The Central Pen e-zine is a good place to start
By Norman Geary
Media Club Reporter
Maria Thiaw, professor of writing and humanities, is used to honing the written word.
With Thiaw’s background in poetry and in writing for literary journals, and her long tenure at Central Penn, publishing “The Central Pen” – the college’s literary e-zine – was a perfect match.
“The Central Pen” was “The Midsummer Knight’s Dream” when Thiaw started teaching at Central Penn in 2004.
In 2007, Thiaw was handed the reigns. The magazine was widely distributed among students and faculty, staff and their families, and in the community. But magazine projects stopped when a funding problem arose.
In 2012, Melissa Wehler, Ph.D., came on board to assist with many projects. With the addition of Wehler, the online version of “The Central Pen,” less expensive to produce on the Web, came to fruition. That’s when the publication became an e-zine – an electronic magazine.
Wehler’s experience, which included a strong background in blogging, added to Thiaw’s background in writing for literary journals, meant new life for “The Central Pen.” This endeavor continued for a couple of years, and included students in many projects.
Eventually, student involvement began to dwindle. During this time, Wehler acquired another position at Central Penn, so Thiaw and professor Thomas Davis, who teaches writing, continued editing the e-zine.
Thiaw and Davis developed creative ways to enhance student involvement that included covering school activities and publishing their work. Thiaw and Davis knew when students publish their work, it would look good to future employers. It also showcased students’ writing abilities and kept the community informed on college news.
“This is also a great way for students to further their careers,” Thiaw said.
“The Central Pen” is promoted primarily by social media. This project is coming out of the School of Humanities and Sciences. When something new is published, it is shared through emails with people on a subscribers’ list who tend to sign up through club fairs. It also goes out through Facebook and Twitter. The Knight Writers Creative Writing Club has a Pinterest page and a Facebook page that promote the e-zine.
Through these channels, the word gets out. If students are shy about writing, Thiaw offers this advice, “I would encourage them (to consider) all the benefits of getting published, and … we have really good editors. We really are not going to publish something that is not ready.”
Want to get published?
To be published, according to Thiaw, it is important to receive direction and constructive criticism, and Thiaw and Davis are adept at helping students improve their writing. Students have to be reminded that not all submitted work will be published.
“As a writer, you are always sending things out and, more often than not, you are going to get rejected,” Thiaw said. “But keep in mind that the best organizations will tell you that your writing is not what we are particularly looking for, but try this organization. Or, if you make these two corrections, then your submission will be ready to be published.”
With this in mind, Thiaw said she will help someone polish his or her work.
Professor Maria Thiaw is proud to mentor students as they learn more about creative writing. Photo by Tyler Willis
Plenty of help available
There are numerous resources on the Central Penn Summerdale Campus to assist students with their writing. Some of these include the writing center, the Smarthinking online tutoring service and the library.
“No one leaving Central Penn should lack in any way when it comes to writing skills,” said Thiaw.
Besides the e-zine, Thiaw is involved with curriculum review and teaching classes. She is also the advisor and the founder of the creative writing club on campus called The Knight Writers. The club meets Wednesdays 3:30 p.m. in the Leadership Room of the library. There is also a yearly poetry slam where students can win money for their performances. In addition, there is a Central Penn poetry contest in April.
Because April is National Poetry Month, the winner of the contest can win the top prize of $100 and a year’s membership to The Academy of American Poets. That person can also be entered to win the academy’s big prize of $1,000, and be published nationally.
Thiaw is also on the Diversity Committee, and is involved in Word Wednesday and TED Talk Tuesdays, and various functions on campus that promote diversity. She is active in the arts and poetry community (in which she is known as Maria James-Thiaw), and is a member – and sometimes featured performer – of The Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel performance poetry group, which meets Thursdays at 7 p.m., at The Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg. Thiaw is a longtime member of the Cartel, and serves on the board of Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers Wordshop. The Wordshop meets Fridays at 7 p.m., also at The Midtown Scholar.
Thiaw has been widely published, including in an anthology through the Writer’s Wordshop, and went last year to Paris for a week-long workshop sponsored through the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts. She recently attended the conference of the Associated Writers & Writing Programs, in Los Angeles, where she met many Pulitzer Prize winning authors. She is doing research on a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program that she is starting on the Central Penn College campus.
With Thiaw’s experience, all students who aspire to be good writers should take full advantage of the writing opportunities she and others at Central Penn offer.