David Finney ’03 calls it an “exhibition of creative art.”
On Friday, May 2, seniors enrolled in the creative writing concentration of the English major will gather in the Calhoun Cabaret and read their work hoping to inspire greater interest in the very competitive and overlooked program. There are nine readers, and their work, mostly short excerpts from senior projects, ranges from fiction to journalism and even some drama.
Their stories involve everything from a love affair between a college professor and a teenage girl to a mixed-race American passing for white in the U.S. Army to a monologue about grandmothers, telephone surveys, and magicians.
The writing concentration, open to juniors and seniors in the English major, is very competitive and of the dozens of applicants less than 20 participate each class year. Although all English majors are eligible for the classes, it is somewhat difficult to get into certain creative writing classes, but those in the concentration are given preference.
The major difference between the writing concentration and the regular major is English 489, an intensive, open-ended project, which can include fiction, poetry, nonfiction, journalism or drama.
“I wanted to do it because I’m interested in being a writer — and I’m working at a magazine next year,” Finney said.
J.D. McClatchy, professor of English and editor of Yale Review, is the director of the concentration and will emcee the event.
A similar reading was held two years ago. There was no such event last year, McClatchy said, and this was primarily because “people just forgot.” The concentration was first offered in the 1999-2000 academic year.
McClatchy said creative writing at Yale took many years to materialize — Yale “having been founded as a strictly orthodox religious school.” But with the gradual increase in attention paid to the genre and the increase in noteworthy fiction-writing faculty, such as Robert Stone, creative writing is becoming more and more of a fixture on the Yale campus.
There are 13 professors, in addition to McClatchy, who provide semester-long assistance in the various genres.
Colleen Kinder, a senior in the concentration who will be reading at the event, experienced the advising process firsthand and watched her project change significantly from her original plans.
“I wanted to write a fictional piece about eating disorders, using Yale interviews and pro-eating disorder Web sites as my material,” Kinder said. “But my adviser Amy Bloom thought that it was powerful enough in fact, and she encouraged me to make my piece nonfiction.”
All of the students said they had become extremely attached to their work and the reading will serve as the culmination of this building energy. When asked what the department hopes to accomplish with the reading, McClatchy said that it was simply “to show the University in a public way what [the readers] have worked on privately for months.”