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5 Reasons Why You Should Minor in Creative Writing

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By: Sean Wesen '22

Whether you're a seasoned Rutgers student or an incoming freshman, the decision of what to major or minor in can be a stressful one, even if it's one you don't have to make for another few years. It’s a difficult balance between what you're good at, what's marketable, what's profitable, and what's fun. Perhaps you're in that situation right now and are researching the creative writing minor in hopes of finding your answer. If that's the case, while we can't make the decision for you, we would be happy to walk you through the creative writing minor to decide if it's the right fit for you.

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Why D&D is Great for Young Writers

BRPGDiceImagey: Sean Wesen '22

Your ally, confident in their acrobatic abilities, leaps across the ledge and makes the one in a million mistake of loosing his grip. In a flash you quick draw your arcane focus, but can you cast the feather fall enchantment before he's a puddle on the bottom of the crevice?

You have been making small talk with the vault guard for a good while now and finally you can see your words infused with insidious magic have taken a hold of him as evidenced by his suddenly wild eyes darting to and fro. He can't tell ally from foe and suddenly bolts for the door. As you signal your fellow miscreants you smile knowing that the no one stands between you and treasures beyond your wildest dreams.

With the last of her energy you heals your broken body and you wake with a start. All around you your merry band of adventures lay beaten and unconscious. You are the last one standing and the levitating orb of flesh and eye stalks laughs maniacally. It seems as if all hope is lost, but you know this beast is on its last legs so to say, and if you can best it you have enough healing potions to stabilize your team. The odds aren't in your favor, but that doesn't stop you from raising you blade and charging forward with a mighty cry.

If you're a writer, you should be playing Dungeons and Dragons. With adventure, wish fulfillment, intrigue, and built in tension, D&D is a game that facilitates storytelling, and writers who participate are guaranteed to walk away with a unique perspective on character design, world building, and writing as a whole. It’s also just a fun pastime that provides an excuse to get your friends together for a few hours to play a game and eat snacks. The problem for some is that D&D is a game, but don’t let it be confused for Monopoly or Sorry. D&D is much more fulfilling than your average board game like Monopoly or Sorry. It is also more difficult, and may be confusing for new players. However, with the right group of people the learning curve is no issue at all.

You may be asking why D&D is a good game for writers. To answer, I must first explain some of the basics of the game. D&D is a TTRPG, or tabletop roleplaying game. One person is the designated Dungeon Master or Game Master (DM or GM). This DM is responsible for facilitating the gameplay. They create the story, play the background characters, create and control the monsters you fight, and decide when a player fails or succeeds at any given task. the players are responsible for just one thing: their characters. They get in character and talk to the other players and DM as if they were really the character they portray. Underneath all of the role-play there are a set of rules the DM and players must follow (how much damage they can do, how far they can move in a turn, how skilled they are, etc.).

These three elements, the role of the DM, role of the player, and the rules, provide a unique and fulfilling experience for writers. First, let's look at players. As a player, you are responsible for creating your own character. While this involves mechanical elements like what job you want to fulfill in your group, it also includes backstory, alignment, goals, and aesthetics. This is a writer's opportunity to practice good character design, especially for protagonists. As a writer, you're creating characters all the time, so the unique aspect is what comes next: playing your character.

As writers, we attempt to put ourselves in the shoes of the people we create, but D&D takes that a step forward and asks you to set yourself aside and truly inhabit the character you play. It demands that you make decisions as they would by staying true to your in-game persona over trying to "win," even when these decisions are objectively bad ones. Sometimes, the most fun a player can have is to submit to the flaws of their characters only to grow and surpass these flaws a few sessions later. Inhabiting these personas across multiple game sessions also allows us as writers to see how character development can happen. It can also highlight the weakness in our character writing when we see how some of the details we added don’t hold up over time. It is for all of these reasons that you walk away better at character design after you play D&D.

As a DM, the list of skills you get are abundant, and writing is one of the chief skills among them. While players make specific protagonists, the DM needs to create funny and memorable side characters and intriguing and challenging villains. He or she is responsible for coming up with an engaging plot, a plot that needs to flow and change on a dime based on player interaction. You will either learn to write a story that is resilient enough to survive the players crazy exploits or become skilled at adapting your stories quickly. Most importantly, just like players learn their strength and weaknesses in character creations by playing their characters, as a DM, you learn your strengths and weaknesses in world building as your players run rampant in the lands you created. Players will want to explore every aspect of your world, requiring you to flesh out every detail ahead of time or on the spot.

And of course, both players and DM’s are bound by the rules. If someone wants to climb a ledge, they need to roll a die and add how strong they are to the result. If they fail the roll, they don’t climb the ledge. This makes it so no player or DM will know just what will happen next. When writing a book, comic, show, or movie, the writer is in full control of the plot. That is not the case in D&D. You can have all the grand ambitions you want, but the number on the die is what determines your fate. This chanciness pushes you to have your characters deal with failure and continue to try to succeed when the world is against you. Failing is an important part of every story, and D&D bakes failure into the mechanics.

At its core, lack of control is what makes D&D so unique. Players can only do what the DM allows, DM’s can't control the players, and both are bound to the rules. It is not often you get an opportunity to participate in collaborative storytelling and it makes for a unique story you won’t find anywhere else. And if medieval fantasy isn't your cup of tea, there are hundreds of different ttrpg’s with all kinds of genres for you to experiment with.

Want to write a breathtaking fantasy adventure on the scale of Lord of the Rings or Eragon? Try playing D&D in the forgotten realms setting. Want to play in a hardboiled steampunk setting with all your pulp tropes like murder mysteries, train heists, and noir? Then look into the Ebberon setting.

If you are a fan of the monster-of-the-week genre (Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scooby Doo, Gravity Falls, X-Files) then the Monster of the Week system may be more to your liking.

Want to start with something free? try Lazers and Feelins for a sci fi adventure, Everyone is John for crazy modern day hijinks, or Honey Heist if you really want to play as a band of bear rogues.

Ttrpg's are a great way to write like never before while exploring new and strange worlds with friends. Choose the system that best fits your needs and explore this retro combination of play and storytelling, and you will soon understand why this cult classic has made a modern comeback in a big way. And, if this is all overwhelming, you can start by listing to D&D podcasts that are master of storytelling in their own right such as Dimension 20, The Adventure Zone, and the infamous Critical Role.

Meet the Faculty: Emily Wallis Hughes

author editor Fence photo

By: Sean Wesen '22

A poet, editor, and Part Time Lecturer at Rutgers, Emily Wallis Hughes grew up in Agua Caliente, California. Her first book, Sugar Factory, was published in 2019. She was also my first creative writing professor during my fall semester at Rutgers, a class I chose on a whim during add/drop week. Four years later, after graduating as an English major and creative writing minor, I sat down with Emily to discuss her new position as Editorial Co-Director of Fence, a nonprofit independent publisher of the award-winning and influential biannual literary magazine, Fence, full-length books of poetry and prose, The Constant Critic, and Fence Digital. 

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Welcome to Our Newest Staff Member: Savannah Porcelli '17

Porcelli Savannah

By: Sean Wesen '22

This week, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Savannah Porcelli '17. Savannah was an assistant for the Rutgers Writers House back in 2017 when she graduated with a major in English and a marine science minor. She worked for the Rutgers University Press for several years and we are happy that she has now returned to the English Department.  She is also currently pursuing her major in marine science at Rutgers. 

Read more: Welcome to Our Newest Staff Member: Savannah Porcelli '17

Welcome Back to Fall 2022

By: Sean Wesen '22

 WelcomeBackFall22Writers House welcomes you back to Rutgers! We hope your summer was a relaxing one and that you got some writing done and read books that you love. Now that you're back, we are happy to tell you that we have exciting things planned for the coming weeks.

Join us for a conversation about Southern history, the natural world, Black religious experience, and photographic practice, in conjunction with the exhibition Meeting Tonight: Two South Carolina African American Camp Meetings. Artist Holly Lynton and Rutgers professor Maurice Wallace discuss their collaboration on this project, which started in 2017. Lynton's photographs of camp meetings in the sacred outdoors are accompanied by Wallace's homiletical meditations. Together, image and text convey an emotional history and materialize a prayer for its undefined future.

Holly Lynton is an award-winning fine arts photographer based in Massachusetts. Maurice Wallace is a Rutgers professor who has served two North Carolina African American congregations as lead minister.

A reception follows the talk.

On view at the Zimmerli through September 25, the exhibition is a collaboration among Holly Lynton, Maurice Wallace, and the Gospel Materialities Working Group in the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers.

Save the date for the return of the Writers at Rutgers series. Writers at Rutgers is an exchange between well-known writers of diverse backgrounds and the Rutgers students and faculty. This semester you'll be able to hear from Joyce Carol Oates on Wednesday October 19, Raven Leilani on November 9, and Robert Jones Jr. on Wednesday March 1, 2023. More details to follow about both events.

Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific writer known for novels like A Garden of Earthly Delights, The Falls and Them. One of her books, Blonde, is now a Netflix series. S

We are also happy to announce the visit of award winning author Raven Leilani. Her book, Luster, was awarded the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Fiction, the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the 2020 John Leonard Prize at the National Book Critics Circle Awards, the 2021 Dylan Thomas Prize, and the 2021 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Don't miss the opportunity to talk with this lauded author on November 9.

Our final guest is Robert Jones Jr., author of The Prophets, a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction. He is a writer, and also the creator and curator of the social-justice social-media community Son of Baldwin, which has over 300,000 followers across platforms. Make sure to be here when he visits Rutgers on March 1.

This semester will also see the return of the fan favorite Inside the Writers House sessions. For those who don't know, Inside the Writers House is candid access to working writers from all over the world as beloved Writers House instructor (and former bookstore owner) Alex Dawson talks craft (via video chat) with some of the year's hottest pen pushers.

View video compilation of recent Inside the Writers House events here.

Last but not least, we have the Winter Creativity Showcase, a biannual event featuring the creative work of Rutgers English and creative writing students. Held in the winter and spring of each year, this event illustrates the many talents of our students in the categories of poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, playwriting, and multimedia. Winning students will read from their work or show a sample of their video or podcast projects. Interested in sharing your work? Keep an eye out on our website and social media channels for more information.

As you can see, we have big things planned for this semester, so stay tuned...

For regular updates on current and future events be sure to follow @RU_WritersHouse on twitter, @Rutgers English on Facebook, and @ru_writershouse on Instagram.

Student Experience: Meggi Blazeska

Meggi

Writer: Sean Wesen, '22

This week, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Meggi Blazeska. Meggi was raised in Skopje, North Macedonia. Currently, she is the External Secretary for the Rutgers Creative Writing club. She is majoring in Economics, minoring in Creative Writing and Entrepreneurship, and will graduate in 2022. We talked about her history with writing, thoughts on the club, publishing opportunities, and much more.

Read more: Student Experience: Meggi Blazeska

Meet the Faculty: John Hulme

Written by: Sean Wesen '22MillerSusan

"As a writer and as a creator, you have to have the willingness to not quit, to fight until death." ~John Hulme

This week, I got to know a professor whose work I had the pleasure of reading all the way back in elementary school. I had loved the Seems, so taking a documentary creative writing class taught by John Hulme was like a dream. I was surprised by how tall he was, and certainly surprised at how much of a window into his life we got in that class. He's the kind of professor who genuinely wants to see you succeed and help you make something you're really proud of. So, when I had the chance to interview him, I was more than happy to do so. This interview with Rutgers lecturer, novelist, and filmmaker John Hulme was incredibly inspiring.

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Meet the Faculty: Adam Dalva

AdamDAlva

Name: Adam Dalva
Genre(s): Fiction, Non-Fiction, Graphic Novels, Literary Criticism
Classes taught at Writers House: Non-Fiction, Introduction to Creative Writing, Advanced Multi-Genre

Tell us three interesting things about yourself that most people don’t know.
I deal 18th Century French Antique Furniture.
I once sang in the White House.
I’m one of the ten highest ranked Goodreads critics in America.

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Meet the Faculty: David Orr

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David Orr’s creative and critical work has been lauded by The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.He has been a guest on PBS and NPR and called “highbrow brilliant” by New York magazine. The poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review, Orr’s poetry and critical collections include You, Too Could Write a Poem,The Road Not Taken,Beautiful and Pointless and Dangerous Household Items. A native South Carolinian, David lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife and daughter. You can visit his website here

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Meet the Faculty: Richard Murray

image1.jpegRichard Murray earned his B.A. from Goddard College in Vermont, a well known experimental school focused mainly on the creative arts. While there, he was the poetry editor of The Goddard Journal. He went on to earn his MA in English/creative writing from Rutgers University-Newark.  His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Moth, Poetry East, Slipstream, The Bitter Oleander, Santa Fe Literary Review, The Broome Review, Rattle, and other literary journals.

Richard is a member of the Board of Trustees for the New Jersey Folk Festival (run by Rutgers), where his work has primarily focused on New Jersey's Native American Indian tribes. He has also served on the Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor's Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History. In this role, he focused on Native American issues, and obtained a grant from the Chancellor that enabled the New Jersey Folk Festival to showcase NJ's state-recognized tribes.

Read more: Meet the Faculty: Richard Murray