Alumnae Reading night: poetry and fiction


Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

This past Friday, two alumni from the MFA program at southern, authors Sheila Squillante and Jaclyn Watterson, returned to give a reading of some of their works.

The night first began with the two authors talking about what it took to not only land jobs within the field, but also gave examples of how to set up a good C.V., and talked about their own experiences in the field. The reading itself opened with Professor Parrish of the English department introducing Sheila Squillante, author of “Beautiful Nerve” a collection of poetry, multiple chapbooks, and countless works in multiple journals, who read a selection of some of her newer poems and some from her published work.

The first poem by Squillante, titled “Lightbox,” a newer poem written by her, which had a soft open which detailed the speaker’s relationship with her lightbox. Squillante calls the poem a love letter between a woman and her favorite appliance.

“Coming from a place where there is only about 180 days of sunlight per year, a lightbox can become your best friend when you suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder),” said Squillante. “This poem is a love letter of sorts, a love letter between the speaker and this tool which can make things just a little bit better.”

Squillante then moved on from her newer poems to the works in her collection, “Beautiful Nerve” which she described as an anxious book which describes its anxious author. The poems detailed aspects of her own dreams, and struggles, and at times the tense pressure of the poem could be felt in the air of the audience.

After presenting her last works, a series of poems entitled “Round Baby,” after the character in them, Professor Parrish introduced Watterson, and read a section of the recommendation letter he wrote years ago for her. Watterson’s two prose pieces were titled, “Scintilla” and “Pinchbelly”. Of the two pieces, Watterson said that one was fiction, and the other non-fiction, but she gave no indication as to which was what genre, leaving a heavy mystery about the truth and reality in each story.

In discussing the namesake and inspiration for her piece, “Pinchbelly”, Watterson talked about one of the constants in her writing environments.

“I fell in love with the word really. I have a thesaurus from 1937 on my desk filled with strange words, and it happened to be one I fell in love with,” said Watterson, “To be a pinchbelly means you are tight with your money, and I just became really curious what I could do with it, and the story was born.”

After they had finished their readings, the two authors took questions from the audience, which ranged from how they presented to aspects of their process.  In regards to their writing process, both authors offered not only what they do, but also advice to the audience and any potential writers.

“For me, it is a long period of obsession,” said Watterson, “I don’t write to complete the first draft, then the second, I just write. Something I learned from a professor I had a University of Utah was to “touch my reading every day”; a little touch every day helps.”

In following, Squillante talked about her similarities to Watterson’s process.

“I don’t work from an outline, I revise as I go when I write,” said Squillante, “But like Jaclyn [Watterson] said, obsession over your idea and your work is a big part of my process as well.”

Photo Credit: Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

PHOTO: Jaclyn Watterson, author of fiction appearing in Puerto del Sol, Birkensnake,The Collagist, Western Humanities Review, Yalobusha Review, Your Impossible Voice, etc.

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