Creative writing is skill, but it’s also an open thought process. What works for some, might not work for all. It’s up to each writer to find what works best. Faye Mankowske’s approach to fill a blank canvas involves seeing or reacting to something of personal interest.
“Sometimes when I sit down to write, my ideas are prompted by an image or a character that comes into my head, and other times they’re related to an issue I’m thinking about,” she said. “I think my strongest writing happens when I’m writing in response to an issue. For example, reading Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring prompted one of the poems I submitted. I’m also interested in science, so I like to explore the intersections between science and literature.”
Mankowske, a USD senior studying Biology and English, delivered on both avenues of creativity recently as her prose and poetry were the winning entries in this year’s Cropper Creative Writing Contest. She won $250 — $125 for prose and $125 for poetry — and her name will be engraved on a perpetual plaque in a contest that’s sponsored by USD’s English Department and the Cropper Writing Center.
The awards announcement happened at the March 15 Lindsay J. Cropper Memorial Writers Series event with fiction writer Lynn Freed and poet Ben Doller, the last event for the 2012-13 academic year, the series’ ninth year. The authors read excerpts of their published works to the audience in the Manchester Executive Conference Center auditorium. Freed and Doller also served as judges for the student writing contest, which drew 35 entries.
“The entries are getting better and better every year,” said Cropper Writers Series co-director Halina Duraj, assistant professor in the English Department with a creative writing emphasis. “The emphasis on creative writing and the contest has drawn more interest as more students are hearing about it.”
After the event, Mankowske briefly spoke to the authors and both praised her work. “Lynn mentioned that she liked the voice in my story. For my poems, Ben said that they were interesting and had substance.”
Mankowske’s contest entries included a short story titled, Compulsions and a poem called Impregnate. Mankowske, an avid reader and writer, said the recognition gives her confidence in her methods of creative writing.
“It definitely has been a motivating experience. I feel now, even more strongly, that writers can follow their own agency, style and passions in their work, and that they can be successful in this. There’s room for a wide variety of material.”
“I like to write both poetry and short stories,” she continued. “I’m fascinated by tone and tension, and figuring out how to incorporate these elements in prose. I like prose that feels like poetry in this way. A few stories that I admire that do a great job of this are Swim for the Little One First by Noy Holland, and the short stories of Karen Brennan in The Garden in Which I Walk. For poetry, right now, I deeply admire Timothy Donnelly’s The Cloud Corporation.”
This wasn’t the first writing contest Mankowske entered this year at USD. She was second in USD’s Just Read Essay Competition in February. Entrants wrote essays specifically pertaining to the program’s featured book, the aforementioned The Silent Spring. Mankowske’s essay, titled “A Plastic Flood: How Rachel Carlson’s Concerns Resonate Today,” enabled her, as stated earlier regarding her poetry influences, to combine elements of science and literature and express it in her writing.
Mankowske, who will graduate from USD in December, is interested in attending graduate school. Immediately following graduation, though, she’s “looking forward to taking some time off to catch up on her reading list.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Read Mankowske and past Cropper student writing contest winners’ work. A special creative writing reading event will take place May 10 in Founders Hall’s French Parlor. Graduating USD student writers will present samples of their works. The event is free to attend and it’s open to the public.
Photos courtesy of USD’s English Department