By: Ashely M. Diaz and Katherine Avila
Taking a break from my regular schedule, I had the opportunity to pick up my pen and let my words spill onto paper.
During the week of November 7th, Honor students had the opportunity to learn from published authors, Dr. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Dr. Nancy Gerber. Dr. Gillan and Dr. Gerber visited PCCC to present workshops and perform readings during Writer’s Week to discuss their work, the writing process and share writing tips.
In the time of Dr. Gillan’s workshop, she shared poetry that would reflect the struggles of Italian immigrants and the insecurities that come with growing up. Many poems in particular addressed the hardships of living in a low income home. A writing prompt was then given to spark inspiration in the students. “Describe a memory of someone who means a lot to you.” Dr. Gillan
Students and professors immediately bowed their heads and wrote. Under ten minutes, students scribbled poetry that would impress Dr. Gillan. “I love what they wrote in a very short period of time. I especially love those who were brave enough to read their work!” Dr. Gillan said.
Dr. Gillan’s workshop gave students the courage to be spontaneous and write what was on their minds as opposed to shying away from the writing process.
Before becoming a well-known poet, Dr. Gillian used to live in the city of Paterson. Growing up, her love for poetry flourished from her experience of roaming the streets of the city. Even though her passion for poetry was strong, her family was a skeptical.
“The first time I said I wanted to be a poet, my whole family got really silent, like what the hell?! Is she crazy?!” Dr. Gillian said.
Dr. Gillian’s family wanted her to have a real job. She’d never imagined a future of running readings, organizing workshops and travelling around the world retelling her life and poetry.
“When I was growing up--If you would have told me that I was going to have this lucky, lucky life I had...would I expect that? No way!” Dr. Gillian said.
With so much success, Mrs. Gillian did not forget her roots. She still comes back and walks the streets of Paterson, even though so much has changed since she was younger. There are streets that changed so much, she couldn’t recognize them but she was glad one thing was consistent--the growing diversity and culture. Dr. Gillian believed that with so much culture, it gives the city a certain energy—which personally makes her happy.
Located in the Hamilton Club Building on the Paterson campus of Passaic County Community College is the Poetry Center that was founded by Dr. Gillan in 1980. Many workshops and readings are offered throughout the year.
The next day, Dr. Gerber would visit the Center of Leadership and Excellence to discuss her book of poetry, We Are All Refugees. A book that would bring the pain and effects of the Holocaust to the limelight.
In a more intimate setting, the students were able to communicate with Dr. Gerber on a deeper level. Students were also asked to write from a prompt. “Write about a time when a loved one told you something you hadn’t known,” Dr. Gerber directed.
“Write about a time when a loved one told you something you hadn’t known,” Dr. Gerber directed.
The prompt would open up students to share about their writing experiences and the past that correlated with it.
Writer’s Week overall was a powerful experience for the honors students. It became clear that there are many poets that hide their potential or don’t practice their need to write. Not only did students walk away with helpful tips for writing but they left more connected to their artistic sides.