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Literary House Year-in-Review

  • The Rose O'Neill Literary House
    The Rose O'Neill Literary House
May 07, 2014
With the 2013-2014 academic year in the books, the staff at the Rose O’Neill Literary House turns their attention towards the three upcoming Summer Poetry Salons set to take place on May 27, June 24 and July 22. But before we do, we’d like to revisit some of the highlights of this past year and we begin, naturally, with our Literary Events …


Fall Semester

In the fall, the Rose O’Neill Literary House hosted the “Chicano/a and Latino/a Voices” Series, which featured writers Justin Torres and Joy Castro, poet Eduardo C. Corral, and Washington College Professor Crystal Kurzen.

Justin Torres was the opening act of the semester, reading from his book We the Animals, printed in 2011 by Mariner Books. Torres shared with us his writing technique—a language crisp, clean, and lean; and in this style we are able see the beauty in moments when beauty is hard to imagine. In anticipation of his visit, a broadside was made with the opening words to his book, which you can see here.

Joy Castro’s reading was powerful. She read from several of her nonfiction works, including Island of Bones and The Truth Book. We saw Joy a few months later at the 2014 AWP Conference in Seattle, where she led a panel of writers, all of whom contributed to Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family. Castro is the editor of this great collection, which was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2013.

At our fall Tea & Talk lecture, Professor Crystal Kurzen presented her work on how contemporary Chicana/o writers revise and expand the genre conventions of autobiography in order to represent themselves and their communities on their own terms. At Washington College, Professor Kurzen teaches courses in literature and composition and in American, Chicana/o, and Latina/o literatures.

To round out the series, the Literary House welcomed poet Eduardo C. Corral. Corral read poems from his collection Slow Lightning, from which one of the poems— “Immigration and Naturalization Service Report #46” —was made into a broadside, which you can see here. We also ran into Corral at AWP, and since then it seems he has been very busy, traveling and giving readings. So keep your eye out—he might be in your area soon.

Spring Semester

Cindy and Winnie in her backyard on 27th StreetIn the spring, we moved to our “Writing for (and about) Young Adults” Series and opened with fiction writer Cynthia Hand. Hand is the author of Unearthly Series and at her event, she read from the first book in the series as well as a section from her upcoming book, The Last Time We Say Goodbye. Judging from her website, I would say she is fairly happy with the progress. Her new book is to be out in winter 2015.

On March 4th, we welcomed a duo of Washington College professors with Melissa Deckman and Joseph Prud’Homme, whose spring Tea & Talk looked at the debate of teaching religion in schools, in an event titled “Curriculum and the Culture Wars: Debating the Bible’s Place in Public Schools.” This was a lively debate with more questions than there was time to answer them. Their book of the same title is published by Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. Deckman and Prud’Homme are both faculty members of the Institute for Religion, Politics, and Culture at Washington College.

Winter at the Lit HouseWinter at the Lit HouseThe next event was scheduled to be Emily Danforth, but Mother Nature and the bitter snows of this past winter had a different plan, and we were forced to move Emily’s reading to the end of April, making Meg Kearney our next guest.


Poet Meg Kearney read from The Secret of Me: A Novel in Verse for Young Adults and the sequel, The Girl in the Mirror: A Novel in Poems & Journal Entries, and revealed there was a third book coming down the line. Stay tuned. Her poem, “First Poem Since the World Changed,” was printed as a broadside at the Lit House letterpress studio, which can be viewed here.

Then we welcomed Emily Danforth who arrived to town in the pleasant spring weather we missed all month. While at the Lit House, Danforth became intrigued by the curious tradition of turning the posters of poor readings upside down. She asked how she could get her poster upside down, but after a great evening it was clear hers would remain upright.

Tallulah BankheadDuring her reading, she quoted Tallulah Bankhead, famous actress of the 1940’s and 50’s, and was thrilled to learn that Bankhead is buried at St. Paul’s Church, less than 15 miles from Washington College. We took a trip out to see her grave before Danforth had to catch her train.


And that was how the series ended. But we had one more visitor this year.

Shara Lessley was the 2014 Mary Wood Fellow and first poet to be awarded the Fellowship. Shara spent five days on campus meeting with students, and participating in two events: a craft talk titled “Oh, The Places You’ll Go: Writing from Experience,” and gave a wonderful poetry reading two days later that told the story of her experiences of living in Jordan for two years. The Mary Wood Fellowship at The Rose O’Neill Literary House is awarded biennially to an emerging female writer—in poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction—who has published a first book. The Fellowship enables female creative writing students at Washington College to work with and learn from successful female writers such as past Fellows Laura van den Berg, Hannah Tinti, and Irina Reyn, who all spent five days on campus. Eastern Shore author Mary Wood, whose support makes the fellowship possible, is a 1968 graduate of the College and a former member of its Board of Visitors and Governors. 


The past eight months the Literary House Press produced four new broadsides thanks to the work of Master Printer Mike Kaylor and the design work of Director Jehanne Dubrow and Assistant Director Lindsay Lusby. As mentioned above, the broadsides include an excerpt from Justin Torres’ book We the Animals, the poem “Immigration and Naturalization Service Report #46” by Eduardo C. Corral, a poem by Meg Kearney titled “First Poem Since the World Changed,” but also the second AWP Commemorative Broadside. This year the Literary House selected poet Nance Van Winckel’s piece from Willow Springs, “Because B.” All broadsides can be viewed and are for purchase at the Literary House Press website, while supplies last.

Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference

Moving on to our students, and speaking of AWP, this year’s annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference was in the wonderful city of Seattle, where in late February, the Lit House staff and four students (Harris Allgeier ’14, Grace Arenas ’14, Todd Cooley ’15, and Maddie Zins ’15) found more sunshine than the typical Seattle weather, and certainly more than we had back on the Eastern Shore. As our bus driver told us, “Don’t tell anyone it’s sunny in Seattle. We keep it a secret.” (Sorry for giving it away!) The weather held and we were able to enjoy the many hundreds of readings, panel discussions, authors’ signings and the famous Pike Place Market, about six blocks from the Convention Center.

Also at the Conference, the Lit House staff presented our beautiful commemorative broadside to poet Nance Van Winckel, who stopped by the Literary House Bookfair table to sign all 75 copies. You can see the making of her broadside, “Because B,” in a short film shot and edited by Washington College videographer, Shane Brill ’03. In the video you get to see the entire designing process and printing process compressed into 90 fun seconds.

Our Pegasus Interns

For the third year in a row, students were interviewed and selected to be the Pegasus Media Interns and hired to create an entire online yearbook. This huge task, headed by project manager Jeremy Quintin ’14, and interns Ariel Jicha ’15 and Eric Siegel ’16, began back in September. The 2013- 2014 Pegasus Yearbook will go live in the week before the 2014 Commencement.

Our Literary House Press Intern

This year’s Literary House Press Intern was Samantha Gross ’14. During the spring semester, Sam worked primarily on the Literary House Press’s newest book project, The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume—our first trade paperback. Over the past year, the Literary House staff solicited the work of 100 contemporary poets, asking them to write brand-new poems for us inspired by the perfumes selected and sent out by Director Jehanne Dubrow. The book was recently completed and will go on sale at our official Book Launch event on October 7at 4:30 p.m. at the Rose O’Neill Literary House. For more on the making of this book you can read this article and this article by Sam Gross.


Summer Interns

For the second summer in a row, the Literary House will have on staff a Summer Intern, and this year there’ll be two to help us tackle the growing workload. Julie Armstrong ’15 and Ryan Manning ’17 will work over the summer to help the Lit House prepare for next year’s event schedule, aid in the launch of our new literary journal Cherry Tree, and assist in creating the next Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology.

Aileen Gray was the 2013 Summer Intern and helped organize the Summer Poetry Salons, the completion of Lost Originals, and planned from start to finish an event titled “Literary Publishing from the Inside Out: Advice for Publishing Your Own Work, and the Work of Others,” with poet Mary Biddinger, who is the founder and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Barn Owl Review and co-editor of The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (University of Akron Press, 2011). She is Assistant Chair of the English Department at the University of Akron, where she teaches literature, poetry writing, and literary publishing.

For more information about the Literary House Interns Program, visit this page.

Our Prize Winners

Valerie Dunn ’15 became the second student to be awarded The Literary House Genre Fiction Prize, with her short story, “The Shoe That Fit.” The Prize is awarded to a Washington College undergraduate for the best work of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or horror. The winning entry receives a cash prize of $500.

Sarah Roy ’14, with her piece, “All Saints,” took home this year’s William W. Warner Prize for Creative Writing on Nature and the Environment. And with such high quality submissions, this year we also awarded an Honorable Mention for the Warner Prize to Reilly Cox ’16 for his piece, “The Geladas, the Gazelle, and the Bovine.” The Prize is awarded to the Washington College undergraduate who shows the greatest aptitude for writing about nature and the environment. The winning entry receives a cash prize of $1,000.

Alex Stinton ’14, one of five 2014 Sophie Kerr Finalists, won The Jude & Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize for his poem “A Mother Remembers.” And like the Warner Prize, this year we awarded an Honorable Mention for the Pfister Prize to Valerie Dunn ’15 for her poem “Shearing.” The Prize is awarded to the Washington College undergraduate for a single poem.  The winning entry receives a cash prize of $100 and a certificate from the Academy of American Poets.

Literary House Press

The Literary House Press saw another busy year with the completion of our first trade paperback, a poetry anthology called The Book of Scented Things; as well as the early planning stages for our next book project: a chapbook containing an original short story by fiction writer, playwright, and translator James Magruder, set to be released in fall of 2015. Last year was focused on the chapbook, Lost Originals, a collection of poems by poet Mary Jo Salter, who will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Sophie Kerr Prize Event at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s main branch in downtown Baltimore.

Introducing Cherry Tree

And then there is Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal @ Washington College. In the spring semester, Director of the Lit House, Professor Jehanne Dubrow, taught a class on “Literary Editing & Publishing.” In the class, students received hands-on training in the process of editing and publishing a top-tier literary journal. They analyzed literary markets as they learned the challenging process of stewarding work from the nation’s most prestigious emerging and established writers into print. Students who have completed this class, which will be taught again each fall semester, are then qualified to become screeners for Cherry Tree, helping us to sort through the delicious pile of slush.

The editorial staff for Cherry Tree will include:founder & editor, Jehanne Dubrow (Literary House Director and Associate Professor of English);managing editor, Lindsay Lusby (Literary House Assistant Director);fiction editor, Kate Kostelnik (Assistant Director of the Writing Center and Lecturer in English);poetry & creative nonfiction editor, James Allen Hall (Associate Professor of English); senior poetry reader, Michele Santamaria (Instructional Coordinator at Washington College’s Miller Library); and, senior fiction reader, Owen Bailey (Literary House Administrative Assistant).

Cherry Tree’s debut issue is scheduled for release on February 15, 2015. We welcome submissions of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. We read manuscripts between August 15 and October 15, submitted electronically via Submittable.

To keep up with all the happenings at the Literary House, check in with our Lit House Blog and our all new Cherry Tree Blog: Blossom. Over the summer, we will be producing, in collaboration with the Department of English, C.V. Starr Center for the American Experience, and the Center for Environment & Society, the 2014- 2015 Literary Events Brochure.

Until then, come visit us this summer as we host our third annual Summer Poetry Salon Series, beginning Tuesday, May 27 at 4:30 p.m. with poets Carrie Jerrell and Will Schutt, as well as The Pam Ortiz Band. On Tuesday, June 24 at 4:30 p.m. we will have 2014 Cave Canem Fellow Jamaal May, poet Tarfia Faizullah, and musical group Harp & Soul, led by our 2013-2014 Literary House Writer-in-Residence Meredith Davies Hadaway on the Celtic harp. Finally on Tuesday, July 22 at 4:30 p.m., we finish off the season with the Salon of American Jewish poets, featuring Director Jehanne Dubrow, Julie Enszer, Erika Meitner, Mira Rosenthal, Jason Schneiderman, and Yerra Sugarman.


Thanks everyone for such a great year!


The Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College serves as one of the cultural centers of campus, bringing together students, faculty, alumni, and local community members from across the disciplines. Our literary programming provides access to a wide variety of genres, including fiction, poetry,  creative nonfiction, scholarly prose, playwriting, and hybrid forms; our letterpress studio and Literary House Press introduce participants both to old and new technologies. We are dedicated to promoting the articulated word and to supporting students through professional, on-the-job training.

Last modified on May. 16th, 2014 at 9:32am by .