The Write Stuff


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Attendees could choose one of four courses during an hour and fifteen minute period; “Nonfiction: Finding a Frame”, “Poetry: Making Poems”, and “Dialogue” to name a few.

On Saturday, May 14, seasoned and aspiring writers of all ages flocked to Saint Leo for the fourth annual Sandhill Writer’s Retreat. The event attracted renowned novelists and poets from across the state of Florida as well as a few out of state newly published authors.

The all-day event was hosted by Gianna Russo, editor and chief of the Sandhill Review magazine and instructor of English and Creative Writing. Russo and other members of the Saint Leo English department teamed up with award winning published writers, such as novelist Rita Ciresi and Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay Times to present attendees with a series of insightful courses on improving certain aspects of their craft.

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Claire Stephens came prepared; the comic writer/illustrator gave willing participants the chance to create their own visual masterpiece during her course “Comics and Poetry.”

“The department of language studies and the arts really wanted to connect a little bit more with the community,” says Russo, regarding the purpose the retreat. “We also wanted to nurture and grow the literary arts for our community and for the school.”

Aside from directing the event, Russo also taught one of the courses. In “How to Give a Dynamic Reading”, she demonstrated the proper way to deliver a memorable performance when reading aloud before an audience. Other courses on the schedule of events included flash fiction, dialogue, poetry, and nonfiction.

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Rita Ciresi taught aspiring writers how to introduce an interesting character by using examples from her favorite literary work, “A Christmas Carol.”

Throughout the day, blossoming writers learned a myriad of tips for developing a well written story, be it fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

“I enjoy writing poetry and fiction,” said Craig Graves, a recent graduate of Saint Leo University. “Nonfiction is not my forte, I like being fantastical.”

“I write everything,” said April Pettit, a Dade City resident. “I’ve written journalistically, I write fiction, poetry, short stories, and novels. Pretty much whatever tickles my fancy. If I have a deep emotion, I express it, and it comes out however it does.”

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Dinner and a show! During the lunch break, a few prepared participants read some of their latest poems aloud for fellow guests.

Rita Ciresi, author of “Bring Back My Body to Me” and director of creative writing at the University of South Florida, taught participants how to introduce a memorable character into their story.

“At the heart of fiction is its characters,” Ciresi stated during her lecture. “And first impressions work the same way in fiction that they do in real life. So make the first impression of your character a good one.”

During a break in the events, participants got the chance to utilize all that they’d learned by

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The majority of the Florida natives in attendance have already had their work published in “The Sandhill Review” and similar periodicals.

reading some of their work aloud. Some told stories and others recited poetry; each reader managed to effortlessly reach out and connect with their audience on an emotional level.

Even experienced and published authors seemed to learn something new and helpful from the retreat’s guest speakers.

“It was massively helpful,” Said Pettit. “Especially the first course I took, which was about combat veterans and writing about conflict. I’ve been having a really hard time with writing about such things, but the things that

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Each of the reader’s had a special story to tell; some of the poets kept the audience in stitches, while others had them in tears.

the professor talked about definitely helped me to express things that I’ve had locked inside of me for a very long time.”

Russo considers the retreat a massive success; participants seemed to have learned a lot from the guests’ teachings. Both first time and returning attendees left with renewed vigor and the powerful urge to begin writing or finish a masterpiece. This year’s attending novices could be next year’s published poets.

Beam Him Up, Scotty

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@AYelchinOnline- Anton Yelchin began his acting career at the age of nine. He started small with appearances on popular television shows, such as “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” and “Criminal Minds”, before making the leap to the big screen and delivering the roles that audiences have come to know and love.
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@StarTrekMovie- Yelchin suits up for his third and final journey on the U.S.S. Enterprise in the upcoming film “Star Trek: Beyond”. For the past few years, Chekov has been boldly going, and now he has boldly gone.

On June 19, the bright light of a rising star was snuffed out all too soon. Actor Anton Yelchin, 27, died after a freak motor vehicle incident at his California home.

Yelchin was best known for his recurring role as Pavel Chekov in the re-booted “Star Trek” franchise as well as his performance in other films such as the 2011 remake of the 1985 classic “Fright Night”, the film adaptation of the popular Dean Koontz novel “Odd Thomas”, and “Charlie Bartlett”.

The promising young actor’s career and life were cut tragically short after his car unexpectedly popped out of gear and struck him down in his own driveway. His car, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, had been part of a major recall; a defect with the gearshift made it nearly impossible to keep the car in park.

We have not yet seen the last of Yelchin; he will be briefly returning to the big screen later this year in many films that he managed to finish filming before his untimely demise, including the soon to be released third installment in the “Star Trek” series, “Star Trek: Beyond”.

The actor’s saddened cast mates, the very crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, poured out their grief and shared their love on social media.

“Devastated by our friend’s loss. We are mourning his passing and celebrating the beautiful spirit that he was,” tweeted actress Zoe Saldana (Lieutenant Uhura, “Star Trek”).

“I loved Anton Yelchin so much,” John Cho (Mr. Sulu, “Star Trek”) tweeted. “He was a true artist- curious, beautiful, courageous. He was a great pal and a great son. I’m in ruins.”

“Star Trek: Beyond”, which hits theaters this July, will be dedicated to Yelchin. Be sure to stick around after the film’s end credits for a special tribute to the beloved star from cast and crew.

In the meantime, check out some of Yelchin’s other films and get to better know the quirky star. Here are some of Anton Yelchin’s most memorable roles:

1.) Pavel Chekov, the “Star Trek” franchise- the Russian born actor used his native accent to bring plenty of whimsy and comic relief to the “Star Trek” films in this, the most iconic of his roles.

2.) Title Character, “Charlie Bartlett”- only a teenager at the time, Yelchin starred opposite Robert Downey Jr. as a wealthy, precocious high school student who serves as a self-proclaimed psychiatrist for his peers and, in doing so, stirs up a slew of silly shenanigans.

3.) Jacob Helm, “Like Crazy”- in this 2011 gem, Yelchin improvised most of his lines in order to deliver a genuine and heart achingly beautiful performance.

4.) Kyle Reese, “Terminator Salvation”- a big fan of the original “Terminator” film, Yelchin had his heart set on landing a part in one of the franchise’s many expansions. As a fan, he tried to make his portrayal of the returning character, Kyle Reese, as close to and as memorable as the original. And that he did.

The Impact of the SCOTUS Deadlock on Immigration

On Thursday, June 23, the Supreme Court yet again reached a tie on a decision after voting on an immigration case, blocking President Obama’s proposed plan of immigration reform. This serves as the second ruling that has resulted in a deadlock since the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in mid-February, leaving the Court with an even eight Justices.

The President’s plan was inspired by the case United States v. Texas, No. 15-674. The case regarded an executive action by President Obama in 2014 to allow up to five million unauthorized immigrants who are parents to citizens or to lawful permanent residents the ability to apply for a specific program that would protect them from being deported and give them work permits. The program is referred to as DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.

The deadlocked ruling likely comes as a result of the conservative half of the now eight total SCOTUS Justices [following the passing of Antonin Scalia] believing that majorly changing U.S. law cannot be done by one person single-handedly, but more specifically, by the President alone. Conservatives find major issue with what they believe to be President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, as they believe strongly in a separation of powers and strict rule of law.

The ruling, or rather, the lack thereof, is incredibly disappointing news for the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country that will remain in the shadows so long as decisions such as this one continue to be made. The goal of the President’s plan was to provide peace of mind to the millions of law-abiding immigrants that have been working, paying taxes, and most importantly, raising U.S.-born children that have been earning degrees and going on to work as well after completing their educations. Sadly, though, the assurance of not having to fear deportation and separation from their children and this country that has been their home for so long will not be given to the millions that deserve it.

This decision additionally comes as a rather disappointing blow to President Obama and his agenda, as he has dealt with years of tedious battles with Congressional Republicans over their continuous refusal to support bipartisanship regarding updating immigration laws. The President has since said that it is a “frustrating” and “heartbreaking” setback, as comprehensive immigration reform was hoped to be the primary legacy of the Obama administration.

“…But for more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be,” stated President Obama in a response to the news of the deadlock.

However, despite the President’s rather melancholy and disheartened air in his response speech, he still spoke with confidence in his belief that this country deserves a fair immigration policy that reflects the goodness of Americans and that we will hopefully achieve that in November, hinting at the hopeful election of Hillary Clinton.

He concluded his response with a powerful call to action, stating, “Now we’ve got a choice about who we’re going to be as a country. We’re going to have to decide if we’re a people who tolerate the hypocrisy of the system where the workers who pick our fruit or make our beds are going to never have a chance to get right with the law. Same goes for whether ‘we’re a people who accept the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms,’ or ‘educate the world’s brightest students’ only to send them away to ‘compete with us.’ These are all the questions that voters are now going to have to ask themselves and are going to have to answer in November.”

This deadlocked ruling comes as even more of a reason that the President and Democrats in general wish for Congressional Republicans to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, so as to re-set the Court with nine Justices, rather than remain with the current even eight that will likely continue to reach ties in votes. This will only fuel liberals’ rhetoric stating the danger and virtual insanity of Republicans’ refusal to even meet with Garland, much less vote to appoint him as the newest Justice.

The decision was issued in just nine short words, stating, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Although, the consequential effects of that short statement will be greater than most can even imagine. Walter Dellinger, the solicitor general under President Clinton’s administration, remarked, “Seldom have the hopes of so many been crushed by so few words.”