Student literary prowess blossoms in StartleBloom
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU Today News Bureau
Amber Hinson grooves.
Oh, she grooves.
And moves words along, like an earth-moving street sweeper.
No, like a bulldozer.
From behind the podium, she recites, like a boss, her poem, “Rapunzel 2.0.”
Her Rapunzel does not wait, forlorn, in the tower. Her Rapunzel is plucky with a “slim thicc bod” who plays Uno and might break a rule or two.
Not afraid to turn a Grimm’s fairy tale on its ear, Hinson creates a Rapunzel who is literarily fresh and modern and full of gumption – exactly the kind of qualities embraced by StartleBloom.
The StartleBloom team released Volume 4 of GCU’s literary review Wednesday afternoon with a distribution party on the Promenade, near the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. They handed out bookmarks, Skittles M&M’s and, of course, copies of the purple-covered, 68-page publication.
Students also read some of the works that dapple the volume: not just Hinson’s fairy-tale-that’s-not-so-much-the-fairy-tale-we-know, “Rapunzel 2.0,” but other poems and short fiction.
One piece recalls, for example, waterfront autumnal memories and discarded kettle corn (Shyann Papia’s “1979”). Another weaves imagery-rich thoughts about home, “the house third from the far concrete corner” (Taylor Sipos’ “How I See Home”). And a couple of other poems speak of fabric as metaphors, such as Rosalie Michael’s “Silk” (“rip your endearments off my skin”) and Jennifer Patricia Leiter’s “Threads Hung” (“a tapestry intricately woven with patterns of the sky, sun, rain, love, joy, sadness and sorrow”).
The StartleBloom team called for submissions in the fall with a deadline just before winter break.
This year, the Student Literary Board read more than 250 submissions from all disciplines across the university (not just English, humanities or arts majors), and from those, chose about 40 works to be included in Volume 4. The board dove into those literary pieces over winter break. All are submitted to the board with the authors’ names removed from the works to assure they’re judged on the quality of the submission alone.
The unanimous “yes-es” win a place in the review, the unanimous “no’s” don’t, and then there are the “maybes.”
“I LOVE going through the maybes,” said Shyann Papia, a senior English/professional writing major and one of the student editors-in-chief, along with fellow senior English/professional writing major Jewelea Trujillo. That’s when the eight-member board declares why they love the piece and why everyone else should.
“Some of it is just gut instinct,” Papia said of choosing a work for publication. “It’s ‘Wow! This is really good.’ Or, ‘This is a good representation of the GCU community.’”
Papia said editors do look for pieces reflective of GCU as a Christian university.
“We go through it and, ‘Ah! A GCU piece.’ It’s so much fun. … I end up wondering who wrote it.”
The review also includes artwork and poetry.
It wasn’t until 2016 that the College of Humanities and Social Sciences birthed StartleBoom, named by former editor-in-chief and Honors Program Manager Luke Amargo. The idea behind the name is that the creative process begins with a startling idea and then blooms into something bigger.
Amargo’s creative juices spilled over into the formation of the Friends of the Pen student creative writing club in 2013. The campus’ creative writing community flourished even more with the arrival of Professor of English Dr. Diane Goodman in 2014, and the first StartleBloom was published two years later.
The publication and the Friends of the Pen aren’t the only way GCU students are stretching their literary prowess.
“They (professors) have created spaces for us to meet together as a (writing) community, like Friends of the Pen and Write On,” said Trujillo, whose works “The Sitting Room” and “On Display” help color StartleBloom with those startling ideas that bloom into something more. “It’s where we can come together and work as a community and work with each other. … As a group, we’re all influencing each other.”
Many of the submissions for StartleBloom started as literary exercises in Write On, a writing group helmed by Goodman, herself the author of three short story collections, that meets at 11:15 a.m. on Wednesdays in the Education Building.
Every week, said Papia, about 20 to 30 students show up and are given an anonymous piece to read. From that anonymous piece, Goodman will come up with a prompt. If the piece is imagery-heavy, for example, students may be asked to write something that’s, likewise, imagery-heavy.
Cymelle Edwards, an instructional assistant who graduated from GCU in December with her bachelor’s degree in English with an Emphasis in Professional Writing, said Write On isn’t just a writing group – it’s like a master class.
“It really is a master class,” said Dr. Heather Brody, CHSS Professor, a Friends of the Pen advisor and co-advisor with Goodman of StartleBloom. “She (Goodman) pushes them.”
“Even constructive criticism is so important,” added Papia, who is active in Write On. “When they (fellow writers) take your criticism, it’s so nice. All of the writing classes we have are so great.”
Junior English/professional writing major Jordan Radcliff, who will be a member of the Student Literary Board in 2019-20, said it’s important to have something like StartleBloom that highlights students’ work.
“It makes sure student creativity has a voice and an outlet,” he said.
One of his works, “Bridges,” made the cut and is included in the new volume of the literary review. Considering the 250-plus submissions, “it’s an honor to be chosen,” he said.
Trujillo didn’t submit any of her works her first year at GCU. She didn’t gain enough confidence, she said, until her second year.
“It’s really exciting,” she said of seeing a piece she wrote get printed for all to see. “It’s always surprising. You know you like it and that it means something to you, but for others to like it means something. Even though your work might not be the best work, it connects with somebody, and that means something to me.”
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602-639-7901.