Announcing: The 2019 Chapbook Contest Finalists

Hi blog readers!  The English Department is thrilled to announce this year’s Chapbook Contest winner, Bryn Cavin! Bryn is a junior at Whitworth, majoring in English Literature and Writing, with a minor in Editing and Publishing.  She is a big, big fan of dogs, sunsets, and new adventures. Enjoy Bryn’s introductory thoughts on her work and an excerpt from Racing Our Shadows below.

I have been lucky enough to do quite a bit of traveling over the past year, and visit so many museums that I’ve almost lost track. Most of the poems in this collection came from moments in those travels that took my breath away, broke my heart, or have otherwise taken up residence in my mind.  I suppose that these poems are my attempts to put those feelings into some sort of order, to capture them and save them for a time when my memories of these moments have faded somewhat. 

This year’s runner-up is Alexandra Jackson! Alexandra is a senior at Whitworth, majoring in English, Writing track.

Alexandra says that her piece, Eyes That See consists of three interconnected stories that explore the lives of small wooden people, and the Providers who accidentally created them, from multiple points of view. The Providers, for the most part, regard the wooden figures as non-sentient, and have consequently not paid much attention to maintenance, causing the problem present in the excerpt. Enjoy the excerpt of Alexandra’s work below!

I’d found him wandering, and knew it was the end. Months ago, he’d added a scarf to the hat. The crevasse had worked its way down his neck to disappear under his collar. If you touched between his shoulder blades your hand sunk in where he was broken. It must have hurt, but we couldn’t bear to ask. His expression was vague and unrecognizing, with no smile. He looked past me and continued walking. When I grabbed him, he stopped but didn’t so much as glance at me. I talked to him as I guided him back to his house, but he showed no sign of understanding. He was pliant, so I sat him down on his bed and began to unwind the scarf. I set that aside and snatched the hat next, tossing it across the room. I jerked the jacket from his shoulders and threw it away too. His shirt was more difficult to remove. Whenever I raised his arms over his head they would immediately sink back down. I grabbed one wrist at a time, squeezing hard in hopes of some response. Nothing. I kept his left arm suspended with one hand and worked the sleeve off with the other, then repeated the process. When that was done the shirt pooled around his neck in a sad collar, revealing how ravaged he was. Two sharp cuts curled around his side and onto his midsection, nearly meeting in the center. I yanked the shirt over his head, tearing it. The ripping noise was so fitting I wanted to shred it. I tipped him down into the pillow to see the damage. 

“Damn you, damn you!

I didn’t know whether I was cursing him, or The Providers. Either way, I wouldn’t be heard. He followed The Providers as faithfully as anyone, believed in them with every breath, yet he was barely in one piece. A scant centimeter of wood held together below the crack. One shove and he could split in half, but it wouldn’t matter. The crack had finally grown until Finch fell in like a house over a fault line. Whatever he had been was gone. I wanted to shake him, to see if I could rattle any sense back into his placid expression, but doing so would be the end of his body too. If that final break happened, he would’ve splintered into pieces. He deserved better than to disintegrate. 

When I calmed, I made my way over to the pile of Finch’s clothing and folded it while Finch stared straight ahead. I couldn’t do anything for him. I locked his door behind me and left to go find the town judge, Silas, who would know what to do. We went together to find the architect, Johnson. His understanding of wood was greater than anyone else’s. He wouldn’t be able to fix the crack, but he could fill it, and maybe save Finch. The Providers were the only ones capable of real healing. 

We dressed Finch and led him through town to the architect’s garage. Here Johnson had us undress Finch and guide him up onto a table, lying on his stomach. Harnesses used to secure large projects for cutting were tightened around his shoulders and knees. Johnson came over with a large vessel, filled with heated resin. He looked grim as he climbed up to kneel over Finch. We braced ourselves for the scream we’d heard from those others who had needed this treatment, but Finch stayed silent and still as Johnson poured the liquid into the crevasse. He had to heat more resin to finish. Once that was done, we stood together, waiting while the liquid set. It was an amber color and the light pouring in from the ventilation hole in the ceiling made it shine as we gazed at Finch. He never moved, and when the resin cooled Johnson took up his position once more and began smoothing the surface down with his tools. He was familiar with shaping resin to match bodies, able to follow the curves he was replacing perfectly. When we rolled Finch over the resin had seeped through cracks to leave pools of hardened amber underneath him. Johnson sculpted him back together. 

When he was finished Finch still just stared. He was lying on his back, gaze directed at the hole in the ceiling. It was a familiar posture; his gaze being directed to the sky looking for any glimpse of The Providers and their huge eyes. He’d only seen them once, when he was new. His own eyes had met those huge colorful orbs above us and latched onto them, watching them open and close. I’d thought the regard was mutual, that the eyes had met Finch’s with respect despite the blankness they must have seen in comparison. He’d felt a connection. We must have both been wrong. Finch’s devotion counted for nothing, yet even now he seemed to be staring up at the sky waiting for the gaze to reappear.

Coming Soon…Jericho Brown!

Mark your calendars for Thursday, April 26th, when Whitworth University will be hosting poet, Jericho Brown. Jericho Brown is a poet and professor, whose most recent book, The New Testament, has been described by critics as being, “lyrical clarity,” and as “ushering the body from political and religious battlegrounds” (Jericho Brown website here). His first book, Please won the American Book Award and his second book of poetry, The New Testament won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. He is the Director the Creative Writing Program and an associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory University.

Invite your friends and family to enjoy this night of poetry, community, and fun!
Reading poster_Elyse_Kara

What It’s Like in the Real World After Whitworth, and Some Advice to Go With It

By: Emily (Church) Michelbrink

I won’t pretend that at six months post-graduation from Whitworth I have my life together and that everything worked out exactly as I planned, because it didn’t, but in accessing where I am now, I’m okay with that. I think that’s something that needs to be said, even if Whitworth students (especially seniors) are reminded that it’s a rough world out there and post-grad life won’t be a walk in the park. While we’re told this over and over, a small part of ourselves holds on to the idea that it won’t be me. I’m freaking awesome, so of course I’m going to get into the grad school I want or get my dream job. Sorry to break it to you, but you aren’t the only awesome human being that exists in this world. Quite a few other people want the same things that you do and may be feistier about getting those things. You might not get into that school and you might not get that job your interviewed for and really wanted, but there are still millions of opportunities out there.

After receiving my “diploma,” shaking President Beck Taylor’s hand, and walking off the stage, I spend the next four months searching for a job, and I must admit it wasn’t the funniest thing I’ve ever done. I’m now at a job that I had never even considered. I graduated as a double major in English writing and Sociology. While at Whitworth, aside from my majors, I was also managing editor for this blog, got involved in Rock & Sling as a reader and non-fiction assistant editor, and was manager of the BELIEF program as part of the Dornsife Center for Community Engagement. I began my search out of college looking for positions that would allow me to work with non-profit programs or would put my writing and editing skills to use. So, where am I now? Microsoft.

I currently work in University Recruiting (UR) at Microsoft as a recruiting coordinator (RC). Basically, once Microsoft recruiters determine that a candidate is worthy of a first-round interview, I am responsible for making sure my candidates are able to sign up for an interview slot and that an interviewer (IVer) is available to conduct the interview whether they be one of our UR interviews or a volunteer from a specific Microsoft team, like X-box. We really like acronyms in UR, can’t you tell? I serve as the middle-man between candidates and their interviewer. I am the one they contact when the have questions or need to reschedule. My position requires lots of written communications, data tracking, and problem solving, which are skills I’d like to say that I really honed in on through obtaining my English degree. While this may not be the most obvious job to come from an English degree, it’s a good beginning and proves that English majors can make it in any field. I also know that this isn’t my end all position, but it does serve as a good beginning for me.

I knew going in that this job wouldn’t provide me with a way to practice the type of writing and editing that I really enjoy doing and aspire to do as a career, so what did I do? I sought out ways to explore my interests and build community with writers as kind of a “side gig.” I joined Odyssey, an online publication community, as a content writer. It pushed me to meet deadlines and think of new content every week, and now I have recently been promoted to contributing editor for my community. Frankly, I’m enjoying the chance I have to develop professional skills and experience working for a large corporation like Microsoft while still ensuring that I do the thing that allows me to call myself a writer: write.

From this process of finding myself after undergrad, the advice that I can offer to current Whitworth students, and perhaps anyone else that finds it applicable is this: while it may feel like you’re lost, you never know what opportunity is waiting just around the corner. I also can’t stress the importance of building relationships with people in your desired field and of getting involved in activities and experiences that will build your skillset for your desired job or career.

Emily Michelbrink (’17) graduated with double major of English writing and Sociology, with a minor in Psychology. She currently works as a recruiting coordinator at Microsoft, is serving as a writer and contributing editor for Odyssey, and lives with her husband and one-eyed cat in the greater Seattle area. You can go read her Odyssey articles here.


This Whitworth Life: Jake McCollough (’18)

On Wednesday, November 29, at 5:30 pm, EL 347 Creative Nonfiction Workshop will host the (mostly) annual This Whitworth Life: Whitworth’s Untold Stories in the HUB MPR. The event brings together students, staff, faculty, alumni, board members, administrators, and other Whitworthians to share some of their true and “untold” stories. The 2017 cast includes Rachel Aldridge, Judy Dehle, Lauren Klepinger, Leroy “Mac” McCall, Quincy McCune, John Sowers, Claire Symons, Raja Tanas, and Logan Veasy.

For a taste of the kinds of stories you’ll hear on November 29, here’s “The Ten-Year-Old Elephant” by EL 347 student Jake McCollough: Jake McCollough is a senior at Whitworth and is majoring in English. Jake enjoys writing fiction and poetry, the following piece is one of his first forays into the creative non-fiction genre. He describes the story as “deeply personal” and expressed that it was “difficult to write due to its sensitive and complicated topic.” Please enjoy Jake Mccullough’s piece, “The Ten-Year-Old Elephant.”


The Ten-Year-Old Elephant

            The doorbell rings and I open the door. My aunts, Alex and Vanessa, have come to visit with their respective boyfriends, Brandon and Chima. Behind them is the family elephant, massive, imposing, and glaringly obvious. My family and potential family greet me with squeals, hugs, questions and smiles. We walk into the living room and they smother my mom, their sister, with more hugs. The elephant follows silently behind them, impossibly heavy, its footsteps reverberating years into the past, calling up old wounds and unspoken agreements. The bamboo boards beneath its feet buckle under the weight of ten years of familial estrangement. It strides into the room and stands in the center of my mingling family, directly over the coffee table and the drinks my mother has set out for the visitors.

            The house is soon filled with laughter, but it is merriment tinged with awkwardness, sadness, and separation. They ask if my sister and I are dating anyone, how school and swimming are going, my plans for the future, etc. We make small talk and catch each other up on what has been going on in our lives. Sometimes I forget we are related. Soon, like always, Alex and Vanessa begin reminiscing about when my sister and I were babies and how we would run happily through the house of our maternal grandmother, Lydia (the mother of Alex, Vanessa and my mom), and her husband, Mike. Mike and Lydia’s names are never actually mentioned, but the conversation pauses almost imperceptibly before continuing. We all know who is being referred to. No one says anything, but we all look toward the elephant. We all know it’s there. It trumpets loudly, but only we can hear it.

          After an hour or two its time for the guests to leave. They pack up, leaving behind their hallmark of half eaten food and a forgotten scarf or glove. They promise to come back soon. This usually means months later. As I close the front door, the elephant squeezes past me and out into the night, waving good bye with its trunk. In the silence that follows I can almost here the final series of fights between my parents and grandparents that ended our contact with them, the dreaded conversations about the horrors of alcoholism that followed, and family secrets that I regret ever having to learn. I turn towards the rest of my family. They look just as relieved as I feel that the elephant has left.

            We still have contact with Alex and Vanessa, but we only see them during the holidays or maybe a few times over the summer. We have absolutely no communication with Mike and Lydia. Alcoholism has engulfed them in a tidal wave of wine, sweeping them permanently out of my life. The girls have contact with Mike and Lydia and act like nothing has changed. They are 18 and 20 years younger than my mom, the product of Lydia’s second marriage to Mike. He pays for everything the girls want or need. Money is hard to refuse even if it comes at the price of abuse and watching your parents slowly drown themselves in wine, STIs, and tax evasion. No one talks about the estrangement, but we all know about it. It lives in all of our minds, a permanent reminder of a family torn apart by severe alcoholism and unhealthy family dynamics. The elephant is always present when we come together, we just choose to ignore it the best we can.


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.

Mindful of the Change

By: Devon Clements

Exploring the traverses of the internal,

Like some long forgotten picaroon.

Delving into the abstractions,

Contrasting like the bloody snow.

One sunset is another, and who am I to stay between?


I thought one day perhaps I’d find it.

The search as fickle as our hearts.

Lost in the endless sea of time

Each day we yearn to break our backs,

For the sake of the forgotten dream.


As drink is to the alley dweller,

So too does it quench my thirst.

It leaves me yearning ever-after,

I’ve been stumbling since my birth.


I didn’t ask for what I’m given,

Never sure of what I’ve got.

The song, methinks is ending,

I only have one more shot.


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.

A Lesson in the Ambiguous

A short story by: Devon Clements

The sun had set long ago and the city now stirred as a dark and bleary shadow of its former self. The roads were empty, save for the occasional passing car, on some journey of their own and the two men glided through the intersections, guided by the green lights and a mixture equal parts fear and adrenaline. Inside the cab of the 98’ Ford F-150 the tinkling sounds of broken glass rattling against a metallic baseball bat emanated from the floorboard, filling the air with the auditory notion of violence. The driver was focused but looked shaken, his eyes pointed straight ahead never once leaving the road, but perspiration stood out on his forehead magnifying each passing street light. His hands gripped the steering wheel causing his knuckles to stand out, white as marble in the dark space of the truck. Between him and the passenger sat a faded and worn green Jansport backpack, its irregular bumps and angles suggesting its contents had been haphazardly shoved inside. The two didn’t talk, nothing could be heard except the steady and repeated rhythm of tire on wet pavement, the gentle whish whish creating a soundtrack to each of their racing thoughts.

A light ahead caused the driver to start and he motioned to the passenger with a quick nod as he flicked on the turn signal and began to decrease in speed. The gas station and liquor mart parking lot was empty except for a single beat-up Dodge Neon and this satisfied the anxiety of the men as they slid into a parking spot and cut the engine. The break in constant movement gave them a reassuring and removed sensation which neither could pinpoint. The passenger opened the truck door and nimbly hopped out, turning around to make eye contact with the driver before firmly closing it behind him. The driver saw him disappear into the sickeningly illuminated store and then lost sight of him amidst racks of cheap packaged food and oil cans.

He now sat alone in the cab, his hands still unconsciously on the wheel and absently staring at the reflection of bottles caught in the large plexi-glass windows in front of him. After a few minutes the passenger reemerged from inside and jumped back in the cab, a single plastic bag clutched in his left hand. He pulled out a bottle and handed it to the driver as he took one for himself. The iconic gold and maroon lettering sent a wave of nostalgic energy through them both, as they twisted the lids off the triangular glass cylinders of Olde English. The driver took a large swig, the tang of malt liquor coating his mouth, as he started the engine and pulled back onto the street. He glanced to the passenger and breaking their long held silence asked, “Are we gonna make it?” The passenger’s lips curled into a sardonic smile as he turned, a glint of some forgotten youth in his eye, and he answered, “Does anyone?” The road stretched out wide and free before them and the night promised shelter, at least for a few more hours.

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.

“Secrets” by Devon Clements (’18)

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.

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

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.”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Probably Too Much Personal Information Online: A Year of Blogging

By: Jacob Millay

Believe it or not, science majors are not the only ones who are out in the world experimenting. In fact, I, even as an English major, attempt to complete an experiment at least once a year. One year, I decided to not cut my hair and document it with a picture every day. One month I was vegetarian just to try it out. I went without shampoo for a month just to see if anyone would notice. Sometimes the experiments are massive failures, but I (almost) always learn something through the process. And isn’t that the ultimate goal in an experiment? Not to succeed, but to learn something?

My most recent foray into experimentation, ironically enough, was about blogging. Most writers have almost identical advice for young and beginning writers. They say to write as often as possible. Every day, if you can. Through this mass of writing you will be able to find your own unique voice, streamline the writing process, and learn more about yourself. All of that sounded pretty good to me, so I figured that I would set out on a grand journey to write a blog post every day for a year. If all the good authors recommend something, it has to be good, right? They couldn’t possibly all be wrong, right?


I knew that writing this much wasn’t going to be easy. During the school year I am already writing often for class, so it was going to be a struggle to find the time and the inspiration to write. Often I would lose some sleep in order to stay up to write my daily post. I would grind out at least three hundred words, my tentative goal for each post, and then immediately fall asleep. After a few months, this simply became part of my day. It was an easy routine to fall in to. The real jelly on the toast was that I knew that no one was reading my posts, so I had no expectations to live up to. The world was wide open and beautiful. If I wanted to write a post about how sponges are disgusting and no one should use them to clean anything, I could. And I did. If I wanted to write a blog post without using the space bar, I could. And I did. If I wanted to complain theme parks, I could. And I did.

Jacob 2 blog

Excerpts from Jacob’s experimental blog

Jacob blog 2

When all assumptions about what I could or couldn’t say were taken away, I thought that I might be drowned in the possibility of all the options. I could write about ANYTHING. But most of the time that means we write about nothing since we now lack the comfort of an assignment sheet to follow. Instead, I would simply sit down and let my mind wander. Some days it would stumble upon a legitimately interesting idea that could be expanded further. Other days, I would mumble to myself about how I hated ginger ale. But the drive of writing daily pushed me further than any other writing assignment ever could.

And it did help me develop a style. Previously, I could clearly see that I was emulating other writers in my own work. It was clear to me that I was trying to be Ray Bradbury or Stephen King or that one cool, trendy blogger on Tumblr who I read once. When you write every day, it is way too much work to emulate someone. You eventually develop this one strange voice that slowly gets stronger and stronger. As I forced myself to write, I was able concentrate my thoughts and see myself on that screen as I wrote. It was a little trail that allowed someone to wander inside my head, if only for a brief moment.

Looking back on it, writing a blog post everyday was pretty exhausting. There were a lot of days where I sat down and felt like I had nothing to say. Nothing was exciting in my life. I had no brash political statements to make. No insight into higher learning. No musical suggestions for my nonexistent readers. Those days were hard. And, frankly, I missed a lot of days because I was tired, busy, or just lazy. So I didn’t reach my goal. Not even close. It was a pretty horrid attempt honestly. I was a football coach sending out their kicker to try to make a seventy-five yard field goal. Against the wind. It was always going to come up short.

That does not mean, however, that I regret doing it. I learned a lot about myself. I certainly would not be writing these blog posts if I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone originally. And while everyone always talks about how great it is to stretch yourself, they forget that the actual stretching is sometimes pretty painful. But is it worth it? I certainly think so. And the only way you will know is to try it yourself. So go for it. Or don’t. It’s up to you.


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.