Rosemont Writers’ Retreat: Showcase Elizabeth Mosier

Author Events, Interviews

Continuing our coverage leading up to the Rosemont Writers’ Retreat, we sat down with Elizabeth Mosier to get a better sense of what shapes her as an author.

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These days, ghostwriters pop out fantasy-young-adult-teen-paranormal-romances a dime a dozen—but Elizabeth Mosier’s approach to writing for the young adult is drastically different: she doesn’t follow trends, she writes for her teenage self. Elizabeth has been a teacher to all ages, and has written in magazines, shorts stories, and a novel. Philadelphia Stories wanted to know more about writing for the young adult, which she will instruct at the Rosemont Writer’s Retreat, and the authors and stories that she recommends to aspiring writers.

You have taught from the elementary level to the adult and collegiate levels. Do you still find yourself learning from your students? 

A fairy typical teaching week for me this semester included teaching third graders to fracture fairy tales, guiding seventh graders to structure a personal narrative, and teaching college students to write for children. My work with young readers certainly informs my syllabus in college courses like Writing for Children, but the most important lesson I learn from little kids is that making up stories is supposed to be fun. Kids are eager to play and experiment; teenagers (who are newly self-conscious) and college students (concerned about their grades and their futures) and published writers (no longer immune to marketing) understandably less so. I try to import some of that elementary school energy and playfulness into all my classrooms, including the home office where I spent this long, gray winter revising a novel with a complicated plot.

In many bookstores these days, there are shelves upon shelves of the same “young adult” genre stories. How do you keep your writing fresh and different?

I don’t follow trends, but instead write the books I wanted to read back then. What troubled me as a teenager? What did I wish for? What did I know, and what did I still need to figure out? The challenge, when writing for young adults, is to impart your hard-won wisdom without preaching (teens won’t read your work if they smell a lesson coming). To preserve a sense of immediacy, you have to recount what you learned as though you’re going through the experience with them, for the first time.

What authors influenced your writing? What writers do you recommend to aspiring writers or avid readers?

 

I read constantly—for pleasure, as part of my profession—but the books that influenced my writing for adults and young adults were the books I read before I entered high school. I learned what a simile is from a picture book called I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss (illustrated by Mary Blair); another picture book by Joan Walsh Anglund (Nibble Nibble Mousekin, a version of the Hansel and Gretel tale) taught me what irony is with its revealing illustrations that contradicted the text on the page. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White taught me that the right word can save someone’s life. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain introduced me to characters so real they seemed to live outside the books’ covers. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith taught me about complex characterization—Francie’s lovable father, Johnny Nolan, is also the book’s villain.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding, while not considered a YA novel, is the book that reminds me, when I write for young adults, not to condescend to my reader about the difficult passage of adolescence. Though I would recommend any of these books, I encourage my students to develop a personal syllabus of books they loved or hated or wanted to live in or revise. As Richard Peck so wisely said, “We write by the light of every story we ever read.”

What do you do to overcome writer’s block? Do you have any rituals or exercises to help yourself when words will not come?

I’ve been writing for long enough now to distinguish between writer’s block and a delay in processing—which is more like that colored wheel that spins on your Mac than a full-blown hard-drive crash. Often, I’m not able to make progress on the work up on my screen because I’m working something out in my head. On those days, I keep my butt in the chair, but open a new screen and set my mind to another task (like editing) or a project (an essay if I’m working on fiction). Or sometimes I just make chocolate chip cookies, to feel again the satisfaction of finishing something made from scratch!

You’ve published in a variety of publications, ranging from your novel, “My Life as a Girl,” published by Random House, to short stories and essays in magazines like Seventeen. Do you think it is important for a writer to get exposure to all types of writing— not just one specific medium or genre?  

 

Though every writer seeks to develop a distinctive style, and most writers settle into a preferred form, expressing yourself in different ways teaches you what’s possible—and what seemed impossible but actually isn’t. Writing short pieces for The Philadelphia Inquirer teaches me to condense, and writing novels teaches me to be patient. I recently published an essay on memory and archaeology and my mother’s Alzheimer’s (in issue 47 of the journal Creative Nonfiction) that began as a short story. When I’d completed the fictional draft, I realized that only one detail was made up—and that place where I’d departed from the truth informed my revision. What did that detail tell me about what I wanted, and what would stand in my way of getting it? Therein lay the real conflict, which I wrote the nonfiction essay to resolve.

Elizabeth Mosier will be teaching “Writing for the Young Adult Audience” at the weeklong Rosemont Writers Retreat on June 24-28.

Meet Elizabeth Mosier on Monday, June 24, 2013 at the free noontime Writers and Readers Series, which will feature in-depth conversations about craft led by Rosemont MFA program director, Carla Spataro.

Rosemont Writers’ Retreat: Showcase Tuesday

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Following up on yesterday’s post, we highlight the amazing speakers for Tuesday’s events at the Rosemont Writers’ Retreat. There is still time to sign up for the week. If you’re interested, check out their home page for more information.

Noontime Writers and Readers Series 

12 noon, Gracemere Great Room, 1306 Wendover Rd. Rosemont PA 19010 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Featuring

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Liz Abrams-Morley is the author of Necessary Turns, winner of an Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence, 2010, Learning the Calculate the Half Life, two chapbooks and numerous published stories and poems. Her poems and stories have been read on NPR.  Liz is co-founder/director of Around the Block Writers’ Collaborative, (www.writearoundtheblock.org) and teaches on Rosemont’s MFA faculty.

Tuesday Night Publishing Panel at the Rosemont Writer’s Retreat

7:30 PM Gracemere Great Room, 1306 Wendover Rd. Rosemont PA 19010 

Featuring

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From Apiary Magazine: Lillian Dunn studied English at Swarthmore College, and fell in love with literature outside the classroom in locations as varied as Chester, PA, where she ran an arts summer camp for two years, and Mendoza, Argentina, where she taught English as a Fulbright scholar. She works as an arts and marketing strategist in Philadelphia. The rest of the day is spent having a really great time as editor of APIARY Magazine. She and her co-founders started the magazine for kicks, and it’s stayed that way.

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From Painted Bride Quarterly: Dan Driscoll teaches in the First-Year Writing Program as well as in the English Program. He has taught creative writing and fiction at Temple University and in Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He is a senior editor of Painted Bride Quarterly.

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From Rosemont College MA in Publishing: Anne Willkomm is the MA in Publishing program director at Rosemont College. Her work has appeared in The Medulla Review, Sibyl Magazine, Memoirs of Meanness, and on FlashFiction.net. She was twice named a semi-finalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Rosemont College and taught at Philadelphia University.

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From Philadelphia Stories: Courtney Bambrick is the poetry editor at Philadelphia Stories.  Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Apiary, Certain Circuits, Dirty Napkin, Philadelphia Poets, Mad Poets Review, and the Schuylkill Valley Journal.  Courtney currently teaches writing and literature at Holy Family University, Philadelphia University, and Gwynedd-Mercy College. She recently coordinated the third annual Children’s Arts Program for kids at Old Academy Players in her neighborhood.  She lives with poet Peter Baroth in East Falls.

 

Rosemont Writers’ Retreat: Showcase Monday

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With a little less than a week to go until the Rosemont Writers’ Retreat, and two days to register, we figured it might be a good idea to highlight some of the events going on during the week of the retreat, starting with Monday.

Noontime Writers and Readers Series 

12 noon, Gracemere Great Room, 1306 Wendover Rd. Rosemont PA 19010 

The noontime Writers and Readers Series will feature in-depth conversations about craft led by MFA program director, Carla Spataro, with five of the teachers at this year’s Rosemont Writer’s Retreat. Each program will run for approximately an hour and will feature readings by the authors and an opportunity for audience Q & A. For additional information please contact Carla Spataro at cspataro@rosemont.edu.

Featuring

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Elizabeth Mosier is the author of The Playgroup, part of the Gemma Open Door series to promote adult literacy, My Life as a Girl (Random House) and numerous short stories and essays.  A graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, she teaches writing in a variety of settings, including Bryn Mawr College.  More information at http://www.ElizabethMosier.com.

Evening Reading Series at the Rosemont Writer’s Retreat

7:30 PM Gracemere Great Room, 1306 Wendover Rd. Rosemont PA 19010 

The Evening Reading Series will feature writers on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening and a publishing panel on Tuesday evening. Each program will run for approximately an hour and will opportunities for audience Q & A. For additional information please contact Carla Spataro at cspataro@rosemont.edu.

Featuring

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J. C. Todd has been chasing images since childhood. Her most recent collection of poetry is What Space This Body. Her poems have received awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Leeway Foundation, and Poetry Society of America. She teaches at Bryn Mawr College and in the MFA program at Rosemont and holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College.

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Randall Brown is on the faculty of Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print, and blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.

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Joe Kulka is an award winning children’s book author and illustrator. Joe has illustrated over 20 books for children, 4 of which he also wrote. He is currently working on his 5 book as both author and illustrator. Joe teaches children’s book illustration at Moore College of Art and Design and at Pennsylvania College of Art and Design.

Rosemont Writers’ Retreat

Author Events

There is still time to sign up for the Rosemont Writer’s Retreat– an excellent opportunity to grow as an individual writer and community. The program goes from June 21 to 28 with flexible scheduling. The workshop includes Q&A’s, lectures, readings, and yoga! There are still slots open if you are interested in joining. Here’s a glimpse at the great wordsmiths who will be helping out at this retreat:

Charles Holdefer will be teaching “Novel Fundamentals” at the weeklong Rosemont Writers Retreat on June 24-28. Click www.rosemont.edu/writersretreat for details. Registration deadline: June 15, 2013.

Elise Juska will be teaching “The Whole Story: Exploring the Possibilities of Voice in Short Fiction” at the weeklong Rosemont Writers Retreat on June 24-28. Click www.rosemont.edu/writersretreat for details. Registration deadline: June 15, 2013.

Liz Abrams-Morley will be teaching “Ordinary Genius:  Engaging Your Muse and Writing Across Genres” at the weeklong Rosemont Writers Retreat on June 24-28. Click www.rosemont.edu/writersretreat for details. Registration deadline: June 15, 2013.

Curtis Smith will be teaching “Our Lives in Stories” at the weeklong Rosemont Writers Retreat on June 24-28. Click www.rosemont.edu/writersretreat for details. Registration deadline: June 15, 2013.

Elizabeth Mosier will be teaching “Writing for the Young Adult Audience” at the weeklong Rosemont Writers Retreat on June 24-28. Click www.rosemont.edu/writersretreat for details. Registration deadline: June 15, 2013.

Joe Kulka will be teaching “Writing Children’s Picture Books” at the weekend Rosemont Writers Retreat on June 24-28. Click www.rosemont.edu/writersretreat for details. Registration deadline: June 15, 2013.

Anne Kaier will be teaching “Tell Your Story: Memoir” at the weekend Rosemont Writers Retreat on June 24-28. Click www.rosemont.edu/writersretreat for details. Registration deadline: June 15, 2013.

For more information email cspataro@rosemont.edu or call 610.527.0200