Sarah Wells, B.A. 2003, M.F.A. 2015, has maintained an active publication agenda since graduation. The interview below covers several of her recent and forthcoming books. Click here for links to purchase the books mentioned below, with access to more of Wells's publications.
HD: Within the last two years you have published a book of poetry, Between the Heron and the Moss, and you have a memoir American Honey and a second volume of The Family Bible Devotional coming out in the months ahead. What are the common threads among your writings?
SW: I am very interested in exploring intersections in my writing, regardless of the genre, intersections between the natural and spiritual worlds especially. The more I explore these intersections, the more I agree with the Celtic Christian wisdom teachers that declare there is nothing mundane; everything is sacred. My poetry and nonfiction especially explore this idea, looking for the sacred in the seemingly mundane to see what truth of human experience can be revealed there.
Between the Heron and the Moss explores the recurring appearance of a heron as an icon of the Holy Spirit’s presence in a world that is both holy and wracked with brokenness. And here we are, positioned between the two: heron flying above, moss growing below. What are we to make of it all?
American Honey is primarily exploring the subjects of attraction and fidelity; what happens when temptations attempt to woo you from what you’ve called holy and sacred? That’s a broad and lofty statement I think, since there’s plenty of time spent in the nitty gritty details of life, but I believe that’s where sacredness lives, tucked into the slicing of sweet potatoes, baked into the restaurant dinner leftovers....Read more
I started at Ashland with every intention of becoming an English teacher. After two years of education and English courses, I realized that education is not for me, but English is. I set out to complete my English degree, but with the looming question: What can I do with an English major?
Dr. Linda Joyce Brown was my academic advisor at the time, and she provided some much-needed insight. She explained that education majors have a clear career path to become teachers. While there is not a clear path for English majors, there are career opportunities; I just need to be creative.
With this advice in mind, I set out to gain experience through internships, work study, and volunteer service to determine my career path. Most notably, I worked in social media, sales, tutoring, and finally grant writing. In grant writing, I found that my love for philanthropy and my love for writing could coexist as a career. I interned with Ashland University’s Grants and Foundation Relations Office for a year, and when I graduated, they hired me.
Grant writing is form of technical writing used to fundraise for nonprofits. As a grant writer, I work with dedicated faculty to write grant proposals that fund Ashland’s unique, academic programs. Through my position, I have become familiar with many of the programs at Ashland, and I even work with faculty in the Department of Languages and Literatures.
In addition to writing grant proposals, I train interns in grant writing, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of my position. I enjoy supporting students as they learn and grow as technical writers throughout their internship. I guess I became an educator after all.
From my undergraduate coursework, the Advanced Composition course, taught by Dr. Brown,...Read more
Amy (Lesniak) Hirzel, class of 2009, was one of fourteen educators chosen to create curriculum for Write Out, a free two-week writing event running October 10th-October 24th, organized through a partnership of the National Writing Project and the National Park Service. The Write Out curriculum is a series of online activities and instructional videos focused on finding inspiration in national parks and other public spaces through place-based writing.
Hirzel’s lesson, “Contrasting Worlds,” explores the intersection between the human and natural world through poetry. Over the summer, Amy filmed her video in Northeast Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park and was inspired by the park’s story of the rise of urban industrialism and then ultimately the crumbling of those rust-belt industries. In her video she encourages students, educators, and the public to “recognize the rich umber of autumn leaves in rusting smokestacks, the flash of bronze of the common carp in the swinging train bell, the cicada hum in the cadence of your Doc Martens.”
As an Integrated Language Arts student at Ashland University, she refined her love of poetry and teaching. Whether staying up late in a computer lab writing poetry for Dr. Fleming’s workshop or reading student submissions to Passages Literary Magazine, Amy knew that she always wanted poetry to be a part of her life, and eventually her classroom. After graduation, Amy has taught high school students the importance of the written word for the last thirteen years.
Hirzel has worked her entire teaching career to elevate students’ voices and create opportunities for all her students to express themselves through creative writing. She is ecstatic to have her ideas and lessons on a national stage to help even more students fall in love with the poetry of nature. For...Read more
Ty YoungOver the summer working in the MFA program was a great experience not only for my career path but also as a reader in general. Being exposed to such greatness as an undergrad allowed me to be open to joining a low res program and receive a job offer to work in our MFA office this upcoming year.
Throughout the program I was able to work different projects while also attending sessions. Some of my favorite sessions were Viet Thanh Nguyen readings and Kate Hopper’s craft seminar. Listening to Nguyen read after reading one of his books over the previous school year solidified my interest in him as a writer overall. Hearing Hopper talk about the different ways to get to the end of a thesis and turn the small pieces into a book made me feel better about my writing overall. Going to her talk also allowed me to use her different methods to work on my upcoming capstone project.
The MFA internship as a whole is an amazing way to gain new knowledge and insight into the writing world and begin making connections early. It is a great opportunity and more students should attempt to take advantage of it.
Madeline WorcesterI loved serving as an MFA residency intern in both 2020 and 2021, especially as I rose to the full summer intern position this year! It has been a great opportunity to meet renowned authors and to hone my own writing. Additionally, it has given me a glimpse into a joyful, creative, hardworking group of people at all stages of life. When the world...Read more