Tag Archives: Megan Jennings

Meet the Writer: Megan Jennings

Meet the Writer is an ongoing series of interviews with the creative writing students at Presbyterian College. A new interview is posted every Thursday in the Fall.

Megan Jennings is a senior English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing; she is also earning a second B.A. in Theatre. In addition to her active involvement in PC’s theatre, she also works with Figs & Thistles (having served as the 2011 Art Editor) and Spectrum.

How long have you been writing? Or, how did you get started writing?
I don’t really remember when I first started writing.  I know that I very young. I used to tell little stories to go with pictures that I had drawn or to explain the world around me. I was a very imaginative child and my parents encouraged me to never stop creating and expressing. I remember playing pretend and then writing down what had happened in the game I’d played, in the world that I’d created in my head.

Megan Jennings

What about writing most interests you?
My favorite thing about writing is that it allows me to share an experience, real or imagined, with other people. Writer and readers, we all go on the same journey, together.

What kind of writing do you like to do? What drew you to that kind of writing?
I write specifically to entertain, to tell a story, like I did as a child. I don’t really see myself as having a specified style.  Some stories are best told in poetry, others in prose, and others in scripts.  The format I use must reflect the story I am telling. As for what sort of stories I like to tell, I can only say that I also don’t have a particular preferred genre. I just write stories that I would like to read.

What’s your writing process?
When I first have a story idea, I tend to just start right in on writing it. I don’t worry about it being polished or even making much sense. I just write before the inspiration leaves me. Once it is written, I go back through and look to see if there is anything that I need to research and rewrite. Once that is handled, I revise at least once more, or as many times as it takes for me to be satisfied, in order to address any plot-holes. Finally, I edit for grammar by reading aloud.

Who are your favorite authors and why?
My favorite author is J.K. Rowling.  I believe her books, the Harry Potter series, have achieved the greatest accomplishment any stories could, that is to say that they entertained and continue to enthrall readers. My favorite playwrights are Tennessee Williams, Anna Deavere Smith, and Adrienne Kennedy.  I find the work all of these playwrights to be enthralling.

What is your favorite literary work and why?
My favorite book, if I had to pick one, would be Treasures of the Snow by Patricia Mary St. John, because it spoke to me as a child and its story continues to touch me now.

From which writer, alive or dead, would you most like to take a writing workshop and why?
J.K. Rowling would be an awesome choice because her writing speaks to such a large and dedicated audience!  However, I’m a bit biased.

What was the most important thing you learned in your creative writing classes?
The most important thing that I learned was probably how important finding your own voice is and how vital it is that you express yourself your own way.

What do you wish you’d learned that you didn’t?
I wish I’d been able to take a creative non-fiction course.

[Editor’s note: ENGL 217 Creative Writing: Creative Nonfiction will be offered by Dr. Barr in Fall 2012, the first time the course has been offered in more than decade.]

What are your future writing plans?
I plan to continue to write, mainly for fun, as I pursue a Master in Psychology.  I might try to be published, but if nothing comes of that, I’ll be satisfied to have written for myself.

Any advice to offer aspiring PC writers?
Write what you want to write.  Write what you would like to read. Have fun and learn to look forward to critiques, they are most helpful!

Wrapping Up the Right Way

Written by Megan E. Jennings
Photographs by Lee Lancaster

Well, it is the end of the semester, the time when all of our hard work reaches fruitation.  Last Wednesday [December 1st], the Creative Writing students presented some of the works we have written throughout the semester at a reading at My Friend’s Bookstore.  Doing so is an English Department tradition that is both nerve-racking and incredible.  One by one, each student stepped to the podium and read from his or her portfolio of this semester’s work.

First to present was Mary Carpenter, who was exhibiting her Creative Writing Seminar project, a magazine called Skinny Jean that she conceived, designed, and wrote.  This blogger, for one, was impressed and wishes greatly that Skinny Jean were an actually magazine in circulation that I could subscribe to.

After Mary’s presentation, the students in Mr. Stutts’ Creative Writing: Poetry class took turns reading three poems a piece.  The students featured were Amanda Eason, Elizabeth Roberts, Rachel Genrich, Cameron Cook, Kate Colwill, Amanda Sutker, Emma Reynolds, Lee Lancaster, Megan Jennings, and Taylee Harms.  Personally, there was something wonderful about participating in a public reading.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s a glimpse into the future of one or more of us.  I, for one, can just imagine somebody from that class becoming a published poet and doing promotional readings for his or her newest collection.  The class is filled with talent.

Among all that talent, one student was selected by class vote to be honored as Best Poet in the Class.  Throughout the semester, this poet, Cameron Cook, impressed us all with his poetry.  Congratulations to him!

After the reading and award presentation, refreshments were served and general revelry commenced.  Thus, the semester ended.  I know that I am not alone in feeling somewhat sad over such a fantastic class drawing to a close.  However, the lessons we learned and the connections we made during it will stay with us for the rest of our lives.  So, here’s to the semester and here’s to ending it right!

A Poet’s Experience

By Megan Jennings

My first experience with poetry was both traumatic and rewarding.  It shaped my life in ways I hadn’t thought possible.  So, below is a poem I wrote about it.  I hope you enjoy!

Stress

I am 10 years old and a perfectionist.
I work late into the night on my schoolwork—
it has to be immaculate.
I am always still working when my older brothers,
fatigued from whatever it is teenage boys spend time doing,
retire to their warm beds and the flickering ghost light of muted Nick At Night.

I am 10 years old and I hyperventilate if things aren’t just so.
I must have perfection from myself—
nothing else is good enough.

I am 10 years old and I cry if I get a B in school.

I am 10 years old.

I am 10 years old and I have been assigned to write a poem.

I’ve been staring at a blank page for hours.
My face raw with tears and my mother has lost her patience–
I am 10 years old and my mother has told me to just write something even if it isn’t perfect.

When it is time to read our homework poem aloud in class,
the teacher calls on me despite the fact that I didn’t volunteer.
With quivering voice, I read to a sea of awed expressions, which I don’t notice till I’m done.
The cute boy beside me leans over to whisper that he loved my poem.
I am 10 years old and I’ve just learned to let things go.

I am 20 years old and I no longer stress over schoolwork.
Now I understand perfection to be an unattainable goal.
Poetry taught me that and I have never forgotten.
I am 20 years old and poetry is my stress reliever.

Prosepoetry: An Oxymoron, A Conundrum

Written by Megan Jennings

Have you ever been reading a passage in a book and had to stop and read it again just to appreciate the beauty of the writing?  I know that I have!  Some prose is so unbelievably poetic that reading it doesn’t feel like slogging through prose.  My fascination with this transcendent power of prose drove me to study prosepoetry.

I can practically hear the “Huh?” that I am sure you, dear readers, have just uttered.  You’re probably thinking something akin to: “How can something be prose if it is poetry?  Poetry is written in verse, duh!  Verse does not equal prose.”

Au contraire. Allow me to explain:

Prosepoetry is both poetic prose and poetry written as prose.  It incorporates many of the techniques of poetry, including figurative language, rhyme, rhythm, and repetition; however, it does not contain line breaks.  An example most of you are probably familiar with is found in the Bible.  Now, if you have a Bible handy, turn to Psalm 93.  If not, look in the examples section at the bottom of this post.

Although the Bible is rife with prosepoetry, the man considered the father of the genre is Aloysius Bertrand, a nineteenth-century French symbolists writer.  Other writers of prosepoetry include Charles Baudelaire (see below for some of his works), Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Elliot, Gertrude Stien, Heathcote Williams, Walt Whitman, and Robert Bly.

So, commenters, my question to you is: What do you think of prosepoetry?  Can poetry even be in prose form?

Examples

Psalm 93
The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved; thy throne is established from of old; thou art from everlasting.  The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice, the floods lift up their roaring.  Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!  Thy decrees are very sure; holiness befits thy house, O LORD, for evermore.

The Port, by Charles Baudeliare
A Port is a delightful place of rest for a soul weary of life’s battles. The vastness of the sky, the mobile architecture of the clouds, the changing coloration of the sea, the twinkling of the lights, are a prism marvellously fit to amuse the eyes without ever tiring them. The slender shapes of the ships with their complicated rigging, to which the surge lends harmonious oscillations, serve to sustain within the soul the taste for rhythm and beauty. Also, and above all, for the man who of mysterious and aristocratic pleasure in contemplating, while lying on the belvedere or resting his elbows on the jetty-head, all these movements of men who are leaving and men who are returning, of those who still have the strength to will, the desire to travel or to enrich themselves.

Be Drunk, by Charles Baudelaire
You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking … ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

Works Cited

Poetic Form: Prose Poem.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.

Prater, Peggy. Prose Poetry. 27 June 2001. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.

Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Written by Megan Jennings

Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, known as Mattie, was born July 17, 1990, in Washington D.C.  He was the fourth child of Dr. Jeni Stepanek.  The oldest two of Mattie’s siblings, a brother and a sister, died in infancy from Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy, a genetic neuromuscular disease that interrupts autonomic, or automatic, functioning, such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and digestion.  Mattie and his other older brother had the same disorder as their decease siblings and, as she later discovered, as their mother.  When Mattie was three, his brother, who he had been very close to, passed away.  To cope, the young Mattie began to write poetry.

Mattie Stepanek became a national bestselling poet in 2001 with the publication of his first collection of poety, Heartsongs, which may be purchased here.  From there, he wrote and published four more poetry books, Journey Through Heartsongs, Hope Through Heartsongs, Celebrate Through Heartsongs, and Loving Through Heartsongs, all of which became NY Times Bestsellers.  The country artist, Billy Gilman, recorded a CD of Mattie’s poetry sung to music.  During his life, Mattie was featured on Larry King Live, Oprah, and other prominent shows and was in ongoing communication with Former President Jimmy Carter.  In 2002, Mattie was appointed to be the National Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which is headed up by Jerry Lewis.  Mattie was an advocate for world peace and disabled individuals.  According to sources, he was also a prankster.

The back of his first book says a lot about him as a poet:

A poem by Mattie may be found here.

Three weeks before turning 14, Mattie passed away on June 22, 2004.  This blogger cried when she heard this news early in the morning on the 23rd.  I remember reading each of Mattie’s books as they were published.  Mattie was special to me, an inspiration.  We were the same age and had the same goals and similar disorders.  I looked up to Mattie more than I could ever say.  It was his [poetry] that has influenced my own the most.  He influenced many others as well. Among the attendees at his funeral was Oprah Winfrey.  Jimmy Carter gave his eulogy, saying:

We have known kings and queens, and we’ve known presidents and prime ministers, but the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known in my life is Mattie Stepanek. His life philosophy was “Remember to play after every storm!” and his motto was: ‘Think Gently, Speak Gently, Live Gently.” He wanted to be remembered as “a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played.”

After his death, two more bestselling books by Mattie were published: Reflections of a Peacemaker and Just Peace: A Message of HopeReflections of a Peacemaker was another collection of poetry and Just Peace was a collection of essays on peace and correspondences with Jimmy Carter.  Just Peace won the IPPY Gold Medal for Peacemaker Book of the Year in 2007.

If you would like information on the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation or the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Intergenerational Caregiving Scholarship, please follow the links.

Works Cited & Consulted

About Mattie Stepanek.” MattieOnline. 2005. Web. 22 Sept. 2010.