Find Your Inspiration at Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers’ Wordshop


Former Harrisburg Poet Laureate, Iya Isoke, poses with nationally acclaimed Black Arts poet & activist, Sonia Sanchez, performance poet Maria James-Thiaw and Wordshop founder, Nathaniel Gadsden, also a former Harrisburg Poet Laureate.

WWlogoLovingly known as “The Wordshop” to local poets, Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writer’s Wordshop is celebrating its 37th year as a hub for poetic expression in the Harrisburg area. Many published authors can look back to what they experienced at The Wordshop as being transformative and instrumental to their success. The Wordshop invites all budding writers and spoken word artists to join them Friday nights at 7 on the Second Stage at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore (1302 N 3rd Street, Harrisburg, PA)  for Cafe Word. These open readings and educational workshops are free and open to the public. Here is what you can expect in December:

Friday, December 5th

“A Poetic Kwanzaa Celebration” with Harrisburg Poet Laureate Emeritus,

Dr. Nathaniel Gadsden


Friday, December 12th

“Poetic Interaction” with York City

Poet Laureate, Christine Lincoln

For more information about Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writer’s Wordshop, contact Wordshop advisory board member and poet, Maria James-Thiaw at

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by | November 18, 2014 · 9:06 pm

The Professional Writer: Introducing Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Contemporary Fiction Writer

” Something subliminal is going on when a person reads something of quality; the brain is absorbing good sentence structure, correct spelling, multi-dimensional characterization, vivid description and more without the reader even realizing it, which automatically makes for better prose.”


Kristi Peterson Schoonover, fiction author

Although the heavy winds are ripping gold and red leaves from the trees, and winter’s chill has begun to set in, let’s not forget the thrills of the Halloween season. The skeletons, the zombies, the witches and vampires –Face it! it’s fun to be scared, and that is why ghost stories are appealing all year round. One writer that has found success by scaring the “bejeezes” out of readers is short fiction writer, Kristi Petersen Schoonover.poisongroundprint

Schoonover is an award-winning writer who has received three Norman Wailer Writers’ Colony residencies and was even nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize for short fiction. Some of her popular works are Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole, Bad Apple, and The Poisoned Ground. She is an editor of a literary magazine called Read Short Fiction and lives in the haunted woods of Connecticut with her ghost-hunting husband.

                When describing her work Schoonover says, “I write short stories that explore relationships in twisted, surprising ways. I play with magic realism and psychological horror on a regular basis.”

In other words, her books are the kind the make your goose bumps rise and take notice.  It only takes one look at her publication list to see that this is a prolific writer. However, she says that she does not have a set time and place to write each day. She feels most inspired in her own home office with a great movie score playing, but overall, she writes when she is moved to do so.

When asked what advice she would give emerging young writers, she says, READ! “It’s critical, but not just because it’s important to consciously study the craft. Something subliminal is going on when a person reads something of quality; the brain is absorbing good sentence structure, correct spelling, multi-dimensional characterization, vivid description and more without the reader even realizing it, which automatically makes for better prose.”

skeletons-final-front-coverShe has so many favorite authors, it was hard to narrow down the list, however, “Both Gina Ochsner and T.C. Boyle explore human emotions and relationships in fresh, original ways that haunt me long after I’ve put the story down,” Schoonover says.

This professional writer is serious about her craft. She makes time to write and expands her writing skills by reading. In addition, Kristi Petersen Schoonover puts her public relations background to use and markets her own work with the precision of a Hollywood publicist. It goes to show you that even if your degree is in another field, you can use what you have learned in your artistic vocation as well.

So if you, too, think it is fun to be scared, you will love the work of Kristi Petersen Schoonover. For more information visit today!

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by | November 18, 2014 · 8:36 pm

November is National Novel Writing Month!

Shield-Nano-Side-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResEver thought about writing a novel?  Have a great idea for story?  A character that’s keeping you up all night?  Well, November is your month!  During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), hundreds of writers work on starting (and finishing!) their novels in the month of November in a feverish sprint of creativity.  Some of the most popular recent novels have been products of this rough drafting process.

What is it? 30 days.  50,000 words.  Last year, 669, 882 novels were written in the month of November with the help of the author forums, support groups, and tracking help all offered for free through the NaNoWriMo website.

What’s the point? The point of NaNoWriMo is not to write a final, polished draft, but to get a complete rough draft on paper.  Editing and proofreading take time and are often the reason why most first-time writers never finish the first draft.  Too often us fiction writers get distracted by the small details of writing and get frustrated when we can’t ‘get it right’ the first time.  By writing under pressure and with other authors, you will learn to let go of those small things that can easily be fixed on a third, fourth, and yes, fifth read through.

Why don’t you just do that on your own?  NaNoWriMo also makes it easier because, like all writing, it makes it a social event.  Writing can be a lonely, unforgiving trudge from the first word to the final sentence, but it doesn’t have to be.  Writing is always a communication between you and someone else (even if that someone else is your future self), and this process helps you to ask questions and get feedback much quicker than the traditional writing and publishing process.  NaNoWriMo also puts you in direct contact with others who are trying to reach the same goals, so they will intimately understand your struggles and will be excited to relish in your triumphs!

 Are you ready to take the NaNoWriMo challenge?

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It’s Dictionary Day!

Snip20140915_1Let me guess, you didn’t know that today, October 16th, is the day where avid dictionary-lovers cling to their dusty tomes and reminiscence about the days when students were taught how to decipher the pronunciation key and how to use catchwords as the ‘quick search’ feature before there were such things a ‘quick search’ features.  But don’t worry!  You don’t have to be a lexicographer to enjoy today.

noahDictionary Day shares its day with one of the celebrities of the dictionary world (the word celebrity, of course, is always relative: look it up!): Noah Webster, a man largely responsible for causing fights between family members when playing Scrabble (“What do you mean hollar isn’t in the dictionary?  It’s a word.  Like down in the hollar!”).

441820You probably don’t remember the days before Google or when if you wanted to know how to spell something or needed to find its definition that you had to lug out the big red book with Merriam-Webster emblazoned in gold on the cover like the seal of some secret society whose sole mission was to protect words from an oncoming apocalypse where only cockroaches and antiquated words hither swithly avaunt into the sunset.

So, why should we continue to celebrate a piece of writing that is more likely to be used as a doorstop rather than be read?  Because, like most things, it’s not about the packaging: it’s about the contents.  Words!  Beautiful amazing words.  Webster devoted his entire professional career so that you could call your favorite professor’s voice sonorous; your least favorite cafeteria item odious; and the odd day when you get out of class five minutes early exhilarating.

And digital dictionaries have actually brought more people to these words than the printed loadstones that Webster had to work with.  You can now get a ‘word of the day‘ that will tell you divarication means on one day and flapdoodle means the next.  There are even ‘word of the day’ apps that will send fantastic words to your phone, so you can impress everyone you know by correctly using indemnify in a sentence.


There are no rules for celebrating Dictionary Day (none that I could find at least in my albeit very cursory internet search), and rather than tell you all to pick up your dictionary and start with aardvark, I would encourage you to find a couple of new favorite words and use them liberally: lascivious, masticate, garrulous, bellicose, egalitariancaveat.

So go on and engage in some word play!

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Poetry Submission: Deje Butler

Poetry is the music of our soul here at The Central Pen, and we have a fantastic community of lyrical artists. From free verse to spoken word to slant rhyme, we love it all, and we are here to share our creative energies with you.  Enjoy this submission from one of our homegrown poets.

About the writer.

Deje ButlerDeje Butler is  19 years old.  Born in Washington, DC, she was raised in Dale City, Virginia. She has recently changed her major to criminal justice (originally business administration).  At CPC, she volunteers at the writing center and will be a part of the college’s new drama club. She loves writing and art as well as meeting new people. She also enjoys going to museums of any kind and reading.  She says, “I feel like I’m going on a adventure when I do so–its exhilarating!”

Summers End

Its ending…
As the sun kisses my face goodbye,
feeling its embrace.


Its ending…
This firery relationship between us,
is slowly becoming memories,
memories that once was reality.


Its ending…
The laughs, the smiles,
the love for the blaze.
Rubbing my bare feet on the grass,
watching the leaves changing colors
like an adaptive reptile.


Its ending…
Feeling the greet of a cool breeze.
Here you are again, stepping back in my life.
We meet again.


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Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s Poem on Climate Change Shows the Power of Poetry

kathy_jetnil-kijinerKathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a 26-year-old poet, writer, artist, and journalist from the Marshall Islands, recited her poem about climate change and its effects to a delegation of world leaders at the United Nations who had gathered for the Climate Leaders Summit earlier this week on September 23.   Jetnil-Kijiner had been chosen to perform her piece alongside the impassioned speeches of presidents, prime ministers, and celebrities, including Al Gore (Chairman of Generation Investment Management and the Climate Reality Project) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Actor and UN Messenger of Peace).

Her performance, which ended with her being joined by her newborn daughter and husband, brought many world leaders to tears:


Jetnil-Kijiner’s home is the Marshall Islands, a group of low-lying coral atolls in the northern Pacific Ocean, which have already witnessed the effects of rising ocean levels.  Her poem, ocean161marisl_003‘Dear Matafele Peinem,’ was written to her daughter: “You are so excited for bananas, hugs and our morning walks along the lagoon.”

The lagoon becomes a key metaphor for her, her daughter, and the future of the Marshall Islands:  “I want to tell you about that lagoon. That lucid, sleepy lagoon lounging against the sunrise. Men say, that one day, that lagoon will devour you.” The rising ocean levels have caused the waters in the lagoon overflow their banks, slowly ‘devouring’ the land around it.’  

But in Jetnil-Kijiner’s poem, the lagoon does not yet win:

“And we are canoes blocking coal ships. We are the radiance of solar villages. We are the rich clean soil of the farmer’s past. We are petitions blooming from teenage fingertips.


We are families biking, recycling, reusing, engineers dreaming, designing, building, artists painting, dancing, writing.


“We are spreading the word. And there are thousands out on the street, marching with signs, hand in hand chanting for change NOW.”

Her performance received a standing ovation from world leaders and summit delegates, proving (yet again) the power of poetry.  You can see Jetnil-Kijiner performing her piece at the UN Summit here and watch a high-definition video for it here.

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(I) Read Banned Books!

The Central Pen joins the American Library Association (ALA) in celebrating Banned Books Week (September 21-27, 2014) where we pull out all of those so-called ‘naughty’ books that have been challenged, banned, defaced, and sometimes even stolen from our nation’s libraries because of what some view as contested themes, depictions, or characters.

Banned Books

Banned Books Week is an opportunity to celebrate free speech, literacy, and creativity.  It also is an opportunity to focus our attention on an issue that is rarely discussed when we talk about education: censorship.  Literature and censorship have a long, fraught history precisely because the written word is so incredibly powerful.  It can shape ideas and narratives.  It can push political and social issues and opinions.  It can persuade and inform.  It can be used to uplift people and ideas just as easily as it can be use to destroy them.

Here are some of The Pen‘s favorite banned books from the 21st Century:

  1. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    • Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    • Reasons: offensive language; racism
  3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    • Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  4. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
    • Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
    • Reason: sexually explicit
  6. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    • Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  7. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    • Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    • Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
  9. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    • Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  10. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
    • Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group

Don’t just read banned books–share them!  Leave your favorites in the comments.

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Photography Submission: Jeannette Archer-Simons

At The Central Pen, we are committed to all types of art and artists, including the visual arts.  We believe that creative expression, no matter the medium, has an important place in our education and in our lives.   With that said, please enjoy the following submission by a member of our creative community.

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About the artist.

Jeannette Archer-Simons has served as an adjunct professor teaching business courses at Central Penn College for the last four years.  She is President of Archer-Simons Consulting Group specializing in nonprofit and small business development, strategy, turnaround and leadership transition.  She is a professional writer for multiple online publications, a national speaker and an amateur photographer.  She has been married to her best friend and husband Bob for nearly 35 years.

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The following photographs were taken in scenic surroundings of Central Pennsylvania and feature the regions famous historical covered bridges.  Please click on an image to see it in full scale.

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Jeannette Archer-Simons

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Jeannette Archer-Simons

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Covered Bridges

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These photographs have been submitted to The Central Pen for inclusion in their e-zine and print editions and have been reproduced here by permission.  To submit your own creative work, see our submissions guidelines on our “Submissions” page.

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Poetry Submission: Tynesha Robinson

Poetry is the music of our soul here at The Central Pen, and we have a fantastic community of lyrical artists. From free verse to spoken word to slant rhyme, we love it all, and we are here to share our creative energies with you.  Enjoy this submission from one of our homegrown poets.

About the writer.

Tynesha Robinson was born and raised in Washington, DC, and graduated from Oxon Hill High in 2013. She attends Central Penn, receiving her associates in marketing in the near future. Eventually, she is hoping to continue her education and start a fashion and interior design degree.

My body is the barrier

My body is the barrier,
that protects the depth
the soul keeps the sweeps, like I’m​ never swept.
The newer is the newest
The cooler is the coolest….
If I follow the rules
can I still be the nudist.
Cloudy with a chance of happiness
thunder with some rain.
My body is the barrier
Maybe my crutch possibly my cane


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The SLAM Returns to CPC

Slam Audience

CPC was rocked on Thursday night by the 2nd Annual Poetry Slam and Multicultural Celebration.  Students, faculty, and staff packed the dining hall turned slam stage to see who would bring their best game and take over the title of CPC Slam Poet Champion and celebrate our cultural diversity past and present.

Dinner ServiceThe evening kicked off with a very welcoming international dinner sponsored by CPC’s International Society Club and included the handy work of Tynesha Robinson, Christine Fusselman, Kendra Elliot, and of course, club advisor, Romeo Azondekon.  Everyone raved about the international cuisine, going back for second, thirds, and even a couple take-home boxes.   Many thanks to the club’s dedicated members and their unending generosity for our student body.

Special thanks goes out to the Drama Club whose faculty advisor, Janet Bixler, helped to organize the event.  The Drama Club helped with set-up and clean-up, and several of its members performed in the contest.  The Central Pen E-zine would also like to thank Danielle Klebes and Student Activities for helping to plan the event and being the evening’s musical director.

330 Students

In addition to the international fare, students from Professor Maria James-Thiaw‘s Contemporary Writers of Color course created displays representing the writers they had been studying.  Students on hand included Giancarlo VanWright, Tony Noon, Ricky Cousar, Byron GuinyardNathan Reichert, and Michael Troutman, and a special thanks to the rest of the class including Kareem Aiken, Robert Ashkenes, Monica Hacker, Tamirra Milton, and Jamar Royster, for their behind-the-scenes work.


The Hosts! Jade and Steve-O


Maria James-Thiaw

The Slam kicked off with a short poem from Maria James-Thiaw, “I am a poem,” which immediately set the tone and texture for the night’s contestants.  She welcomed our two hosts, Jade Harper and Steve “Steve-O” Osango, whose enthusiasm, humor, and passion kept the crowd buzzing all night.  The hosts introduced the judges, which included CPC’s own Maria James-Thiaw, local poet Dustin Nispel, student judge Ricky Cousar, and CPC’s Melissa Wehler.

IMG_4695Last year’s winner, Derrick “Muff” Johnson, was on hand to give support to the contestants telling them to ‘be their best’ and ‘have fun.’  We were also excited to have Christine Lincoln, the current poet laureate of York who performed a poem later on in the evening that welcomed new poetic talent into the fold.

Dustin Nispel

Local slam poet and author, Dustin Nispel, blessed the mic with two poems that had the audience snapping, clapping, laughing, and hooting.  Nispel played double-duty as both guest present and celebrity judge.  Nispel brought copies of his new book, The Tower, is a ‘blending of Spoken Word and poetry,’ which was quickly buzzed by the contestants and the crowd.

After Nispel warmed up the mic, the evening was turned over to the students.  One-by-one students stepped to the mic to pour our their passion in the hope of winning the $100 grand prize and the right to the title CPC Slam Champion.



TJ Blackwell, President of the Knight Writers Creative Writing Club, kicked off the evening’s events followed by a slew of newcomers.  Huge congrats to Sakinah Aziz, Aliah Speights, Ayana Addison, and Cody Robinson for blessing the mic.  Performers talked of love and loss, of growing up and moving on, and of triumphs and struggles in world that seems all too often stacked against them.  The audience gave snaps and claps as the results of the performances were announced.

After a dozen performances, three winners pulled away from the others:

3rd Prize: Lakeia Washington

Lakeia Washington


2nd Place: Teta Gaye

Teta Gaye

1st Place: Isaiah Isley

Isaiah Isley

 A special thank you to everyone who helped to bring the event to life whether that was organizing, planning, watching, or blessing the mic!

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