What I Learned From Visiting My Old Home

  1. Go to all of the places you missed the most while you were away. Even if the porch where you used to idly talk with large groups of friends is now empty, go. Even if there are no good movies playing in the local theatre, go see one. Buy an overpriced mug or t shirt from your favorite coffee shop, if only to have one more thing to hold onto on your travel back.
  2. Go see all of your old friends and acquaintances. Even the ones you don’t want to see. Especially the ones you’ve lost touch with, if only for a minute. Ask them about themselves. Let them do all the talking. Don’t lose touch with the people who made you, you. Hug your best friend too many times. Stay up until 5 in the morning looking at old pictures with your sister. Hug people you never have before because you don’t know if it’s the last time you will be able to. Draw an “X” on your hand and sneak into a bad punk show full of high schoolers, just for old time’s sake.
  3. They probably still think about you too. I don’t have to tell you who because I know you already have a certain person in mind. No one knows what could come from it, but an essential part of life is embracing the beautiful unknown.
  4. You’re going to miss it. All of it. You will miss coming home to your roommates and embracing them because of how much you missed them, no matter how much you all fight about whose turn it is to do the dishes. You will miss sitting on your balcony on Tuesday nights with nothing to do but talk. You may even miss your 8 a.m.’s. Ok… probably not that, but you’re going to miss all of the small things just as much as you miss your high school friends, and going to high school football games, even if only for just 15 minutes. I guarantee you will miss it because life is ever changing, and the things you took for granted or were ungrateful for will be the things you long for the most in a year. So open your eyes. Soak in everything. Remember the smells, the tastes, and the sights. Take too many pictures. Tell people you love them all of the time. Say things you would normally leave unsaid because pretty soon, you will regret not doing so.

-Caroline Bible

The Sequoya Review Goes to Oxford!….Mississippi that is

For those of you who may believe that the literary capitals of the world are always elsewhere, look no further than Oxford, Mississippi, a land filled with a campus that hosts numerous writing and literary conferences throughout the year and the home of none other than William Faulkner. At the end of March, four of the Sequoya Review staff including Emily Cahoon, Courtney Lachapelle, as well as myself plus the poet Kelly Myracle, attended the Southern Literary Festival hosted by Ole Miss. The three day conference featured panels hosted by published poets, authors, and screenplay writers who were willing to give us brief lectures on the secrets of their trade, how to get published, and as well as simply sharing their inspiring work with us.

We had the honor of hearing the poetry of Carey Scott Wilkerson, whose readings from his book Threading Stone inspired us so much that we simply had to tell him in person (while also handing him a copy of our magazine of course!). In Threading Stone he covers the motif of Ariadne leading Theseus through the labyrinth, but he covers it in such an astounding number of ways and expounds it to seemingly unrelated subjects that you are left breathless at the leaps his verse make and in awe of the unnerving connection that is made at the end of it all. To find out more about Mr. Wilkerson, click here

Besides the poetry panel, we also attended a class which covered an anthology that addresses the racism in William Faulkner’s work by collecting the African American poets response to said body of work. Chiyuma Elliot hosted the event alongside Derrick Harriell, and although the anthology has yet to be released, the teaser we recieved definitely make it a book to look out for.

One of the milestones of our trip that we feel as though no one should go without when taking a trip to Oxford is the “Square Books” store that occupies two floors, and has two other stores – “Square Jr.” for kids, and “Off Square Books” for those of you looking for either a gag book, coffee table reading, or anything out of ordinary. In a world occupied by corporate chain bookstores, it is was thrilling to see a book seller thriving from open to close.

Another milestone that is worth seeing is William Faulkner’s estate called Rowan Oaks. Not only is this the place where many of Faulkner’s works were conceived, the location itself is stunning, with magnolia’s towering over what must have at one time been an exquisite garden while it was maintained. The stables nearby and troughs attest to the fact that the rural south was a living locale to him, just as it comes through in so many of his works.

It was during this trip that Kelly received her award and recognition for earning 1st Place in the festival’s poetry competition. Also, the Sequoya Review for the 2013-14 issue won 2nd place in the “Literary Magazine” category. Special thanks to all of our staff, writers, and poets that made this possible!

I would like to also give a special thanks to the UTC English Department for funding the trip, as well as Rowan Johnson and Sybil Baker for accompanying us.

—- Rachel Ford

Who are we writing for?

If you write, write anything at all, you’ve probably written something that was not so good. It could have been a first draft that nobody saw or it could have been a final draft turned in at the last minute that you wish nobody saw. And it possibly could have been something that you loved with all your heart and everybody else hated. Something that you wanted to read over and over again, that you understood completely and was exactly what you were trying to convey: a small part of who you are. Then disaster struck as others read it and pointed out this flaw and that flaw, and used words that destroyed this little piece of your soul that was carefully put down on paper. They just didn’t get it.

What happens then?

Writing is a world where rejection comes by the tenfold and acceptance is a small percent. Critique builds up our writing and is there to make us better, but sometimes it tears us down. It is nearly impossible to take a step back and see what others see when you are the author. Because you get what you were writing better than anybody else-you wrote it! There is always time to go back and revise. At times, we know it needs it. At other times, it is just down right disheartening. At these times it is not okay to give up, hide under a blanket and succumb to a life without words. We must ask ourselves: who are we writing for? The answer should be: ourselves. I am writing for me. And if people hate something that I love, that is okay. It doesn’t matter. I can still pull out this or that essay and receive joy and satisfaction. Maybe this won’t be shared with anyone else, but it accomplishes what I wanted it. And maybe someday I will take all the critique that I learned from and write something that not only I will love, but others will love too. But if not, that’s okay. I’m writing for me.

Chopping Down on Writer’s Block

 

One of the biggest challenges for me as a writer is coming up with something worth writing about and more importantly, something others will find worth reading. Often times I notice that instead of working around that obstacle, I let it block me from writing anything, which isn’t good for someone who aspires to be a famous author one day. Working toward a minor in creative writing however challenges me to face my writer’s block everyday. It also allows me to explore other types of writing styles and techniques and how to incorporate the things I’m learning into my own style.

 

In one of my writing classes, I read a literacy narrative by Peter Elbow, an author of several books and papers and a retired English professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. While discussing Elbow, my professor mentioned a writing concept Elbow commonly discusses: free writing. Free writing is an exercise where you set a time limit, however long or short you want, find paper and something to write with, and start writing whatever is on your mind. Your pen or pencil isn’t supposed to leave the paper until time runs out.

 

When I first heard about this, I honestly thought I would still have nothing interesting to write about. I thought there must be some rules or topic I had to use. Nope! The only thing you have to do is keep going. Don’t stop to re-read what you just wrote or edit. You just simply write whatever is on your mind whether that is your opinion on Miley Cyrus, what you’ve done so far that day, or the fact that your hand hurts from writing. Just keep on writing. Trust me, you might be surprised to find out where this little exercise takes you. I certainly was!

 

           

 

Meacham Writer’s Workshop: Building Community through Writing

Held during fall and spring semester, Meacham Writer’s Workshop is a three day conference which invites lovers of poetry and prose to listen and interact with its authors. Founded by the late Jean Meacham, a former UTC professor, it was Jean’s dream that the workshop be a free and public event where both professional and amateur writers could communicate and grow in their work. In previous years, Meacham has boasted readings by Pulitzer Prize winning poets such as Philip Levine and James Tate alongside some of our own published and highly awarded creative writing professors like Earl Braggs and Rebecca Cook. This year on Oct. 24th through the 26th  multiple Meacham’s readings were given throughout the day within seminar halls around campus and in local downtown venues. The final morning of the conference concluded with a workshop in which writers who had submitted their pieces were given the opportunity to hear constructive criticism from visiting writers.

Meacham Writer’s Workshop is a community where writing is shared, appreciated and nurtured. Cody Taylor, student coordinator of Meacham from Hendersonville TN., elaborated on this idea by stating, “[Meacham] is the cornerstone of the creative writing community. It’s an opportunity you don’t get at other colleges. It allows students and writers to interact as peers.”  The appeal of the conference is not solely for those trying to improve their writing skills, the conference is a free occasion to be entertained by some of the greatest writers in the business. From non-fiction writers to poets the genres are varied and vastly unique.  Halley Corapi, a junior at UTC from Knoxville TN. and a spectator at Friday night’s reading, had this to say about Meacham, “It’s always great even if I’ve heard the poem before. I feel like I’m getting something new from it each time.”  There is something time honored about Meacham in a time where writing programs are underfunded or nonexistent. As Carrie Meadows, assistant director of Meacham Writer’s Workshop, explained, “I think there is a consistency about Meacham, people get captivated by it. It’s an anchor for writer’s to know that it will always be there.”

Cheesy Love stories: Unrealistic Expectations

            I grew up watching A Cinderella Story, Mary Kate and Ashley go to Paris, and What a Girl Wants. Movies like these are what helped me shape a perception about life: conflict and immediate resolution. I grew up with the idea in my head that, as a girl, I was supposed to find a man to guide me and direct my future. If I encountered any sort of difficult situation, it would only last for the length of one angsty three minute, thirty-second song. At the end of every movie, everything would be simply resolved and fit together like a puzzle.

            These stories gave me unrealistic expectations of life. Problems aren’t resolved as quickly as they are in movies; it’s more complicated than that. Growing up, I also learned something very important: there doesn’t have to be a man to “save me” from all of my problems. I’m perfectly capable of making decisions on my own. These movies also all ended in “happily ever afters” with Prince Charming. Because I had this idea installed in my head from an early age, I had to learn the hard way that “happily ever after” doesn’t need a Prince Charming. I also learned that having a Prince Charming doesn’t guarantee you a “happily ever after”.

            Sure, love stories are cute. Don’t get me wrong; I still love to watch these movies. Nicolas Sparks’ The Notebook and The Last Song strike a cord in my heart and tear ducts every time I watch them. I absolutely believe in love and soul mates. I’ve just noticed lately how rarely things like that happen in real life. If you drop your cell phone, Chad Michael Murray isn’t going to search the school to find out whose it is. If you yell at Liam Hemsworth for spilling a milkshake on your shirt, he’s probably going to leave you alone instead of continuing to pester you until you fall in love with him. There are plot holes in almost every love story. When I’m watching a movie like this, I always hear a voice in my head at some point in the movie saying, “this would never happen”. Basically, my problem with these movies is that they blow everything out of proportion. I believe that there are perfect moments in life, as opposed to the perfect endings that are displayed in Hollywood’s movies.

Something Borrowed: Something to Return

 

            Emily Grifin’s Something Borrowed depicts the love triangle between characters Rachel, Darcy, and Dexter. Rachel is the maid of honor in Darcy and Dexter’s wedding. Rachel met Dexter in law school and introduced him to her life-long best friend, Darcy. At the start of the novel, the reader is thrown into the situation when Rachel describes the first time that she slept with Dexter behind Darcy’s back. While Giffin illustrates problems and themes that are relatable to the readers, the characters lack likeability, making Something Borrowed something that I would like to return to the library.

The first chapter of Something Borrowed holds the entire premise of the book. On Rachel’s thirtieth birthday, Darcy steals the limelight from Rachel (as always) and in return Rachel has sex with Darcy’s fiancé, Dexter. What started out as a one-night stand apparently turns into something more when Dexter and Rachel begin to fall in love. During this affair, Rachel reveals to the reader the backstory between these three main characters. Darcy is Rachel’s lifelong “best friend”. However, Rachel continuously complains about Darcy being self-centered throughout the novel and still tries to insist that Darcy is a good friend to her. This is not convincing for the reader— this just gives the reader negative associations with Darcy because her good “best friend” side is rarely shown in the text.

In law school, Rachel acknowledged Dexter’s good looks and charm but thought that Dexter was out of her league. This gives the reader the impression that Rachel lacks self-confidence. Rachel then introduces Darcy and Dexter, which is also a display of low self-confidence because she is letting Darcy win everything that she wants. Rachel begins to have an affair with Dexter during the engagement, eventually breaking up the wedding and winning Dexter’s love. 

            Although this love triangle is a complicated situation, the characters do not seem to grow or learn from their actions in the story. The characters do not work for what is best for them, they all whine like children until they get their way. Dexter does not learn how to be a respectful man, for most of the story he was engaged to Darcy and having and affair with Rachel. He had everything that he wanted and lusted after without any consequences because Darcy was just as self-centered as he was and Rachel never stood up for herself. Rachel shows indecisiveness and does not make any choices that are good for herself; in the end, she is fulfilled with everything that she wanted without working for it in a proper manner. Darcy’s character remains superficial and flat. She is hypocritical, getting mad at Rachel and Dexter’s betrayal when Darcy had been having affairs during their engagement as well. 

            I wish that Something Borrowed had more depth in character development, and that the overall meaning of the story was different. The way that Giffin wrote the novel gives the reader the impression that cheating is okay and that it will all work out if you are truly in love. This is not reality; if Rachel wanted things to work out with Dexter, she should have talked the situation out with him rationally instead of expecting everything to magically fall together for them in the end. The novel displays the problems of complicated relationships and indecisiveness, but does not provide good solutions for these characters.