Writing in Place

Students in Cynthia Zarin’s spring 2020 creative writing workshop, “Writing About Place,” never expected to write their final essays from lockdown, stuck in various apartments and childhood homes across the country. The class spent the first half of the semester writing about places they'd visited, routes they'd taken, and campus buildings with opportunity for exploration. For the final assignment, Professor Zarin asked her English 478 students to reflect on their current realities with essays entitled “Writing in Place.” These essays deal with how to process and describe loss as it occurs, how to discuss personal sadness despite feeling grateful, and above all, how to find joy in unexpected places.


  She claimed it was something in the walls. “Something smells off,” my mom told me over the phone, “when I step into your room.” Far away from Southern California and nestled in the tower of Pierson College in New Haven, the image of my childhood bedroom broadcasts itself onto the cluttered walls of my […]


A few weeks ago, my family celebrated Passover. We ate matzo ball soup, roast chicken and potatoes — familiar foods of my childhood. But small things made this night a strange one: jokes about the ritual handwashing, the obligatory mention of an 11th plague. We tried to laugh these things off, but we had run […]

WRITING IN PLACE: Interrupting Sameness

I’ve rarely had this time to myself. College life did not condition me for long hours spent immobile, with no obligations after 7 p.m. My instinct to stay busy has made me stalk the kitchen, looking for plates to clean or cans to reorganize. I can’t help but fidget. Thinking of the future only begs […]

WRITING IN PLACE: Since Music Last Filled This House

On moonlit nights, howls ricochet across the hills and pierce the quiet. A soloist begins with one long note, soon joined by a second howler, and then another, and another, until their calls swell into a chorus of mournful sound whose original source is impossible to pinpoint. I assumed, at first, that I was hearing […]


In elementary school, I walked to school with a group of kids in my neighborhood. A different parent accompanied us each day of the week. One parent, who was the most stern and least fun to walk with, once informed us that the most boring thing in the world is having to listen to other […]

WRITING IN PLACE: Livin’ on my Own

The last few days I have slept with my blinds up and the curtains open. The fifth floor of my building at the corner of College Street and Crown Street is just high enough to feel even higher. I watch the moon rise over the roof across the road, and I recall the man on […]

WRITING IN PLACE: Where We’ve Been Before

I have not been home to Nashville in the spring for many years, not since I left for school three years ago, not since before the pandemic. Everything is green now. The three large windows in my bedroom reflect bright emerald patterns onto the floor and the walls in the morning. I wake up, and […]


I grab my coffee from Starbucks and rush out the door. I walk past a man playing his saxophone and couples sitting outside of a coffee shop sipping their warm drinks. No one seems to be in a rush besides me. For once, Yale seems relaxed. Unlocking my phone and pulling my headphones back on, […]


The week after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, I moved into an Airbnb on Capitol Hill, just 30 minutes from my house in Maryland. It was mid-March, days after I took the train down from New Haven. I shared the Airbnb with my boyfriend Hugh. His mom had booked it for the two of them […]