Campus News

A Wild Gift from the Creative Writing Faculty


Gianna Russo used visual aides to help emphasize her reading and draw the audience in.

Things got a little wild on Sept. 15. The Department of Language Studies and the Arts put on an evening of entertainment called “Wild Gifts” in TECO Hall. The event featured a number of talented writers from the creative writing faculty sharing original pieces with the audience.

The event provided an opportunity for the creative writing faculty to share their literary work with the Saint Leo students, staff, fellow faculty members, and the neighboring community alike.

“It is important to find time to come together in scholarship, entertain and inspire one another,” said Jennifer Orendorf, the administrator of events and special programs for the School of Arts and Sciences.

“Wild Gifts” also served as a means of publicizing one of the new MA programs offered by the department.

“We also want to continue to spread the word about our new MA program in creative writing. It is a low-residency program where students spend one week during the summer attending workshops, lecture, readings, etc. in class at University campus. For the rest of the program, they work individually with creative writing faculty online to complete their writing portfolios,” Orendorf said.

The readings included excerpts and poetry written and performed by Dr. Patrick Crerand, Ms. Gianna Russo, Ms. Brooke King, and Dr. Steve Kistulentz. Dr. Karen Bryant, instructor of music, introduced each speaker.

Crerand is a writing and literature professor at Saint Leo. His work has appeared in the “North American Review,” the “Collagist,” and “McSweeney’s Quarterly.”

Russo is the author of a full-length poetry collection, “Moonflower,” winner of the Florida Book Award Bronze Medal, the Florida Publishers Association Silver Award and an Eric Hofer First Horizons

Honorable Mention. Russo is also the founding editor of “YellowJacket Press,” which is currently the only publisher of poetry chapbook manuscripts in Florida.

King served in the U.S. Army, deploying to Iraq in 2006 as a wheel vehicle mechanic, machine gunner, and recovery specialist. Her work has been published in the “O-Dark-Thirty,” “War,” “Literature and Arts,” “Prairie Schooner,” and an upcoming essay in the Hudson Whitman Excelsior Press Anthology, “Retire the Colors.”

Kistulentz is the director of the Saint Leo Master of Arts in Creative Writing Program and an Associate Professor of English. He is the author of two collections of poetry, “Little Black Daydream” (2012) and “The Luckless Age” (2010), both of which have received numerous accolades. His short stories have appeared in many journals, including “Narrative Magazine,” “Quarter After Eight,” and the “Crab Orchard Review.” His narrative nonfiction—mostly on the subject of popular culture—has appeared widely in journals.

The readings really seemed to draw the audience in. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the speaker, and some guests even leaned in to focus more. They reacted with giggles and sighs according to the highs and lows in each reading. The faculty’s performance of their pieces was commended by many students.

Destiny Bayley, a sophomore and biology major said “I love how their stories and readings made me feel like I was within the writing. I especially liked how descriptive and humorous Dr. Crerand’s story was.”

According to Dr. Orendorf, “Everyone seemed to really be engaged. The feedback I’ve received is largely that people enjoyed themselves and were impressed with the variety of tone from one reading to the next. There was a great mix of humor and gravity, solemnity and lightheartedness among the works read. Dr. Crerand checked in with me yesterday with feedback from his students that attended Wild

Gifts Thursday night. One of his students said listening to the readings was ‘like seeing a movie’ which I think speaks to the ability of good writing to take you out of yourself and to another.”

The only minor detail that Orendorf would have changed, in terms of the event, was to create an opportunity for more of a dialogue between faculty and the audience after the readings. The Department of Language Studies and the Arts will be putting on more events like this in the future.

“Ms. Gianna Russo, Dr. Steve Kistulentz, and Dr. Pat Crerand are planning a trip to visit Newport News Center, Virginia in October to run a writers’ workshop there. We’ll continue to host events here at the University campus that highlight our faculty’s talents – perhaps once a semester – and we aim to meet the demand from the community where there is one. If people find value in taking time out to hear great stories, then we would like to continue to provide that for them,” Orendorf said.

If students are itching for another reading, then the upcoming “Literature for Lunch” event is the place to go. This event will be held on September 28 in TECO Hall, and will feature Maile Chapman, author of “Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto,”which received favorable reviews from New York Times Book Review.

“We had some great poets last spring, Terese Svoboda and Aja Monet. I was inspired after seeing each of them,” stated Orendorf.

With such a great turn-out of 52 audience members, the event was considered a success. Students are encouraged to be on the look-out for other upcoming creative writing events on campus and to consult members of the creative writing faculty for more information about the MA program.

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