of him. He feared that it may be some contraption of imprisonment yet, at the same time he didn’t feel as if they were the tools of some nefarious action.

It was then that he heard them approaching from behind the far perimeter, he knew at once they were his enemies. He couldn’t see anything in the shadowy darkness but instinctively knew that the presence he felt was of a hostile and carnivorous nature. Without a moment’s hesitation he hit the ground with a thud and mechanically drew his weapon into a firing position and began to release rounds in the direction of these new manifestations. Sweat began to pool on the creases of his unblemished brow as he continually fired into the darkness hoping beyond hope that he could vanquish the enemy. He squinted into the darkness hoping to distinguish foliage from menace. His hands began to ache from the coarse, unfinished stock of his weapon which he gripped with his life. After what felt like hours he finally ceased his firing and peered into the darkness, sighing with relief at the lack of movement or sound.

Having overcome the unforeseen enemy he turned his eyes upward towards the open room just below the apex of the canvas covered roof, there his eyes lit upon his goal, the reason for his quest. He wasn’t certain exactly what lay above him just that its material possession was his only mission in life. Having found the object of his desire he stepped towards the structure, only now noticing the looming, jagged cliff wall which he would have to scale in order to reach the room above. The rock face was speckled by multi-colored sediment which stuck out in odd and unnatural angles, affording his small hands crevices which he could easily grip. He began the ascent not pausing to look down or contemplate the immense height he was gaining. Halfway up the rock face his footing failed him and he careened off to the right, as his rifle fell thousands of feet below him he managed to catch himself on a single outstretched shelf. He paused for a moment here, regaining his composure and dedication to the task at hand. He continued the rest of the way without incident his agile frame working his way quickly up the serrated fortification. He was on the cusp of the precipice and beginning to throw himself over the lip and into the connecting room when his eyes once more honed in on his goal. The vague shape of a dazzling cylinder began to appear from the darkness when a thunderous, maternal call echoed through his head and the surrounding environment.

Before he could move the world around him began to disintegrate, changing shape and color and becoming something all too familiar. His combat boots become small canvas tennis shoes, the cliff overhang shifted and began to shrink as did the rest of the infrastructure surrounding him. What at first was unintelligible noise took the form of human language as he heard from above and behind him, streaming from an open window on the now substantially smaller complex which he had noticed earlier, “Lunch Time!”. It was at this moment that the final ties to his world were cut loose and he stepped back, dropping to a grass covered floor. He turned towards the voice and began to walk, briefly stumbling on a long tree branch the bark of which had been rubbed down from excessive handling, which he realized he had dropped earlier. As the boy ran towards the now open door in front of him, eagerly awaiting his sustenance which would most likely come in the form of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he glanced back once more at the play house structure found in suburban backyards across the country, and for just a moment he glimpsed the last remains of the universe he had created.

 

Devon Clements. Class of 2018. English Philosophy major. Missouri. Soccer. Coffee. Historical Fiction. Edward Sharpe. Of Human Bondage. Travel. Moleskine. Pens. Vans. United Kingdom. Trees. Gym. Literature. Sour. Northwest. Theatre. Explore. Skateboard. Run. Cats. Blue. Finished.

You Don’t Have to Be An Actor

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An inside look into the 2015 Fall Semester Reading in Action course. 

By Lauren Padilla
 
It was on the syllabus of course, but when we were reminded that they’d be acting out A Raisin In The Sun, the Reading In Action Class was still rather in denial. 
 
“Act? Live? In front of people of all things?”
 
Thankfully a general enthusiasm lived on (as our clip denotes), the number of missed entrances was minimal, and the performance passed us enjoyably—thanks to the acting and also the unreal amount of snacks.
 
Even though it was executed by amateurs, seeing the play firsthand revealed all kinds of nuances we may have missed when reading it through the first time:
 
Being able to hear a penny drop when Walter Lee discovers that Ruth is pregnant.
 
The vehemence in Lena’s reply when Beneath denounces God. 
 
These sensations can all be written perfectly well into a novel, but only real voices can achieve them. It was a reminder to us all as readers that literature is not static—in the case of a stage play, or otherwise. Of course, stage plays are the most physical and tangible form of this concept, but literature should always be an experience; in the hands of a good reader, a piece of literature is alive
 This project was part of Professor D’Amico’s EL115H Reading in Action Course. This freshman level honors course explores a variety of reading practices beginning with our initial love of literature, moving into advanced scholarly reading, and engaging in service-learning with reading communities in Spokane. Padilla was one of her freshman students. 

A Better Love of Stories

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By: Kristin Bertsch

I always knew I wanted to be an English major because I loved stories. I understood stories. I knew what they meant. I really felt like I had things figured out.

Picture it: freshman year, waltzing into Shakespeare Seminar, feeling pretty darn certain I already knew everything there was to know about the bard (I had read Hamlet AND Macbeth, thank you very much). I could read Shakespeare well enough, and I could tell you what the stories were about, and that seemed like the ultimate accomplishment for a Lit major. Then a blonde fireball came blazing in to change it all. It was in that class that Dr. Pam Parker started teaching me a better way to love stories:

“Don’t spend too much on what the story is ‘about;’ figure out what the story ‘does.’ That’s why we do this…”

Those words have resonated in the back of my mind for the last three years. Fast forward to my junior year, and I’m putting those words into action with my mentor, Dr. Parker. For almost two years now, I have worked with Dr. Parker as a research assistant, creating a digital archive of historical materials and, perhaps more importantly, helping create stories that “do” important things.

I work with a treasure trove of letters, photographs, books, film, and ephemera from early 20th century Christian missions in China. These materials are part of Dr. Parker’s family collection, from her grandparent’s missionary service in China starting in 1923. Perhaps you’ve seen me prancing around campus with a mysterious large, grey box. Yes, inside that box, are hundreds of 20th century documents, fragile and musty like an old library book. Yes, I am quite like a peacock when I have this box.

Kristin post 02

The Mysterious Box and It’s Letters

My job is to create a digital archive of these materials, which will allow future scholarship and research to be conducted without needing to use the physical copies. This limits wear and tear, and it also lends to organizing the materials in a way that is conducive to a specific research project. Dr. Parker is preparing to use these materials for personal research on China Missions narratives, and part of my job is to prepare the materials for this kind of study.

My work as a research assistant is largely technical, in that most of my time is spent scanning and digitizing letters, photographs, etc, and collaborating with other students and specialists to create a digital commons for storing and displaying the materials. I have developed an unforeseen number of technical skills (which I had always hoped to avoid by pursuing English), but more than that I have practiced the lesson I began with Dr. Parker my freshman year. I’ve been studying what stories “do” and how to use them.

While I’m digitizing with the letters, I also read them. They tell stories about the world from the perspective of a Christian family a century ago on the other side of the world. Stories about food shortage, disease, and violence. Stories about Christmas parties, friendships, and welcome rainfalls. These letters are about beautiful and tragic experiences of life. But what these stories do is even more profound. These stories tell us about ourselves. They tell us about the world we live in yet never seem to fully know. They tell us about our values and beliefs, what we love and what we protect, what we fear and what we lament. Working with Dr. Parker on this project has given me an opportunity to explore the world vicariously and to expand my perspective by looking through another’s eyes. That’s what stories are meant to do, and that’s something to love.

An excerpt from one of the letters…

“The rice fields were so beautiful, like checker boards, each small section ripening at a different time. The bunches of rice stalks coming up in such regular rows and all of the same size that the seeds must have been carefully set out by hand… From Chinkiang to Nanking we were in a region of very low, flooded land, where the tillers of the soil wore shirts and gee-strings only and were up to their shins in water, following the everlastingly slow old buffalo and wooden plow in the rice field; or sitting in large tubs gathering a nutty root from a water plant, which the children buy at the stations like peanuts…”

 

Kristin Bertsch (’17) is a junior English/Writing major at Whitworth, pursuing a future in graduate school and a career in travel writing. Kristin studied abroad last year in Britain and Ireland and will study English at Oxford University during spring of 2016. In addition to her studies and contributions to the English Department blog, Kristin works as research assistant to English Professor Dr. Pam Parker and as archiving assistant to Library Director and Art Professor Dr. Amanda Clark. Kristin is an active supporter of local art and theater and a frequenter of Spokane Poetry Slam.

Oxford Commas & Siam Crispy Chicken

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By: Hanna Martin

Free food – the (perhaps literal) carrot on a stick that all college students follow…

My summer internship as an editorial intern at Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine, though unpaid, was full of free food (and a bunch of other cool stuff).

Looking back, my daily schedule seemed to be: 1) Edit. 2) Write. 3) Eat!

When we met our sales goal, the entire office went to O’Doherty’s for lunch. My first article was for the “Signature Dish” page of the magazine so I got to go to The Ivory Table, the only restaurant in Spokane that serves traditional buckwheat crêpes. Over an amazing salmon crêpe and fresh lemonade, I got to chat with the owner of the restaurant about her life and her aspirations. For the next month’s article, I went to a Thai place out in Airway Heights where I was served amazing chicken and perfect white rice. In lieu of a plate, the dish was served inside half of a pineapple! One day, we went to a restaurant owner’s office for lunch, where he literally spread dressing on each individual salad leaf by hand, made mango salsa, and BBQ-d us chicken lavished with African spices. Each year the magazine puts on one or two major parties to celebrate publication. The Hot Summer Nights 20s-themed party was up at Arbor Crest, where we feasted on greasy pizza, fancy chocolate and Arbor Crest’s signature Riesling. Then, naturally, we had a huge dance party under the stars. On my last day of work, to send me off into the school year, we all had tender pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, coleslaw and baked beans for lunch.

One of Hanna's delicious meals on the job

One of Hanna’s delicious meals on the job

Who knew the publishing world could be so filling?

Of course, there were also the realities of my life as an editorial intern. I did immense amounts of research on the topics we featured in the magazine each month, on everything from prohibition and Silverwood attendance to heart health facts and the hours of local restaurants. My favorite part of the job consisted of copyediting the entire magazine the day before publication each month. I’d sit at my desk poring over page after page, trying to make the issue perfect by catching every single spelling error, every Oxford comma (which Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living doesn’t use), every instance where sentences had two spaces instead of one between them.

Obviously I was thrilled when I was given my first feature-length article, a 20-page spread on a historic home in Spokane. I got to tour the home and interview the owner, meet their dog and then write about it all! The home is in the Rockwood district and was designed by Spokane’s first city planners and architects. The oldest ginkgo tree in Spokane is on the property, which also includes a mini putting green, a swimming pool, tennis court, and 11-car garage! It was a home worth writing about.

For all the good parts of the job, there was one sad truth:

Working anywhere in the modern world, you will spend half your life waiting for other people to email you back. Nearly all the communication, coordinating, and even some of the interviewing that I did was via email. It is 2015, and email should accessible in literally 2.5 seconds on your phone…It should never take you more than a day to reply to someone’s email. I assume that people who operate successfully in the professional world will respond to emails as soon as possible.

For you seniors, I have to tell you that I did in fact get this job because of a connection. I didn’t even know I had the connection when I went into the interview, but it turns out that the editor-in-chief is friends with my dad’s colleague’s wife. Crazy. But no matter how distant the connection, try and find one! They’re valuable.

In all seriousness, my time at Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living was immensely rewarding. Seeing my name in print on a glossy, colorful page sent my self-esteem through the roof. I got to wear fancy dresses, heels and lipstick every day and tell people at the grocery store that I had just recently become a published author!

More meaningfully, I was able to build community in the city that I love. Being the youngest in the office, (and with the magazine demographic geared towards 30-40-year-olds), I brought a fresh, new perspective to the summer issues of the magazine. I interviewed people in the city that otherwise might never have received the recognition they deserved. In a personal article, I was even able to share my belief in God and my wonder at His creation with readers.

This internship unearthed the deep desires that push me towards a career in editing and publication. I’ve always loved reading and I’ve always loved words. Now I understand more fully that words hold incredible power. I’ll make sure that the questions and issues raised in literature and media are important and valuable to our readers. I encourage you, English majors, to make your words meaningful, too.

Hanna pictured with her dad on the summit of Mt. Adams holding the magazine

Hanna pictured with her dad on the summit of Mt. Adams holding the magazine

Click the link to read another one of Hanna’s online articles about mountaineering.

Hanna Martin is a senior at Whitworth. She is double majoring in English Literature and French, and she is studying abroad next semester. Hanna got addicted to adventure last May-Term, and has since devoted her time to traveling, reading, and doing as many outdoor activities as possible.

 

This post is part of the Looksharp Internship Blog Competition. To read more about the competition and view other posts go here.

Annie Stillar: Superwoman

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By: Olivia Shaffer

For a little over a year now, I have had the privilege of working for Annie Stillar at the English Department front desk. She has become a mentor and a friend, and her commitment to our department is ceaseless. (I am often reminded that I am not Annie by faculty in the department, as they frantically look for her to solve their crises while I’m working and she takes lunch).

Ask anybody in the English Department about Annie Stillar and you will hear words like “ebullient” and “magical” to describe her. Annie is the Academic Program Assistant for our, as she puts it, lively department. Aside from assuring that the building does not burn down, she relieves all of the administrative tasks from the faculty in the department so they are less overwhelmed. In all honesty, the title of Academic Program Assistant is much too narrow to describe everything Annie does for our cozy little department. Assisting the English Department, the Honors Program, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as working as managing editor for Rock & Sling is incredible. And she does it all with a smile on her face and a witty attitude that keeps the department alive.

Annie works toward creating communicative and trusting relationships among the students and staff to ensure she can best support and assist us academically and, maybe more so, emotionally. Professors and students alike would agree that Annie is often the rock in our department, keeping us from going completely insane. As she says, “it’s for the greater good that [she] be intuitive, attentive and not burn out” – which makes her job equally rewarding and challenging, having to be our collective backbone even when she may not have it all together all the time.

Outside of work – because yes, she does enjoy doing things that do not involve alleviating us of our own demands – she feels she’s her best self when she does what scares her the most. She spends her time outside: hiking, being adventurous, and jumping from really high places and living to tell about it. Only once did an experience like this completely terrify her: when she scaled a 400-foot mountain without a harness, but made it to the top without turning around or calling in the helicopters (pictured below). In addition to an insanely adventurous life, she’s made an unofficial career out of singing – and is good enough to make her own album, in my opinion.

Annie Stillar

I asked Annie to outline details of her work, and got an answer with an overwhelming list, which I’ll add here because there’s no other way to fully understand her dedication to us:

“On a wider scale, my job entails pulling off an academic year’s worth of events like endowed readings, socials, graduation fun, retreats and informational meetups (and where applicable, playing travel agent to guests, getting them paid, keeping them fed and hydrated and feeling like Whitworth is a delightful place to be), fostering a healthy and communicative relationship with the Business Office, becoming BFF’s with the department chairs and directors housed here (current count: 4), assisting in the execution of course schedules, contracts and office space (or as I like to call it—musical chairs), the acquisition of class/department resources from far and wide, the management and oversight of six program budgets, and the general endearing of myself to all persons regardless of how much they can do for me and how quickly. I’m an equal opportunity provider of fun and snark alike, if anyone asks”.

She is our own personal superwoman. She has worked here for 6 years, and I’m not sure how the department got through every day without her before. She is witty, and joyful, and full of an energetic spirit that executes the ideal of mind and heart. And she (almost) always has chocolate. No matter what happens, no matter what crisis we are in, she’ll tell you that the show must go on. And because of her, it does. Annie Stillar, we thank you.

 

Olivia Shaffer (’16) is an English Literature major and History minor at Whitworth University. Aside from academics she dedicates a large part of her time to the Jubilation Dance program at the university; an extra curricular that allows her to continue to pursue her passion for dance. She has no idea what post-graduation life will look like, but hopes for the best.

“Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia” by Molly Rupp (’16): A Preview for This Whitworth Life

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Please mark your calendar for the 2015 This Whitworth Life: Whitworth’s Untold Stories. The cast includes nine readers who’ll share their stories at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 2, in the HUB MPR.

For a taste of what you’ll hear on Dec. 2, check out “Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia” by Molly Rupp (’16).

It’s said that when a choir sings together, their heart rates begin to collectively synchronize, beat lining up with beat, a steady tha-thump, tha-thump resonating within each member, as they inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, at the same pace.

Breathe in-2-3-4-5, out-2-3-4-5

Each Wednesday night at 7:10, our director pulls us to the edge of the pews, pushes our spines straight and our chins up. Keep it loose, support from down here, don’t close your throat. If you’re doing it correctly, your nose should tickle and your lips vibrate a little when you hum.

Breathe in-2-3-4-5, out-2-3-4-5

I am the youngest permanent member of the choir by at least two decades, although this season a new girl joined, older than me by just a few years. I’m front row soprano, in the pew that comfortably holds two people. Annie sits next to me, a sassy old lady with swollen ankles, who reluctantly uses a walker and will quietly make snarky asides to me and then cover her mouth with her hand and giggle “oh! I’m so bad.” I teach her how to use her iPhone (which she uses to show me pictures of the creatures, dolls, and hats she knits), and she lets me use her pencil and calls me her “sweet molls.”

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As a choir, we don’t always sound, well, good. Our director taught middle school band for many years, so he’s learned to hide grimaces and frustration with an impressive talent I have yet to master. The altos are always off key, the basses are always behind. None of the sopranos can successfully sing past a g above the staff, although unfortunately several try. Counting, it seems, is entirely too difficult a task, so a lot of improvised rhythms and false starts litter our practices. Only half of us watch the director, turning ritardandos into a herky-jerky struggle to the last note. Sometimes when I glance over to my mother during service as we perform the anthem, I can see her very visibly cringing.

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And yet, every Sunday morning we zip the unbecoming black choir robes over our clothes, pull the white stoles over our heads, adjusting them on others if the long end hanging down the back gets bunched or twisted. We gather in the Celtic Hall for coffee before making what the congregation jokingly calls the “March of the Penguins” into the sanctuary.

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When Joann Snyder, choir and church member for more than 50 years, passed away, we draped her robe and stole over her spot every Sunday for a month.

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At the end of each practice, we form a circle around the communion table for a group prayer, a long list of illnesses, deaths, and grievances, an inevitable side effect of an aging church. And then, before we gather our books and water bottles and purses, a song we’ve sung every Wednesday for the past three years, a song we now all know by heart. No longer segregated by section, we mingle, soprano lilting upwards next to a bass stair-stepping down, as we sing of going in peace, faith, and love, never being afraid and our hearts go tha-thump. tha-thump.

Molly Rupp is a senior English major, with an art minor. She has an alarming affinity for parenthetical asides, strongly advocates for the Oxford Comma, and hopes to one day live in a cabin on the Oregon Coast, surrounded by cats. Notable skills include, but are not limited to: binge watching Netflix, quoting Harry Potter in everyday conversation, embracing awkward social situations, and making killer mac and cheese.

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