"The Way We Live Now" Creative Writing Students’ memoirs of the semester lead to published work

Three students from the Department of English were chosen for publication by an online journal and news website, 100 Days in Appalachia. The essays were part of a class project titled “The Way We Live Now: Week to Week with 2020 College Seniors” as part of their spring semester Senior Seminar in Creative Writing: Autobiography and Memoir.

“I’ve been in the education system for around seventeen years. I never imagined it would end like this. Without a physical graduation, my final semester feels deflated,” wrote Olivia Martin. 

The memoir is a compilation of students’ thoughts, fears and anxieties while finishing school amidst a global pandemic. The first-person account of events was named after the Susan Sontag short story about the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City. 

“When we did not return to campus after spring break and students found themselves abruptly displaced from the familiar routines of college life and, in many cases, a long-anticipated senior year, our class shifted projects from reflections about the past to an effort to capture students’ experiences of the pandemic as it unfolded in and around their North Carolina homes,” said Susan Weinberg, associate professor, Department of English.

The West Virginia University-based website, 100 Days of Appalachia, is an independent, nonprofit news outlet based in WVU’s Reed College of Media’s – Media Innovation Center

Franklin Bogle ’20 from Gastonia, North Carolina, wrote a piece titled “Managing a lost final semester” which was released Friday, June 26. In the segment, Bogle details his experiences and difficulties while in self-isolation with his family. 

“As I cooked dinner for my family for the fourth night in a row, I realized how blessed I truly am. Often when I write, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, I focus on stories that are, in a way, bad. They offer me more to work with, but as I enter the second week of quarantining with my family, I realize just how good my life is,” wrote Bogle.

Olivia Martin ’20 from Newton, North Carolina, wrote a piece titled “Our Bubble” where she details her self-isolation in Boone and her fear of catching and spreading the coronavirus.

“The air was lighter. For a moment, I thought if we could somehow get every person on Earth to breathe this air, maybe things would get better. That there’d be a weight lifted off our collective shoulders. But we’ve been carrying weights for a long time. If we shed them, I don’t know if we’d feel better, or more vulnerable,” wrote Martin. 

Makayla Kulick, a junior from Asheboro, North Carolina, wrote a piece titled “Why Leave Anymore?” recounting her abrupt departure from her on campus dorm room, entering a new normal and her move back home. 

“We are the children of the digital age; everything is at the click of a button. Why do you have to risk your health and sanity to leave anymore? You don’t,” wrote Kulick. 

Martin graduated with honors and is currently working as a freelance writer in Newton, North Carolina. Bogle was awarded the Stokes Center Scholarship for incoming fiction writers and will begin a graduate program in English at the University of South Alabama in the fall. Kulick is a current student at Appalachian and is majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and minoring in Classical Civilizations. She was accepted into a new program launching this fall called the Appalachian Advisors Network, a project of the nonprofit digital news publication 100 Days in Appalachia. She will serve as an advisor for national and international journalists who want to cover Appalachia.

Other participants in the class memoir project included: Hannah Aldridge, Crossnore, North Carolina; Bella Di Stefano, Elon, North Carolina; Ashlie Hanson, Charlottesville, Virginia; Lauren Hempen, Apex, North Carolina; Justin Lovan, Charlotte, North Carolina and Ryan Phillips, Raleigh, North Carolina.


About the Department of English
The Department of English at Appalachian State University is committed to outstanding work in the classroom, the support and mentorship of students, and a dynamic engagement with culture, history, language, theory and literature. The department offers master’s degrees in English and rhetoric and composition, as well as undergraduate degrees in literary studies, film studies, creative writing, professional writing and English education. Learn more at https://english.appstate.edu

By Maddie Seehafer
July 23, 2020

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Published: Jul 23, 2020 4:50pm