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March 29, 2010 Schools and Libraries

Alumni and Faculty Join Forces in ‘Writing for Our Lives’

From: Bucks County Community College
Forum brings together nearly three dozen authors, illustrators, and writers of all genres with ties to the college

What do screenwriters, biographers, novelists, memoirists, science writers, newspaper columnists, children’s authors, poets, and even a tattoo artist have in common? All are returning to Bucks County Community College, the place where they got their start, for a forum April 12 – 16.

“Writing for Our Lives,” coordinated by professor and author Dr. Christopher Bursk, gathers nearly three dozen alumni and faculty who have authored books or made writing their career for a weeklong forum to discuss their passions. They will share with the challenges and rewards they have experienced in of their writing careers and how Bucks helped prepare them.  

“This is the first time we’ve gathered this many writers with ties to Bucks at one time, who each have a story to tell about how they followed their passions as authors,” said Bursk, a former Bucks County Poet Laureate who has published several volumes of poetry. “This forum is a way for students to see first-hand the reality that you can start at Bucks and become a published author.”

All events are free and open to the public. For those who love writing and would like to make it more part of their lives, the forum offers an excellent opportunity to be inspired by and learn from those who have found an audience for their work.

“Writing for Our Lives” is dedicated to the memory of Beverly Foss Stoughton, a Bucks alumna, former Bucks teacher, and former Bucks County Poet Laureate. Her poetry will be read at several events throughout the week.

From Monday to Thursday, April 12 to 15, the forum takes place in the Fireside Lounge of the Rollins Center on campus at 275 Swamp Rd., Newtown, Pa. The week concludes Friday, April 16, with a poetry reading at the Lower Bucks Campus, 1304 Veterans Highway, Bristol, Pa.  

The forum begins with five presentations on Monday, April 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m., ranging from children’s literature and novel writing to poetry and understanding violence. Tuesday features six events from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m., including a lunchtime coffeehouse with current Bucks students. Topics include finding your creative voice, working across genres, research writing, and finding an audience.

Three events follow Wednesday starting at 2, 5, and 7 p.m., including a discussion of historical fiction and a reading of the poetry of Beverly Foss Stoughton by past Bucks County Poets Laureate. Thursday features two events at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., including a session on using research to change lives. The forum concludes at the Lower Bucks Campus in Bristol Friday with the reading of poetry by Stoughton and Douglas Hughes from 10 a.m. to noon.

A complete description of forum topics follows. More information is available at

“Writing for Our Lives” is another way that Bucks County Community College contributes to the region’s cultural heritage. It’s made possible by the Wordsmiths Reading Series, the Department of Language & Literature, and a Cultural Task Force grant. For more information, contact Dr. Christopher Bursk at 215-968-8156.

Writing for Our Lives: Alumni, Faculty, and Staff Authors Forum April 12 – 16

Monday, April 12

10 a.m. – “Creating Worlds: The Challenges and Rewards of Children’s Literature.”  Panel discussion features Jan Cook, author of The Handsome Crow; and Nina Haydel, author of Creole Cats Come to Louisiana and Creole Cats Meet Hurricane Katrina. Haydel’s later book has been used by school kids in New Orleans and offers a way for children to come to terms with tragedy.

11 a.m. – “Creating Worlds, Creating a new American Literature: The Challenges and Rewards of the Novel.” Featured are alumnus Dennis Tafoya, author of Dope Thief, and Bucks professors Allen Hoey, author of Chasing the Dragon, and James Freeman, author of Parade of Days and Ishi’s Journey.  

Noon – “Making Sense out of History: Poetry as a Way of Healing.” Two poets explore the challenges of writing about the painful realities that we read about in the newspapers. Alumnus Bill Wunder, a former Bucks County Poet Laureate and author of Pointing at the Moon, will read from his book based on his experiences in Vietnam. Gloria DelVecchio, a retired Bucks philosophy teacher and author of Patriarch Athenagoras, Man of Love and Existentialism and Modern Poetry will draw from her experience as a social activist.  

1 p.m. – “Coming to Understand Violence: Fiction vs. Fact.”  Bucks instructor Debra Niehoff, author of The Biology of Violence: How Understanding the Brain, Behavior, and Environment Can Break the Vicious Circle of Aggression, and Dope Thief author Dennis Tafoya will provide a unique understanding of the dynamics and costs of violence. The discussion will cover both Niehoff’s work as a social theorist who has done extensive research of this phenomenon, and Tafoya’s view as a novelist who draws on the fictional world to make the real world understandable.

7 p.m. –“Inventing Possibilities.” The panel includes alumnus Kevin Jameson, author of WOWIdeas from A to Z; Ellie Slott Fisher, author of Mom, There’s a Man in the Kitchen and He’s Wearing Your Robe: The Single Mother’s Guide to Dating Well; Debra Niehoff, author of The Biology of Violence; and alumna Jo Ciavaglia, Bucks County Courier Times health-enterprise reporter and columnist. Each panelist will talk about how their craft as writers helps open up possibilities for people.

Tuesday, April 13

9:30 a.m. – “Claiming the Right to the Play of the Mind.”   Panelists include poets, novelists, and an artist. Alumnus and instructor Charles Mann, author of After the Pledge of Allegiance and a former Bucks County Poet Laureate will be joined by Bucks professor and former Bucks County Poet Laureate Allen Hoey, author of Country Music and Once Upon a Time at Blanche’s.  Also on the panel will be Joe Leonard, a graduate of Bucks and the Tyler School of Art, now a nationally respected tattoo artist and illustrator of the children’s book Sockmuffin the Elf. His Offerings from the Bloody Bucket is a collection of his art work. They’ll be joined by alumnus Fred Seton, a Hollywood scriptwriter who has co-authored the screenplay for Pierre, Pierrre with Jim Carrey and is currently working on Mongoose for Disney. Also on the panel will be alumnus Mark Wolverton, author of A Life in Twilight: the Final Years of J. Robert Oppenheimer, The Depths of Space, and The Science of Superman.  

11 a.m. – “Finding Our Voices.” Joe Leonard, Fred Seton, and Mark Wolverton explore the challenge facing writers and artists at all levels of experience, from college freshmen to those who have made writing and the arts a central part of their lives. Joining the panelists will be Bucks County Courier Times columnist and alumnus J.D. Mullane.

12:30 p.m. – “Where it Begins.”  Students read their works, share their art, and perform music in a coffeehouse celebrating the fact that so many writers and artists got their start at Bucks. Hosted by the student-run Tyler Literary Society.

1:30 p.m. – “Testing the Limits: Working Across Genres.” Panelists explore the challenges and rewards of working in more than one disciple or genre.  Allen Hoey, Mark Wolverton, Fred Seton, and Joe Leonard will be joined by Bucks professor James Freeman, author of Parade of Days and Ishi’s Journey.

3 p.m. – “The Research Essay Writ Large: Obsession, Exploration, Engagement.”  Mark Wolverton will be joined by panelists Dr. Maureen McCreadie, Dean of Learning Resources and co-author of Accessing and Browsing Information and Communication; Professor Raymond J. O’Brien, author of American Sublime and Bucks County: A Journey Through Paradise from the Peaceable Kingdom to the Suburban Dream; and Professor Roberta Mayer, author of Gilded Aspirations, Tarnished Dreams: The Hartford Home of Sam and Livy Clemens and Opulence in an Age of Industry: Turn  of the Century Decorative Arts.                                             

7 p.m. – “Sending Your Vision into the World: Finding a Voice, Finding an Audience.” Panelists Mark Wolverton, Fred Seton, and Joe Leonard address the risks and rewards of daring to believe in one’s vision.

Wednesday, April 14

2 p.m. – “Reclaiming the Past, Honoring the Present.”  Panel discusses how to write about the past so it becomes relevant to the present, looking not just at the art of memoir or novel, but at the art of editing and preserving cultural and family artifacts. The panel is composed of Professor Susan Charles T. Groth, author of Cultural Riches: A Sampler of  Northwest Jersey Traditional Arts in Cultural Context; poet and memoirist Janice Wilson Stridek, editor of The View in Winter: A Book of Poems by Margery Wells Steer and instructor William Pezza, author of Anna’s Boys and Stealing Tomatoes

5 p.m. – “Gathering Our Voices: An Anthology of Survivors of Domestic Violence.” Instructor and former Bucks County Poet Laureate Julie Cooper Fratrik reads from this anthology.

7 p.m. – “Carrying On the Tradition.” The winner and runners-up in the Stan Heim and Louis Camp Annual Student Poetry Competition will read from their works, joined by Professor Emeritus Stan Heim and former Bucks County Poets Laureate Julie Cooper Fratrik and Cheryl Baldi. Fratrick and Baldi will also read poetry by Beverly Foss Stoughton, to whose memory the Forum has been dedicated.

Thursday, April 15

11 a.m. – “Claiming Our Voices.”  Former Bucks County Poet Laureate Pamela Perkins-Frederick, author of No Sorrow That Light Won’t try to Wipe Away; Charlotte McGurty Smith, author of Something Matters That is Not Being Said; and Carolina Morales, author of Bride of Frankenstein reading from their works. The poets will also explore the obstacles they faced in their writing careers and the role BCCC played in helping them believe in their gifts.  Joining the poets will be Fine Arts Professor Caren Friedman who will talk about her book project combining tree rubbings and poems.

3 p.m. --  “Using Research to Change and Save Lives.” Panelists discuss how research is more than simply an academic act, but in fact can bring about changes within a community. Featuring alumnus Dr. David Hall, author of Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay. Bisexual, Transgender Inclusive Work Environment and alumna Dr. Shannon Colestock, author of  Sexual Etiquette 101.

Friday, April 16 – Lower Bucks Campus, Bristol

10 a.m. – “Scree Garden: A Reading of the Poetry of Beverly Foss Stoughton.” With Dr. Christopher Bursk.

11 a.m. – “Fumbling with Thread: A Reading of the Work by the late Douglas Hughes. With Dr. Bursk.

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