Looking Forward to November…

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It is almost time to flip your calendars to November. And while you are at it, make sure to write down these upcoming events.

Kicking off the month, THIS Friday, Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m. Westminster Round invites you to their Harvest Party at 10713 N. Nelson (look for the jack-o-lanterns). Rides available in front of Westminster Hall at 5:15.

There will be marshmallows, a little bonfire, scary stories read by Vic Bobb, food, spiced cider and friends. Westminster Round encourages all English folk to come out for this.

Don’t Miss the Two English Endowed Readings!

Come see Melanie Rae Thon  on Thursday, Nov. 14th at 7 p.m. in the HUB Multipurpose Room.

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Melanie Rae Thon’s most recent novels include, The Voice of the River and In This Light Now: Selected Stories. Her work has been included in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize Anthologies and O. Henry Prize Stories.

And come back on Monday, Nov. 18th at 7 p.m. to the HUB Multipurpose Room to see Pádraig Ó Tuama.

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Pádraig Ó Tuama is a Belfast-based Irish Poet, speaker, and conflict mediator, as well as the author of two  poetry collections—Readings from the Book of Exile and Sorry for Your Troubles—and an album of Christian lament called Hymns to Swear By.

Closing out the month is the wonderful combination of Poetry and Pie on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Mind & Hearth Coffee Shop.

Enjoy your November! And finish off October strong by going to the Elective Fest TOMORROW! (See previous post for details)

November image from here.

English Electivefest (Halloween Edition): Thurs, Oct 31, 11:30am

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Join us for a special Halloween Edition of English Electivefest this Thursday, October 31, from 11:30-12:45 in 252 WM.

Don your costume, grab a slice of pizza, and chat with profs about upcoming courses for Jan and Spring 2014.

Also bring some cash money for the book sale pre-sale. These titles are hot hot hot! The price is right($1 for paperbacks and $2 for hardbacks), and all of the money raised supports the courtyard garden.

See you there!

 

EL Alum Updates: Allison (Spotts) Vesterfelt, ’05, on Packing Light

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I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. But when I would tell people I wanted to write books for a living, they would say, “That’s great! You better have a back-up plan. You can’t make money as an author.” So while I was at Whitworth, I went back and forth between being an English major, and being an Education major, because what I really wanted to do was write, but what I knew I needed to do was be a teacher, so I could pay my bills. Finally, my love for writing and literature won out, and I finished my time at Whitworth with a degree in English.

Two years out of college, I had worked a series of jobs I didn’t like, trying to make money so that I could write someday, but I felt a little directionless, so I went back to graduate school to get my teaching degree.

And when I finally finished graduate school, and got my first full time job as an English teacher, I should have felt ecstatic. For a few weeks, I did. This was it. This was the life I had worked so hard to achieve. I had made a few detours along the way, and gotten lost a few times, but now, I finally knew what I was going to “do” with my life. But the longer I worked that job, the more restless I started to feel. Something just didn’t feel right. I felt bored. Tired. And guilty for not being grateful for the incredible blessings in my life.

The more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized the reason I was so restless: This wasn’t what I wanted.

One day, a friend asked me this question: “If you could do anything with your life — if you didn’t have to worry about money, or paying your bills, or school debt, or what your parents would say — what would you do?” And my answer was easy. I would travel across the country and write a book about it. This is what I had always wanted. I just didn’t believe it was “responsible” to want what I wanted. I didn’t believe I was allowed to want what I wanted.

So I quit my job, moved out of my apartment, sold everything I owned, and set off (with a friend) in my Subaru to visit all 50 States (well, 48 states in my Subaru, and then 2 states by plane). That’s where the whole thing started, but it definitely isn’t the whole story.

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From the moment I decided to go, until now, it’s been a journey of fighting fear, self-doubt, overcoming obstacles, and making difficult decisions. The book is about my journey, not just across the country, but my journey to discovering what I really wanted to do with my life.

The biggest lesson learned while I traveled is this: It is possible to live the life you really want to live. It is okay to want what you want. But there will be many things you have to let go of in the process.

The most surprising part of the “letting go” process for me is that I don’t feel like I lost everything when I gave up my stuff. I feel like I gained everything. I feel lighter and freer and more awake and engaged than I’ve been before in my life.

Taking the leap to chase my dream has opened doors for me I never dreamed possible. I’m so thrilled I get to do what I’m doing, and I still can’t believe I get paid to do what I love.

I love what John Eldredge says. He says, “Don’s ask yourself what this world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and do that. Because what this world needs are people who have come alive.”

I’ve found that to be true, and it’s totally changed my life. I hope it changes yours, too.

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Allison (Spotts) Vesterfelt, an English alum’ of ’05, recently published Packing Light:
Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. This book is reflection on her journey through life and through all 50 states.

Watching and Receiving: A Few Words from Department Chair, Pam Corpron Parker

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In his poem, “The Tables Turned,” William Wordsworth famously charges his reader, “Up! Up! my Friend, and quit your books:/or surely you’ll grow double.” This may be music to the ears of homework-weary students, but I don’t think Wordsworth intended for us to toss our books in the dumpster and give up reading altogether.  Rather, he invites us to seek a balance between reading about the world and experiencing it first-hand.  He beckons us to “Come forth into the light of things,/Let Nature be your teacher.”  This is good advice as we head into the thick of the semester with midterm papers and exams piling up like fall leaves.

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Several weeks ago on Community Building Day, a group of dozen or more students and faculty from the departments of English, theology, and world languages did just this.  We set aside our classes and books to work in the Westminster Garden. Under the direction of Leonard Oakland, we raked, weeded, pruned, and planted daffodil bulbs together.  (I think that Wordsworth would have given us the thumbs up on our bulb choice, don’t you?)  We got our hands dirty, talked about books and classes, and learned (as Wordsworth’s poem explains) that Nature “has a world of ready wealth,/Our minds and hearts to bless.”

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For me, digging in a homely daffodil bulb is an inherently hopeful activity.  To plant bulbs, or any seed for that matter, we enact a tangible metaphor of faith, particularly the act of faith that is teaching. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”(KJV).  Teachers rarely know what students take away from their lessons, but we have faith in the educational relationship, the works we teach, and the students themselves.

Later that day, we headed back our classes but the garden still glowed in the afternoon sunlight.  We—and the garden—were blessed by our time together in Nature’s classroom. These community events are part of what makes learning and working around Westminster such a pleasure.  Whitworth’s “education of mind and heart” (oddly presaged in Wordsworth’s poem) spills out into the garden and beyond.

If you have been around Westminster Hall, you may have noticed that the garden is particularly exuberant this fall.  Purple asters, black-eyed Susan, Russian Sage, and feather reed grass crowd around the basalt columns and tumble onto the sidewalk.  In part, this is a result of rather pungent doses of compost last spring, but it is also due to the faithful labors of senior (?) English major John Hope, who spent much of his summer working and reading in the Westminster Garden.  Most afternoons, I would find John weeding or watering or reading in the shade of the weeping cherry trees. (As you can see in this accompanying photo, the garden is a good place to grow beards and flowers.)

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Speaking of gardens and poets and beards, we have been celebrating Thom Caraway’s nomination as Spokane’s first poet laureate this week. (For more information, see the Spokes-person Review’s article about Thom on the front page of the “Northwest” section.)  No one deserves this recognition more. Thom has been a tireless poet, teacher, and community advocate at Whitworth and in his beloved West Central neighborhood.  He is thoroughly planted in Spokane, not only because he is a longtime resident, but also through his role as the board president at Project H.O.P.E., a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the West Central neighborhood.  Project H.O.P.E. provides job training for at-risk youth through teaching them to garden, market, and sell vegetables grown on Riverfront Farm, an urban farm expanding to eight empty lots in West Central.

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Thom’s achievement is good news for all of us and a reminder of what it means to walk your talk.  Another beloved Whitworth poet, Laurie Lamon says, “For this honor to come to Thom speaks volumes for the service, teaching, and mentoring he has done, so much of it quietly, and all of it with the heart, mind and soul of a poet who has served first and foremost his community and students.”  Join us in congratulating Thom, or better yet, send him a note.

In the meantime, live in hope and remember Wordsworth’s advice to glory in the days of fall: “Come forth, and bring with you a heart / That watches and receives.

Spokane’s First Poet Laureate, Dr. Thom Caraway

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Congratulations to Dr. Thom Caraway, who was been named Spokane’s first Poet Laureate! Here are some of Thom’s thoughts on this honor and poetry. 

“It’s a tremendous honor to be the first laureate ever appointed for Spokane. Spokane is home to a number of very talented poets, and I look forward to working with all of them to promote the arts in the city and beyond.”

“I think one of my goals as Spokane’s poet laureate will be to confront the idea that poetry isn’t something that everybody can enjoy. The perception is that poetry is an elitist art form, and most people don’t feel like they can ‘get’ poetry. But it’s one of the oldest art forms we have. Its power is primal, and there is something there for everyone, I think. Kids learn very early on that language is fun, and they play with it constantly. But as people get older they lose that sense of wonder that language can provide, and poetry is primarily concerned with that wonder. I’d like to reconnect people to that.”

“The chief pleasure for me in writing a poem is a balance of frustration and joy. Frustration that I so often fail at language, at conveying something (an image, an experience) with precision and the gap between what I want to do and what I am able to do. But there is also joy in getting a line or an image or metaphor closer to rightness, closer to precision. Working in language is a constant tension, but one I enjoy confronting.”

“But poetry never exists in a vacuum. Words on a page are fine, but until those words find an audience, either a reader or listener, they can’t do anything. My favorite aspect of writing poetry then, is when people tell me they liked something, that they could connect with what I was trying to say, that they hadn’t ever seen it that way (whatever ‘it’ happens to be, the subject or image of the poem). One of the poet’s jobs is to call attention to that which usually goes unnoticed. So when somebody notices, that’s a great pleasure.”

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Also, check out The Spokesman-Review‘s article.

Publications: A Taste of What’s to Come

Congratulations to Dr. Laurie Lamon for her upcoming poems “Pain Thinks of the Body” and “Pain Thinks of a Morpheme” in The Literary Review, “Just Say” in J Journal: New Writing on Justice, and “Taking off my black skirt” in Quiddity.

Also, her poem “Watering the Maple” was featured as Ascent’s poem of the month for this past June.

Laurie shared with us her poem “Taking off my black skirt” and commented, “I started this poem over 12 years ago, and just found the ending this summer.”

 

Taking off my black skirt

I noticed the half-inch crescent of white I must have
worn since morning when I tore a fingernail and clipped
and filed it before coffee and world news,
before the crease of wool would wear against my thighs
a thousand times—it was dust fallen
from the right hand, maker of orchards and clocks,
maker of shoes and light bulbs and the spine’s
titanium rods—it was dust fallen from the left hand’s
books and maps, x rays and sticks of pastel,
a garden’s verdigris and thread of ants, the roots
of roses centered and bathed in soil beneath winter straw.
Taking off my black skirt I saw what the body,
aging and pointillist, keeps for itself: less than spice
or smoke, less than eternity, the hand’s imaginary thresh.

 

While on the topic of black skirts…meet Maude, a beloved member of Laurie’s family.

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Internship Spotlight: Josie Camarillo (’14) on Spokane Faith & Values

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I recently began a copy editing internship at Spokane Faith & Values. SpokaneFAVS is part of the Religion Newswriters Association. Basically, SpokaneFAVS is a website that provides news for and from different faith perspectives. It is not only a news website, but a platform for community discussion.

So far, in the month or so that I have been working with Tracy (who is a fantastic boss, by the way), I have learned more about AP Style and Religion Style (yes, that is a legitimate thing in news writing) than I ever imagined I would want to.  I have also learned about the existence of some awesome coffee shops in the Spokane area (i.e., Morning Sun Bakery and Revel 77), become an Oxford comma Nazi, fallen in love with the invention of hyperlinking and most importantly, learned about some perspectives outside of my own.

The posts that I edit are written by Protestant Christians, atheists, Buddhists, Mormons and Religious Scientists, just to name a few of the worldviews represented at SpokaneFAVS. I edit opinion blogs, news articles and poetry (if you’re interested in spirituality in poetry, check out Christi Ortiz). My role is much more diverse and personally diversifying than I could have imagined.

On September 16, I was privileged to attend the first ever SpokaneFAVS mixer at the Lantern Tap House (my life was greatly improved by eating their sweet potato fries with parmesan). I was able to meet some of the writers for whom I edit and a few of their families. It was a beautiful thing to see so many varied faith perspectives in a room together, chatting amiably: atheist, pluralist, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, etc.

Speaking of which, if you’re interested in stimulating, intellectual discussion about faith and ethics among a variety of different perspectives, attend a SpokaneFAVS Coffee Talk. These are engaging forums open to the community. The bloggers write on a specific subject for a few weeks; then, once a month, a panel of people from different perspectives convenes in a local coffee shop to bring the online conversation into the local community. The next one is at Chairs Coffee on Indiana Ave. on October 5 at 10 a.m.

Throughout this fall semester, I will be back to update ya’ll on my further adventures as a religion news copy editing intern. Until then, ta-ta for now, and check out my author’s page on SpokaneFAVS, here.

Josie Camarillo is a senior English writing and psychology double major at Whitworth. Her hobbies include horseback riding, writing poetry, drinking copious amounts of tea and photography. She wrote a post about rodeo photography for the English blog last year.