Background and description
A major goal of the College of Arts & Sciences is to promote advanced research, mentorship and apprenticeship experiences especially during students’ junior and senior years. CPCW’s writing apprenticeships project was created in 2003 to meet this goal.
Each year during the spring semester, the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing hosts the Bassini Writing Apprenticeships. Members of the faculty affiliated with Penn’s writing programs sponsor one apprenticeship each. The apprenticeships are one full semester in duration. Students chosen to be CPCW apprentices receive one course credit (English 199) which can be counted:
- toward the Creative Writing concentration within the English major
- as an elective within the English major for those who are not Creative Writing concentrators
- toward the Creative Writing or Journalistic Writing minor
- as an elective course toward graduation requirements for those not affiliated with the English major or Creative Writing program
Sophomores, juniors, and seniors are eligible to apply, although juniors and seniors will be given strong preference.
The apprentice and the faculty mentor will work together on a project that is at the heart of the mentor’s work as a practicing writer and/or as member of a professional writing community. The apprenticeship is not simply an independent study; nor is it a time for the student to write a creative or critical thesis. The goal of the program is to feature advanced problem-solving of the sort writers face when they take on a major project, an in-depth consideration of actual writing practices, and an introduction to one of the great variety of writing-related projects writers undertake.
Each apprentice and mentor will create their own expected outcomes and guidelines (including evaluation of any practical and written work to be assigned) for the student’s work in this unusual “course.”
Writing apprenticeships are made possible through a generous grant from Reina Marin Bassini (CW’72 GED’72) and Emilio Bassini (C’71 W’71 WG’73).
Praise, news, and links related to the Bassini Writing Apprenticeships:
“The Apprentices: Three Penn Students Will Get an Up-Close and Personal Look at the Writing World Next Semester--for Course Credit,” Daily Pennsylvanian, December 2, 2005
“Operti's Tropical Garden (and Moira Moody's Scrapbook),” posted at Beth Kephart's blog, February 17, 2008
The three writing community members taking on apprentices during the spring of 2022 are:
You can find descriptions of each apprenticeship below the application guidelines.
How to apply
If you wish to apply for a Bassini Writing Apprenticeship, please submit the following information via email to email@example.com before 5pm on Monday, October 18, 2021:
- which of the apprenticeships you seek;
- reasons you want to work with this writer; and
- a brief description of what in your background and experience supports your candidacy for the apprenticeship.
First preference will be given to seniors and juniors.
Herman Beavers, Julie Beren Platt and Marc E. Platt President’s Distinguished Professor of English and Africana Studies
This Apprenticeship is going to be organized around and engaged with the concept of public humanities and how they can be used in the service of communities of color. The collection, archiving, and curation of oral history interviews will be central to developing a praxis that emphasizes inclusion, equity, and social justice. There will be discussion and readings that endeavor to create different pathways through which to understand communities of color as the site of constant and purposeful knowledge production. And there may be opportunities to partner with members of the Philadelphia (both West and North) community to pursue the following questions: How can the public humanities be used to further the cause of social justice for communities of color that are under resourced and overpoliced? What role can music, writing, performance, and cultural production play in the pursuit of social justice? This Apprenticeship will seek to expose the student to artistic and musical communities with whom they can form collaborations (both during the Apprenticeship and after) that have the potential to culminate in a capstone event that showcases their work, whether it takes the form of a series of interviewers, poetry, fiction, drama, or creative non-fiction. My aim is for this Apprenticeship to bring the connection between artmaking and placemaking into the foreground.
Anthony DeCurtis, Distinguished Lecturer, Creative Writing Program
I am a working journalist based in New York who is blessed and cursed with juggling a variety of projects and assignments, often on short notice and mostly to do with popular music. Here the harrowing truths of such work will be revealed—the corners cleverly cut; the disasters deftly avoided; the mounting deadlines nudged imperceptibly into the realm of the possible. The apprentice's task will be to heroically assist in those processes while revealing nothing about how closely the abyss loomed at all times. For students who have worked at the Daily Pennsylvanian or 34th Street this will, of course, be familiar terrain, though such experience is not at all required. The work itself will typically involve research, and possibly some transcription and fact-checking. Excellent research skills, reliability, and a passion for accuracy are therefore essential virtues. Top-notch computer abilities would be a plus as well. Because I live in New York and likely won't be around campus much in the spring, the ability to travel to New York from time to time would be valuable, though, again, it's not a deal breaker. I will routinely be available by phone, email, Zoom, whatever, and, needless to say, conversations about the ever-changing journalistic world would be a central part of this experience. This apprenticeship would probably be most useful to students who are considering journalism as a career, or who foresee writing in popular settings along with whatever else they might be doing later. The apprentice will be welcome to participate in my work as deeply as time, distance, and common sense will allow. In addition, I would absolutely be happy to provide whatever editorial and professional guidance the apprentice would desire.
Piyali Bhattacharya, Artist in Residence, Creative Writing Program
In the spring of 2022, I'll be working on a few different projects at once: essays, short fiction, and wrap-up edits for the publication of a novel. But all these projects will have a common theme. I write about immigrant communities, particularly in restaurant/food culture, and in hospital/healthcare spaces. Consistently, I'm interested in the specific and nuanced ways in which immigrant communities view each other, as opposed to how America views “immigrants” as a whole. So, I'd love for a student to be able to help me compile several reading lists, specifically with regard to the American immigrant gaze on the other in addition to the self, and help collate a list of statistics regarding the demographics of specific immigrant communities across the United States. Additionally, as the AWP Writers' Conference will take place in Philadelphia in March of 2022, and as I will be co-organizing an event with the Asian American Writers' Workshop and Kaya Press for Asian American Literature, a student might find it interesting to help out with the event, and to see how all the abstract conversations we have about “immigration literature” take form in real life. Finally, if the student feels motivated, perhaps we can organize a reading of writers who write about immigrant experiences towards the end of the semester. Of course, this student will also produce a portfolio of their own work by the end of the term, inspired by the reading lists and other opportunities that will have come up over the course of the apprenticeship. Which genre the student's work will be in will be entirely up to them, and I look forward to discussing the details of their work with them.
The three writing community members taking on apprentices during the spring of 2021 were:
Nova Ren Suma’s apprenticeship (Leah Baxter)
I am seeking an apprentice to help with two projects: the primary project is research and the gathering of interesting pieces of supernatural history, urban legend, ghost lore, and witchcraft for a new novel I’ll be working on partly set in Philadelphia. The apprentice will do independent research, keep a running log of the collected information, and write summaries of what they discover. An interest and fearlessness in diving into personal accounts about the occult, and experience and passion for research and reading historical narratives, would be most helpful. Also this semester, I will be working on designing and building an asynchronous online creative writing course on writing YA novels that I hope to launch in 2021, and the apprentice would assist in this planning, which could involve website updates in Wordpress, reimagining an author newsletter, and brainstorming publicity ideas. The ideal apprentice would be interested in both YA literature and literary fabulism and have an open curiosity involving the supernatural and strange. There will be an opportunity for the apprentice to gain feedback on their own creative writing, and if interested advice on writing a YA novel and navigating the publishing process. Nova Ren Suma is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the YA novels The Walls Around Us and A Room Away from the Wolves, both finalists for an Edgar Award, and more books. She teaches YA novel workshops all over the country. More info at http://novaren.com.
Ron Silliman’s apprenticeship (Makena Deveraux)
This is a project about thinking through the shape of a book. In the 33 years since my first collection of critical essays, The New Sentence, was published, it has never been out of print. Poet and anthropologist Nathaniel Tarn wrote "Ron Silliman's The New Sentence...are the most energetic, brilliant and challenging works to come out of our craft since, let us say, Olson's Projective Verse or, back of that, the Essays of Ezra Pound.”
In recent years, I have been discussing a sequel to The New Sentence with a publisher, but I have not yet been able to pull together a manuscript. My ideal Bassini fellow will help me to go from my current very rough draft – which includes works that not yet found their proper place in the manuscript – to a manuscript that can be delivered to the publisher, who will then edit it further. Typed double-spaced, the final product will most likely be in the 400-plus page range, containing between 35 and 40 essays. This is not necessarily a line-editing project, although correcting obvious problems (and standardizing a footnote style) would be a natural part of the process. Rather this is principally a “this should go here,” “I don’t understand paragraph 4,” and “maybe this doesn’t belong” sort of project. The ideal candidate should be able to say to me “This piece is arguing about stuff that nobody has cared about since 1995,” “I think you are wrong” and “This sucks.”
Because of the amount of material and length of the Spring Quarter, our goal is not to complete the project in its entirety but to get it at least half done, which would include the beginnings of an index. If the Bassini Fellow does not have a current version of Word, I will endeavor to add her or him to my account, and I will also provide a copy of The New Sentence in advance of the semester.
Kitsi Watterson’s apprenticeship (Kelsey Padilla)
I’m looking for an apprentice to join me in the hands-on process of bringing a book into this crazy world and participating at all stages of its birth. Currently I am completing a memoir that illuminates my waking up to systemic racism in all its manifestations in the early 1970s. As a white newspaper reporter at The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin at the time, I witnessed and wrote about protests against the Vietnam War, the Black Panther Party’s demands for justice and police accountability, the Young Lords, the American Indian Movement, and the Women’s Liberation Movement, which called for equality and reproductive rights. I was so incensed by police brutality against Black and Brown people that I led a writing workshop at Holmesburg Prison and later investigated the state prison system for a series that gave voice to prisoners—men, women and children—locked inside. For my reporting, I was tailed, threatened, bullied and harassed by law enforcement.
Ideally, my apprentice will love doing research, fact-finding, fact-checking, and delving into archives as well as brainstorming with me about additional projects. Among them: a work of historical fiction set in the Isle of Man in the late 1800s, and a potential book inspired by my seminar “Finding Voice/Being Human: Personal Perspectives on Race, Class & Gender.” For the past three decades, Penn and Princeton students have found this coursework transformative and life-changing. I’d like for more students and teachers to connect across barriers designed to keep us apart.
I’ll also look to my apprentice for help with some nuts and bolts, such as letters regarding permissions, submissions, proofreading, and social media marketing. Above all, I would like to have an apprentice who enjoys 1) searching for gems in a high stack of research, 2) having fun, 3) being flexible in terms of the scope of the work, and 4) caring about matters of racial, social, and economic justice.
My last experience with a Bassini apprentice (read about it in The Pennsylvania Gazette) was extraordinary and contributed greatly to the successful completion and publication of my 2017 book, I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African Princeton, which Cornel West has said is one of the best books on race in the country.
Nova Ren Suma: The opportunity to work with an author’s apprentice through the Bassini was a true gift that came during the formative stages of a few creative projects. My stellar apprentice, Leah Baxter, worked with me primarily as a research assistant. We met over Zoom biweekly to dig in to paranormal topics and head down strange and speculative avenues, and her skills and creativity as a researcher deepened my own work and inspired new elements and plot revelations. Leah’s astute work this semester helped us travel from the haunted sites and histories of Philadelphia to Southern Italian witchcraft to spiritualism to supernatural rituals for (possibly) raising the dead, among other topics. In addition, she assisted with planning an online writing workshop to be launched later in 2021. And to cap off the semester, she produced an imaginative bestiary project that revealed her own research fascinations. Leah impressed me with her ability to shape her research and reports to the kind of stories and characters I have a personal interest in writing. One of her talents is to ask the right kind of questions that spark ideas and strengthen the story. She helped refine the rules of magic for a fantastical world—so very valuable to a speculative novelist—and showed an aptitude for the developmental editing of fiction concepts that could be pursued in the editorial publishing field. I can already sense that Leah’s fingerprints will be found on more than one novel of mine to come. My future books will offer grateful thanks to her discoveries, including my next YA novel forthcoming from my publisher Algonquin (details to be announced soon).
Ron Silliman: I had the opportunity to choose from some excellent candidates and was fortunate to find exactly the right person in Makena Deveraux. I had asked her to help me in editing a collection of essays written in the 37 years since my first collection, some four dozen pieces up to 40 pages in length each. We did not anticipate that we would complete this entire process, but we made much more progress than I had imagined possible.
Makena is a sharp-eyed close reader, not shy in querying me about details that may not have been clear, diligent in identifying in-house poetic jargon (and making me defend any inclusions thereof), someone who seems to thrive on hard work and capable of persuading me of her point-of-view in several importance instances. She convinced me that one essay that I had thought to discard as too difficult to make clear was, in fact, the key to an entire section of the book. And she was fearless, capable of telling me which other sections and passages were cringeworthy. One result of this fellowship was that I was able to get much further along in completing my overall editing of this manuscript than I had envisioned at the beginning of the term: she routinely turned in much more than I had imagined possible, and I was forced to double the amount of time I had budgeted for checking her work because she was getting so much accomplished. The final product will reflect this input and I will be pleased to acknowledge it accordingly. I pointed out to her that the UC San Diego student who had served pretty much the same function for my earlier book The New Sentence 35 years ago is now the senior VP for content at one of the major cable networks. My expectations for Ms. Deveraux, whom (because of Covid) I have never met in person, are at least this high.
Kitsi Watterson: This past semester my apprentice, Kelsey Padilla, and I were deeply impacted by the Pandemic. The day in late January that she back to campus from New Mexico, she contracted COVID-19.
Later on, after a strong comeback, Kelsey assisted me with fact-checking a memoir that illuminates my journey as a young newspaper reporter in the early 1970s waking up to systemic racism in its many manifestations. Kelsey did research for this book, and since The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin clips have not been digitized, we spent time delving into the archives of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin housed at Temple University. We found several confirmations of my stories that we couldn't have found without a hands-on search.
An exciting moment of the semester for Kelsey's quick-witted contributions came after she helped me complete the Errata for a new paperback edition of my book, I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton. As I'd read through the book again, I'd realized the most essential change required capitalization of the word “Black” as a noun and as an adjective, i.e., Black people, throughout the book. I had lost that argument in 2017 when the publishers weren't yet ready to adopt it. As I worked on an urgent letter stipulating this policy, I called Kelsey, who immediately looked up precedent-setting decisions. Within the hour, she sent quotes from the AP, The New York Times, Chicago Manual of Style, Washington Post, and Columbia Journalism Review confirming that using capital B in the word Black is now a common practice. This style communicates the history and identity that exists behind the word Black, and it reflects an acknowledgment of respect for the communities the word represents. Without hesitation, the Press agreed.
Kelsey and I also brainstormed the idea of her conducting interviews with former students of mine who have written about the deep impact my teachings on race, racism, poverty and white privilege, have had on them. Our hope is that a long-form article detailing what has worked for them as transformative and life-changing might bode well for today's current efforts to provide an intimate understanding of the complex legacies of slavery and white supremacy, and help more people connect across these and other barriers designed to keep us apart.
When initially I described a Bassini apprentice I would most enjoy working with, I said I'd like someone who enjoyed 1) searching for gems in a high stack of research, 2) having fun, 3) being flexible in terms of the scope of the work, and 4) caring about matters of racial, social, and economic justice. Kelsey fulfilled those wishes and more. I'm grateful to the Bassini Writing Apprenticeship Program and to Kelsey for our time together.
The three writing community members who took on apprentices during the spring of 2020 were:
Lorene Cary’s apprenticeship (Samira Mehta)
Beginning January 2020, Lorene Cary will transition the SafeKidsStories.com website to #VoteThatJawn, an initiative begun during the 2018 midterm election to encourage Philadelphia 18-year-olds to vote. As before, #VoteThatJawn will:
- Write, collect, and share quality, multimedia online content for youth with an eye toward using the campaign as an opportunity to help youth write better and read with greater nuance about citizenship and current issues
- Script and plan events to bring together youth across divides of race, class, and high school/college; the events “perform” voting engagement by connecting face-to-face with similarly committed youth, elected officials, and you, the City Commissioner on Elections, activists, and youth advocates, writers, and artists
- Create pitch-perfect communication on many platforms to develop education, organization, and media partners to support registration and voting, especially among first-time voters
- Raise public awareness of the sophistication and concern for the franchise of young voters
Between the 2014 and 2018 primaries, 130 percent more 18-year-olds in Philadelphia registered to vote. #VoteThatJawn supported that surge in civic participation among youth by connecting organizations and schools across Philadelphia with blogs, videos, and social media content. The #VoteThatJawn Bassini Apprentice will work with Lorene Cary and strategic partners to create a new steering committee to plan and execute a return Jawn initiative to bring even more fresh voters to the polls for the 2020 election; will envision, write, solicit, and edit content; and will amplify youth voice by growing the #VoteThatJawn community. We expect to deepen youth voter engagement here in Philadelphia. And because Penn reaches across the country, so does #VoteThatJawn.
Beth Kephart’s apprenticeship (Amber Auslander)
As chief typesetter and bookbinder, solicitor of submissions and editorial gatekeeper, package bundler and sometimes sales rep, Virginia Woolf, through the Hogarth Press she founded with her husband, published some of the most important writers of her time. She also (most importantly) published herself. I’m interested in examining the life of Virginia Woolf through the lens of the press—exploring questions relating to how the tools we writers use affect the stories we tell and how we tell them. My apprentice would help me delve deeply into the letterpress culture of Woolf’s era and our own, explore the preferred mechanics of other iconic writers, and get their fingers inky at Penn’s own letterpress shop as I work on a series of interconnected essays. An affinity for literary sleuthing, a talent for primary research (including in-person and phone interviews), an affection for Woolf, and a willingness to spend some time around old machines and ink would distinguish the perfect candidate. Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of more than two dozen books in multiple genres, the cofounder of Juncture Workshops (which includes a publishing arm), and a widely published essayist. More at bethkephartbooks.com.
Laynie Browne’s apprenticeship (Alec Druggan)
I am seeking an apprentice who will be working on creating readings, conversations, a podcast, and poetry walks in the Rail Park in Callow Hill, where I have curated a constellation of poetry as part of a public art project. In short, I am in the initial stages of imagining how to get word out and invite visitors to the site, and the apprentice will help see this project to fruition. The ideal candidate will be punctual and detail oriented, have excellent communication skills, and enjoy spending time in the Rail Park. Interest in poetry, public art, and performance is essential. As the poetry in the installation is in 13 languages, fluency in more than one language is a plus, though not required. Tasks will include researching tech options for podcasts, audio editing, correspondence, publicizing, archiving, and documenting events. More information about the Rail Park can be found here: https://www.therailpark.org/poetry-and-art-at-the-rail-park/
Beth Kephart: Following nearly a year of reading and studying Virginia Woolf on my own, I was given, through the Bassini, the chance to collaborate with an inquisitive, creative, hard-working research apprentice named Amber Auslander. I had vague notions of a book in mind. I had far more questions than answers. I wanted, above all, to imagine Woolf in the midst of her letterpress world (Hogarth Press), and I planned, with Amber, all the ways we might learn to set type and get our fingers inky and hold Woolf’s own work in our hands. The pandemic forced us to rearrange our plans, but it did not defeat us. Instead, I changed the nature of the Woolfian project, Amber conducted some brilliant phone and internet research, I wrote pages and shared them with Amber, Amber responded with her smart, critical eye, and the more we worked, the better we could see the emergence of new possibilities, new angles. The frustration of the pandemic circumstance was eased by the exhilaration of our unexpected discoveries. It was a joy, and I am grateful.
Laynie Browne: Initially, before the pandemic, I had planned a series of events, including a reading and a panel on translation to take place at KWH, and additionally, events at the Railpark in April. My apprentice, Alec Drugan, helped me conceive of the descriptions for the events, and with the correspondence involved. In our original plan, he was going to document these events, write about them, and also publicize events. He was going to record, photograph, and make video and audio recordings of events at the Railpark. After everything went online I wondered if it would be possible to shift the focus primarily to a podcast. I had considered a podcast, but it had not been the main focus for the project. I was uncertain about how this could work technically. Alec was instrumental in helping me to consider the various tech options. He rose to the challenge of editing six podcast episodes recorded using various different methods. As we listened and re-listened to the recordings I learned an enormous amount and was amazed at Alec’s talent for mixing and editing sound, and his patience in detangling and rearranging recordings, especially the first couple of episodes as I learned through trial and error. Listening and being in conversation with Alec and my podcast guests has has been a great balm during this time.
Lorene Cary: Samira has worked with me and two other students in our Catto Seminar to create and curate content for #VoteThatJawn. We were re-booting from scratch from the 2018 pilot. She helped create a schedule of events, and then after Spring Break, from Dallas, she worked hard to help us re-conceive everything.
Her most passionate special area has been the Climate Action Feature, which she's written and solicited for. She's also collected lots of multi-media content that she'll she sharing for her Earth Day takeover of our social media.
Besides, planning, writing, researching the most pressing issues of human survival, Samira also created online fun-and-games, including six delightful Animal Activist templates for release to pet stores, vets, etc., inviting pet owners to share photos of their animals that she "jawnifies" for posting.
She's been a leader and a team player; she written and re-written to make strong blogs. She's played with images to evoke emotions and with memes and GIFs to capture online imagination and idioms, such as Kombucha girl as we build a stockpile of content to release to sneak the idea of voting into regular social feeds.
Finally, Samira has been a brilliant colleague and generous friend to the VoteThatJawn team, student and professional.
The three writing community members who took on apprentices during the spring of 2019 were:
Weike Wang’s apprenticeship (Will Miller and Sabrina Qiao)
I am working on a second novel. This novel features a doctor protagonist and looks at the creative writing process. The apprentice will help me study doctor-writers (both past and present). The apprentice will investigate the history of the doctor-writer. What do they write about? Disease, certainly, but how? What does the contemporary doctor write? Case studies and notes, but is there a narrative there? In addition, the apprentice will help me find fictional characters who are doctors and summarize/analyze how these characters are portrayed in fiction—gender, race, sexuality, etc. Additional tasks may include research into Asian American literary canon and the creative writing process as a whole. The ideal apprentice is organized, punctual, and self-sufficient, and has an interest in both STEM and writing.
Sam Apple’s apprenticeship (Dillon Bergen)
I am working on a book that will be published by Norton in 2020. The book is partly a biography of Otto Warburg, an early twentieth-century German cancer researcher, and partly an exploration of the science that connects cancer and diet. (The book is an extended version of my article in The New York Times Magazine.) The apprentice will help me research both components of the book and will actively search for new historical documents that have yet to be unearthed. In some cases, this will involve a bit of detective work, such as searching for people who may have letters from Warburg. The position does not require a science background or knowledge of German, but German speakers are encouraged to apply.
Janice Lowe’s apprenticeship (Amy Juang)
I am developing a database, website, podcast and blog that will document the work of innovative multigenre writers who write for the stage as well as for nontraditional performance spaces which engage community. I will also document curators and presenters of hybrid arts. I would like to work with an apprentice who will assist with research. In addition to strong writing skills and an interest in hybrid arts or the performing arts, the apprentice should have some photography and website building experience. The apprentice is encouraged to attend performances in Philadelphia and to develop their own multigenre piece in response to creative work encountered.
Weike Wang: Bassini apprentices Sabrina Qiao (C’18) and Will Miller (C’19) were my intrepid interns for spring 2019. The format of our meetings was biweekly. During them, Sabrina and Will presented their new findings and also received feedback about their previous work. Over the course of the semester, Sabrina and Will produced over a hundred pages each of critical analysis that were then indispensable to my research on the intersections of medicine and narrative art. Throughout the spring, Sabrina and Will each ‘shadowed’ a doctor-writer figure. Sabrina shadowed Anton Chekov, Will, John Keats. In their research, they explored how aspects of the writer’s medical training weaved into his prose or poetry. The latter half of spring was dedicated to aiding me in remodeling my advanced novel class to transition into a novella class for fall 2019. The novella is a narrative structure that is frequently overlooked yet holds significant narrative payoff if done well. Sabrina and Will read through twelve novellas in total and we discussed the pedagogical merits of each, how undergraduates may respond to each and what can be learned on the craft level. We honed the reading list down to six for the fall class. The final list includes Tumble Home, We the Animals, The Old Man and the Sea, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Convenience Store Woman, and The Dead.
Sam Apple: As I neared the end of my book on the German chemist Otto Warburg, I had one lingering (and critical) need: a talented researcher who knew a lot more German than I did. Enter Dillon Bergin, My 2019 Bassini apprentice. Over the course of the spring semester, Dillon assisted with almost every aspect of my book. He dug through statistics on diabetes in Germany in the 19th century and translated important archival documents that can now, thanks to Dillon, reach English-speaking audiences for the first time. When handwritten German letters from the early 20th century proved undecipherable, Dillon tracked down an elderly German woman who was more familiar with the penmanship and prose style of the era. In another instance, Dillon even had to rely on his skill with a pocketknife to remove pages from a worn book so that they could be scanned and preserved. Along the way, I worked with Dillon to help him get started on a year-long journalism project that he’ll undertake in Germany next year while on a Fulbright scholarship. After a great semester, Dillon and I plan to stay in touch—and to help one another out with our writing projects—for years to come.
Janice Lowe: For the spring semester 2019, I supervised Bassini Writing Apprentice Amy Juang. Amy and I agreed to meet in person twice monthly and to check in by email or video chat during alternate weeks. Amy used Squarespace to construct a website dedicated to bringing awareness to artists of color and LGBTQ artists who work in hybrid forms and are truly interdisciplinary. I provided Amy with a list of 25 artists to research. We discussed the various artists and made decisions about whom to include on the site. The site incorporates information from a spreadsheet Amy created that listed names, biographies, media, websites, photographs of artists and links to an artist’s dedicated page. Profiled artists include: Nick Cave, Patrick Rosal, Harmony Holiday, avery r. young, Cecilia Vicuna, Mendi+Keith Obadike, Julie Patton, Krista Franklin, Susie Ibarra, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Tracie Morris, Douglas Kearney, Yolanda Wisher, Duriel Harris, Joey de Jesus, Ursula Rucker, Liza Jessie Peterson. Amy assisted me with designing plans for a podcast based on the website. After deciding to title the podcast Mash Plexities, I asked Amy to research trademarks, domain names and logo styles. In Wexler Studio, we composed and recorded a sound collage intro for the podcast. It was decided that the first episode would focus on artist teams. Studying interviews with composer Susie Ibarra, Amy composed interview questions that focused on collaboration. Also, we worked on a letter to potential podcast guests explaining the podcast’s focus and a schedule of interviews. Writer and sound artist Tracie Morris was the first guest interviewed for the podcast. There was a post-interview listening and editing session at Wexler studio with audio engineer Zach Carduner. Three times during the semester, Amy and I met to discuss her own multimedia work. Rather than creating a concrete or digital project, Amy created plan for an a project involving the oldest and least used structures on campus and recording and amplifying ambient sound during passerby walk-throughs.
Jamie-Lee Josselyn’s apprenticeship (Maya Arthur and Sabrina Qaio)
Jamie-Lee writes, "I am developing a literary podcast series called Dead Parents’ Society that will be recorded in the Wexler Studio of the Kelly Writers House in the Spring of 2018. The series will convene writers who have written about parental loss, particularly at a young age. Each episode will consist of a close reading/critical conversation of one piece about parental loss, moderated by me, among writers who have also written about the death of a parent, along with the author of the piece in question. The apprentice will assist me in curating content and coordinating the logistical details for each episode, and may be included in the episodes themselves. The apprentice will also help me compile research for a critical essay about the topic of writing about parental loss. While the apprentice certainly does not need to be a “member” of the Dead Parents Society (that is: a dead parent is not required to be considered), the ideal apprentice will have an interest in writing and reading about personal experience and hardship across genres, and in creative nonfiction especially. The apprentice should have an interest in program planning and while interest/experience in digital recording and editing is not essential, it is a plus. This project will also culminate in a live, public event at the Kelly Writers House in April 2018, in conjunction with the Beltran Family Award for Innovative Teaching and Mentoring, which the apprentice’s work will also support."
Carmen Maria Machado’s apprenticeship (Tracy Fontil)
Carmen writes, "I’m looking for an apprentice to assist me in research for my forthcoming memoir, House in Indiana (forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2019). I’m particularly looking for historical facts and fictional/nonfictional narratives about same-sex domestic violence. The apprentice will explore both published books and online and print archives, and write summaries of their findings; they will also be free to explore their own literary and critical responses to the material. The ideal apprentice should also be detail-oriented, research-savvy, thoughtful, flexible, curious, and creative; and they should be interested in queer and feminist history, experimental nonfiction forms, metaphor and genre tropes as a means of exploring experience, and researching historically suppressed material. In particular, the apprentice will help discover and uncover narratives about abuse in same-sex relationships: the dearth of those narratives reflects the erasure of queer lives from history, how gendered assumptions have made the identification of abuse far more difficult, and a reluctance to write about some of the most difficult aspects of our lives."
Yolanda Wisher’s apprenticeship (Aliya Chaudhry)
Yolanda writes, "I am seeking an apprentice to help me to coordinate, promote, and document several public poetry events that I am coordinating this spring, including the 2nd annual Outbound Poetry Festival in April 2018 and a new quarterly poetry and jazz series at the Rosenbach Museum and Library. I’m looking for someone who is highly organized, punctual, and responsive as well as naturally curious, self-motivated, and humble, who can get around the city and enjoys hands-on work. The apprentice needs to possess professional writing skills, social media savvy, and proficiency with email, Google Docs, spreadsheets, and budgeting. A background in poetry, spoken word, singing, songwriting, music and/or performance is a plus."
Julia Bloch’s apprenticeship (Kaitlin Moore)
Julia Bloch writes: "I am currently conducting research for a critical-creative project about the poetics of futurity: poems about reproduction, poems about utopias, and poems that are related to theories of queer temporality. I am looking for an apprentice who is interested in learning about the wide array of poetry that deals with futurity, from historical poetry to contemporary lyric and avant-garde poems, and who might be interested in topics such as ecofeminism, ecopoetics, biopolitics, documentary poetry, performance studies, queer and trans poetics, and different kinds of fertility (you do not need to be familiar with these topics to apply). The apprentice will conduct literary research, write up summaries of findings, explore online and print archives, and perhaps even interview poets. The apprentice will also explore their own poetic response to the material: perhaps you are interested in writing your own ecopoetic treatise, documentary poem, poetic manifesto, or some other creative piece sparked by what you come across in this work. Or perhaps you are interested in writing a critical response to the work. Or a response that is both critical and creative. The ideal apprentice will be detail-oriented, curious, creative, and someone who believes in blurring the lines between research and poetic practice."
Lise Funderburg’s apprenticeship (Christin Molisani)
Lise writes, "I’m looking for help with my latest book project: an anthology of essays from contemporary writers including Ann Patchett, Daniel Mendelsohn, Mat Johnson, Rumaan Alam, and Sallie Tisdale. Contributors will explore a trait they’ve inherited from a parent, often to their great surprise, and how it affects the lives they lead today. The trait can be learned or inherited; it can have profound implications or almost no discernible effect; what matters is that it matters to the writer and that is serves to refract something larger, perhaps about history and inevitability, connection and regret. The apprentice will assist me with three aspects of the project: researching the foreword that I’ll be writing for the book, a precis that looks at shifting cultural trends as well as the canon of nonfiction literature on family; reading contributor manuscripts and making editorial comments to be reviewed by and discussed with me; and solidifying and expanding the marketing platform by setting up audience-building strategies and in social media structures. Ideal candidates would be excellent researchers and communicators, as well as interested in building your editing skills. You are savvy about social media and WordPress. You are organized, you take initiative, and you appreciate the potential of creative nonfiction to elevate daily life into art."
Brooke O'Harra’s apprenticeship (Seung Chung and Claris Park)
Brooke writes, "I am looking for an apprentice to assist me in the writing of a book about directing for theater and performance. While many books on directing address the craft and technique of directing, this book will focus on the social, political and relational conditions that ground the practice. The book extends out of a series of performance events I created, and am creating, called I’m Bleeding All Over the Place: Studies in directing or nine encounters between me and you. These performances explore the relationship an audience has to the live event, to the performer, and to the hidden, but ever-present, director. I would like the apprentice to work with me to parse through and analyze the rhetorical styles of contemporary books on stage directing. The apprentice will be asked conduct followup interviews with performers and audience members who participated in the performances of I’m Bleeding All Over the Place. The student should be someone with an interest in theater, performance and/or the performance of politics. The student will need to become familiar with the theories of stage directing as well as the theoretical writings of Hannah Arendt. No previous experience in theater is required, but the student should have great work habits, should be capable of organizing emotional impulses and responses into concrete ideas, and should be very generous and open when working with people."
Herman Beavers’ apprenticeship (Hannah Judd)
Herman writes, "The World Beyond 124 Bluestone Road: For my apprenticeship, I require a student who is able and willing to do archival research on life in 19th-century Ohio, especially the area of the state in and around Cincinnati, Ohio, which provides the setting for Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I am working on a series of poems on two of the characters who literally disappear from the novel on the first page. Sethe’s two boys, Howard and Buglar, run away from the house on 124 Bluestone Road after it is clear that the house is occupied by what they believe to be their murdered baby sister, who is wreaking havoc in the lives of the family. My apprentice will be tasked with perusing newspapers for stories, advertisements, and editorials that have to do with the lives of black people in Southern Ohio starting in the 1870s and running up through the early 20th century. Of particular interest is the history of Wilberforce University, where many black ministers went to be trained. The apprentice will then write up reports on what they find, taking care to describe the ways journalists and public figures use language. What constitutes slang in 1870 Ohio? What are the concerns of its residents? How are blacks figured into the body politic? And what is the world that Howard and Buglar find after they leave home?"
Lorene Cary’s apprenticeship (Kaitlin Moore and Elizabeth Richardson)
Lorene writes, "I need an assistant to help with the first year of SafeKidsStories, including soliciting, writing, researching, and editing for the website SafeKidsStories.com, launched in October 2015; coordinating workshops and events where students, teachers, and parent groups write their own stories for publication; helping to organize Educators’ Council get-togethers; and working with the SafeKidsStories managing group to research a possible Massive Open Online Course. It’s mature work requiring strong writing and editing skills and also poise with people of diverse backgrounds, ages, skills. Plus social media chops and multimedia skills or interest. And initiative and resourcefulness. We’ll have fun, too. Really."
Rachel Zolf’s apprenticeship (Maya Arthur and Divya Ramesh)
Rachel writes, "I’m working on a project developing creative writing workshops (across all genres: poetry, fiction, memoir, drama) in community settings in Philadelphia. The apprentice will work with me to begin to develop a comprehensive set of sites and methods for the workshops. They will research what arts programs already exist in the city, where the need lies, and possible partners, funding sources and workshop sites. The apprentice will also research various methods of teaching creative writing and help me develop targeted curricula for each of the communities we will be engaging with. Examples of communities could include adult literacy learners, queer/trans youth, seniors, and women living in shelters. An ideal candidate would be an excellent researcher and communicator with a passion for civic engagement and how writing can make a difference in the world. You don’t have to be fluent in all creative writing genres, but it is important that you are nonjudgmental about people who may be different from you – and that you are open to challenging yourself to explore new parts of your community and yourself."
Dick Polman’s apprenticeship (Jacob Gardenswartz)
Dick writes, "For my Spring semester apprenticeship, applicants must have a strong interest in political journalism. The apprentice will learn how to stay on top of the fast-breaking political news, how to spot timely story ideas, how to recognize political trends, and how to most effectively research valuable material online. The apprentice will help me work on my daily political blog, National Interest (at newsworks.org/polman), and will have the opportunity to write guest commentary pieces on the class website that's featured in my spring-semester Political Commentary course. I will edit those guest pieces; the editing process will provide more learning opportunities."
Karen Rile’s apprenticeship (Annika Neklason)
Karen Writes, "I am looking for an editorial apprentice for Cleaver Magazine, an independent literary magazine that shares poetry, fiction, flash (prose that is 500 words or less), nonfiction, and visual art. Cleaver is a quarterly magazine, so your apprenticeship will focus on the March and June 2015 issues. Please take time to familiarize yourself with the magazine before applying.
As an apprentice you will have your hand in every facet of the editorial, production, and publicity work. Editorial duties include reading and voting on submissions; soliciting work from targeted poets and writers; working with writers on manuscript revisions; and copyediting/proofreading of work for the quarterly issue. Production duties will vary according to your software skills. Publicity duties include writing pieces for our Editors' Blog and helping out with social media. You will also write a book review (or more, if you like) of a new release from a small press. In addition, I have a couple of independent projects in mind that you might want to choose from.
The best candidate will be well-organized and dependable with excellent writing, editing skills, and communication skills and a strong interest in literary magazine publishing. If you're a skilled poet or fiction writer, that's a plus, but it's not necessary to be accomplished in all genres. I am more interested in your taste and your editorial skills than your poetry-writing skills. Experience in editing and publishing is an excellent qualification, but not is required. Likewise, experience with web design, particularly Wordpress platform, would be nice, but is not necessary."
Avery Rome’s apprenticeship (Leah Davidson)
Avery Writes, "In addition to my teaching, I am a freelance editor whose projects come from different areas, fiction and non-fiction. My work depends on a deft reading of the writer as well as his or her text. For the spring it looks as if I will be editing at least two books, one a biography of a powerful politician and the other a medical malpractice saga. Each of these will require not just the streamlining of narrative, but also building a strong collaboration with the author, deriving a strategy to bring forth the best in the manuscript, and backstopping on research, tone and presentation. I also regularly team up with a playwright in New York and help a local food cupboard with media outreach. Other assignments are likely to appear. A valuable apprentice would be nimble and curious, a self-starter who loves playing with language and has an interest in interacting with creative, sometimes anxious authors. He or she will participate in every aspect of what I do and come to know the back-stage process of how literary creations come together."
Kathy DeMarco’s apprenticeship (Jackie Duhl)
Kathy Writes, "I’m guessing that the closest comparison for working as an apprentice with me is a film executive “assistant” – minus the phone-throwing and dog-walking requests, of course. I say this because my interests are varied and reflected in my creative efforts – currently three screenplays in various stages of development, and a middle grade, quasi-fantastical book series loosely centered on climate change, the Jersey shore and pizza (just because I love it). There would be no “typical” day – some time I would ask for research about climate change; other times I may need help with my website, or a troublesome section of a new script, or plain old basic organization for a person stretched a little far. Collaboration is the beating heart behind all my work, which would translate to a lot of … I think the official term is “spitballing.” I travel to NY frequently to meet with my agent and my editor at Dial Books for Young Readers (a division of Penguin), and it would be terrific to have my apprentice along for the ride. (This would also hold true for any meetings with film executives during the spring.) I suspect that this apprenticeship would be useful to students interested in the entertainment and/or publishing realms, especially since during the spring semester I teach a course where professionals from both industries make the trek to Philadelphia for my class and my apprentice could have a front row seat to these events.
Must haves for this apprenticeship? A sense of humor and a love of reading fiction. Would-be-good-to-haves? Great time management skills (to impart to me) and a particular affinity for Pixar movies, especially Finding Nemo."
Gwyneth Shaw’s apprenticeship (Jesse Yackey)
Gwyneth writes, "Super-small versions of familiar ingredients are turning up in a broad array of consumer products, from silver as an anti-stink secret weapon to titanium dioxide as a way to make “natural” sunscreens clear. These “nanomaterials” are a booming industry, touted as a possible way to revolutionize some medical treatments or boost the flavor of a low-fat food. A growing body of scientific research -- some from the government’s own scientists -- shows troubling evidence that nanoparticles can penetrate skin, lodge in organs, and get into water, soil, and plant life. But U.S. government regulators are largely sitting on their hands.
For more than three years, I’ve been writing about these materials, their increasing prevalence, and the scrambling of researchers to keep up with what’s already on the market to make sure these products aren’t hurting people, animals, or the environment. Now, I’m turning my focus to a book examining what’s known, what’s not, and what the government is -- and isn’t -- doing about it.
I’m looking for an apprentice with an interest in investigative journalism and the chops to conduct research and interviews, as well as help me keep up with the fast-moving sphere where industry lobbyists and government policymakers interact. Expertise in science or government is not required, but a strong sense of curiosity is."
Peter Tarr’s apprenticeship (Alex Brown)
Peter writes, "I would like an apprentice to help me bring a multi-year writing project across the finish line. In 2009, I benefited from the editorial insights of an outstanding Penn undergrad, Aaron Walker, who discovered ways to streamline an ungainly historical narrative line. Now I need help with research, as I’ll explain after telling you that the story concerns the cultural odyssey of 14 young Americans lured to the far side of the planet in the first years of the twentieth century. Their improbable mission: to change the language of a foreign people. Those people, to use the revealing language of the American government of the time, were the “occupants” of the Philippine Islands. The U.S. recently had “acquired” the islands and their people from moribund Spain, which had ruled for over 300 years. The Filipinos then fought their new colonizers, the Americans – who dispatched, in addition to soldiers, several thousand school teachers, to “civilize” them. That meant teaching the youngest generation of Filipinos to speak English. The army viewed this educational effort as a branch of counterinsurgency. I would like an apprentice to help me: 1) close the narrative loop on 7 of my young American subjects who are at the focus of this historical narrative. I have taken their stories up through about 1913. I need to know what happened to several of them in later years. This will require excellent research skills and persistence; 2) open the narrative to a possible chapter-length extension, which will involve comparing the Philippines experience of American teachers with experiences of 1960s – 1980s Peace Corps volunteers who taught English in various countries (including the Philippines!). The apprentice would help me determine the availability of letters home from specific Peace Corps volunteers, and could help me retrieve them; 3) thicken the narrative richness of the existing text by helping me to discover whether an archival treasure trove in Carlisle, PA contains any letters from U.S. soldiers who served briefly in the Philippines and Cuba, ca. 1898, as English language teachers. The apprentice will meet with me WEDNESDAYS at KWH between ~12:30 and 1:45 pm."
Anthony DeCurtis’ apprenticeship (Jess Bergman)
Anthony writes, "I am a working journalist based in New York, who is blessed and cursed with juggling a variety of projects and assignments, often on short notice and mostly to do with popular music. Here the harrowing truths of such work will be revealed -- the corners cleverly cut; the disasters deftly avoided; the mounting deadlines nudged imperceptibly into the realm of the possible. The apprentice's task will be to heroically assist in those processes while revealing nothing about how closely the abyss loomed at all times. For students who have worked at the Daily Pennsylvanian or 34th Street this will, of course, be familiar terrain, though such experience is not at all required. The work itself will typically involve research, and possibly some transcription and fact-checking. Excellent research skills, reliability, and a passion for accuracy are therefore essential virtues. Top-notch computer abilities would be a plus as well. Because I live in New York and likely won't be around campus much in the spring, the ability to travel to New York from time to time would be valuable, though, again, it's not a deal breaker. I will routinely be available by phone, email, Skype, whatever, and, needless to say, conversations about the ever-changing journalistic world would be a central part of this experience. This apprenticeship would probably be most useful to students who are considering journalism as a career, or who foresee writing in popular settings along with whatever else they might be doing later. The apprentice will be welcome to participate in my work as deeply as time, distance, and common sense will allow."
Beth Kephart’s apprenticeship (Alice Ma)
Beth writes, "Not long ago I read about an ultimately debilitating disease that is rare, extraordinarily heartbreaking, and, in its earliest manifestations, eerily beautiful. For a new young adult novel to be written for Philomel, a division of Penguin, I will be researching this condition and easing it toward a story based in a European city (the particulars of which will also require ingenious research). I’m looking for a partner in this—a student who loves to unravel mysteries, who isn’t afraid of science or foreign places, and who would like to see, first-hand, how what is known is transformed into something imagined. Some of the leading authorities on this condition are based in Philadelphia. Research will therefore include time spent in the library with dust-encrusted books, Google explorations, medical searches, and in-person interviews. The book now being planned will be my eighteenth, and my third for Philomel."
Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s apprenticeship (Arielle Pardes)
Sabrina writes, "I’m a Contributing Editor for Rolling Stone, where I write long-form narrative feature articles with an investigative bent. The topics run the gamut, but always tend towards the dramatic, with complex characters or issues at their cores. Recent examples include articles about the FBI’s entrapment of five Occupy activists; a femme fatale con artist/marijuana smuggler; and a Midwestern gay teen suicide cluster, which revealed the local school district’s intolerance. Many of my articles have won writing awards or been anthologized in books, and several are in development as Hollywood films. One trait my articles share is that they’re drenched in facts. As such, this apprenticeship will be a research-oriented one. I’m looking for someone with good research skills (or willing/able to learn them), including the art of tracking down all manner of documents; sifting through paperwork in search of the salient facts; locating people for interviews; and telephoning strangers. My apprentice should be curious, enterprising, a stickler for accuracy and someone who believes—as I do—that the answers are out there, waiting to be found. Regular visits to my Center City home office will be required. Altogether, you’ll have a behind-the-scenes look at the absorbing, sometimes maddening, always surprising process of creating a feature article for a national magazine."
Taije Silverman’s apprenticeship (Salomon Moreno-Rosa)
Taije writes, "This apprenticeship is an opportunity to co-teach a writing workshop at Project H.O.M.E., a homelessness outreach program that helps house, educate, and employ thousands of homeless people in Philadelphia every year. Once a week we will meet at the Honickman Learning Center in Northeast Philadelphia to run a creative writing workshop for those who live either independently or in a group residence for formerly homeless adults. Classes will be split between discussions of published work (by figures like Rita Dove, Naomi Shihab Nye, Richard Wilbur, and countless others) and in-class writing assignments inspired by students’ personal experience. We’ll experiment with forms (haiku, litany, dramatic monologue) and voice. The class will culminate in a final public reading from work produced during the semester.
The apprentice would help develop the curriculum, choosing reading material and creating writing assignments according to the interests and skills of the students. We’ll meet outside of class each week to discuss its progress and to plan future lessons. I’ll also ask that you keep a notebook every week, writing either creative or analytic reflections on the lessons and on your sense of the course. This apprenticeship will offer unique and practical experience in both education and social services; ultimately you will be given the tools to teach such a course independently, and you’ll come away with a strong understanding of the role that arts can play in community."
Jay Kirk’s apprenticeship (Zoe Kirsch)
Jay writes,"I think I can say with certainty that I am now embarked on the strangest writing project so far in my career: a project that took me, in 2011 alone, from Transylvania to the Arctic Circle—and then back again to the music department archives at the University of Pennsylvania.
The bulk of my apprentice’s time will be engaged in helping to prepare this narrative nonfiction book project, titled Bartok’s Monster. It involves the theft of a manuscript, a lot of detective work, some vampire stories, at least one gypsy funeral, and concerns itself, intellectually, with themes of originality, preservation, derivation, variation, and the anxiety of influence in art. A section of this narrative will be published, in the spring, by Harper’s Magazine. So, in addition to helping with the larger and more rigorous work of book research, the apprentice will also get a chance to become familiar with the workings of a national magazine. Tasks will likely include tape transcription, fact-checking, proofreading, the hunting down of obscure articles, and possibly the conducting of an interview or two. Since my first book, Kingdom Under Glass, named one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2010 by the Washington Post, will also be newly out in paperback, the apprentice will also get to witness the final stages of publication and publicity. I won’t yet go into the reasons I traveled to the Arctic, save to say, in the words of Victor Frankenstein’s monster, that “the desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge.”
Sam Apple’s apprenticeship (Leslie Krivo-Kaufman)
Shelf Life Press, a division of the The Faster Times, is creating new media editions of literary classics for e-book readers and tablets. Our editions will include images, original videos, and text links for readers interested in learning more about the work in question and the historical period from which it emerged. Together with a team of editors and academics, the apprentice will assist in every aspect of book production, from background research to video production.
Shelf Life Press and The Faster Times were both founded by Sam Apple, a creative writing instructor at Penn. Apple, the author of Schlepping Through the Alps and American Parent, will directly oversee all apprentice projects.
Rick Nichols’ apprenticeship (Victoria Fienga)
Rick writes, "The chocolate in those elegant gift boxes and, more universally, the candy rack at Wawa had to start out somewhere. If you see the words "local chocolate," don't believe it: The bean it comes from only grows in a slender band around the equator, a little south of it and a little north. It is called cacao. And for most of human history, it has played roles both sacred and profane, offering refuge to songbirds, and unleashing destruction on vast forests; providing a living for Costa Rican small-holders, wielding the whip on enslaved boys in Africa; candy, one minute; cage, the next.
More than a decade ago, I flew over the Andes in Peru to see if cacao-growing -- as advertised by U. S. officials -- might wean farmers in the high jungle from their embrace of coca, the raw material for crack and cocaine. And I traipsed through a "germplasm" plantation in Trinidad, to see the work of a long-dead British botanist credited with rescuing chocolate when it appeared headed -- in certain tropical precincts -- for near-extinction. It is that man's story -- and how it plays into the larger story of chocolate's own conflicted biography -- that I've long itched to tell. Tales of treks in the Amazon and Papua New Guinea, and that precious Fort Knox of cacao that endures to this day on an overlooked island off the coast of Venezuela.
Most Penn apprenticeships have attached to works in progress: Not this one. There is a question that first needs answering: Has the botanist in question left enough of a paper trail (letters, scientific papers, diaries) to allow us to bring him back to life? Where might there be contemporaneous accounts (newspapers, archives, colleague's reflections) to give his context richness? Is chocolate even today a bellwether; fresh climate studies suggest that by 2050 entire regions of Ghana and the Ivory Coast -- the countries where 60 percent of the world's chocolate is grown -- may be rendered too hot and rain-challenged to sustain the cacao crop?
I'm looking for a junior partner in this quest. An apprentice should be agile with research tools, and not just on-line. Are there old journals there? Critical maps? Artifacts? Hand-written field notes? Original manuscripts? Agricultural documents? In the stacks? In repositories, here or abroad? An apprentice should be savvy, persistent and creative in sniffing out original material: Got an idea for where the treasure is buried, I'm all ears. In the end, ideally, the work should yield a compelling book proposal. So, it is not a work in progress so much as a work about to commence. You've got to start somewhere."
Paul Hendrickson’s apprenticeship (Jessica Yu)
Paul writes: "I envision a writing apprentice helping greatly with the numerous galley-reading and fact-checking and other chores involved in the process of "making a book." The book to be made-- which is to say produced, published--is entitled Hemingway's Boat. I have been working on it for something like seven years, writing it for five. There was a time when I thought I'd never complete it. It is now done, or all but done. Knopf, my long-time publisher, known for its extremely high and Mercedes-Benz-like design and production values, plans to bring out this 160,000-word nonfiction work early next fall--so roughly a year from now. The apprentice will have a unique bird's-eye perspective of watching a process unfold at ground-level. Some of the chores to be done as the book makes its way to press will be quite tedious; others will be pretty exciting, that is, if you love books, and everything connected with books. For a Penn student out there dreaming someday of his or her OWN book-length work of fiction or nonfiction coming to such fruition, this might be an unparalleled opportunity. In essence, you'll get to see how some of it happens while you're still very young. In essence, you'll be able to get glimpses of the baby being born. I am honored to say that two previous KWH writing apprentices--Jessica Lussenhop in 2005 and Allison Stadd in 2008--hugely helped on the project, in both spirit and substance. So this third apprentice in the long making of Hemingway's Boat will be standing on some large shoulders. Should it be any other way?"
Stephen Fried’s apprenticeship (Katie Sanders)
Stephen writes: "I am the author of five nonfiction books, a writer for a variety of national magazines and an adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (where I teach longform narrative nonfiction reporting and writing). So I am looking for a student who is interested in the truly multidisciplinary worlds of reporting, writing and publishing in media that are rapidly changing, focusing on balancing time-honored skills with those newly invented and appreciated. (I also do most of my own promotion.)
The apprenticeship will involve working on proposals for my next two books, one historical narrative set on the east coast, another a more contemporary crime narrative; the paperback publication of my latest book, Appetite for America; an exciting new publishing company venture; and magazine work for several national titles, including investigative and narrative work in health care, science, sports, popular culture, etc. You’ll also get intimately involved in the process of trolling for new ideas.
I’m also very interested in having my apprentice help me upgrade and diversify my various online presences and my new media strategies. So a major part of the apprenticeship will be exploring the expanding role of social media, blogs and old-fashioned websites in both new journalistic projects and older ones that still make an impact. So, I’m looking for someone with good computer and social networking skills, who wants to learn what they don’t already know."
Kenny Goldsmith’s apprenticeship (Thomson Guster)
Kenny writes: "For the past five years, I have been working on rewriting of Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project, whose tentative title is Capital. Benjamin's book is a 900-page epic work of note-taking on everything that was written about Paris in the nineteenth century; mine uses Benjamin's identical methodology, applying it to New York in the twentieth century."
For this internship, you will be required to intimately acquaint yourself with The Arcades Project, its scope, its methodology, its histories and the critical apparatus surrounding the English publication of the book just a few years ago; you will also be expected to acquaint yourself with Benjamin's other key works. Once you have fully oriented yourself to Benjamin, you will assist me in my research, collection, transcription and editing of materials from a variety of sources including the library, old newspaper articles and the internet.
Kitsi Watterson’s apprenticeship (Katie Sanders)
Kathryn Watterson loves stories-she loves to read them, write them, tell them, and elicit them from you. As her apprentice, you will be working with a writer who has won the Christopher Award, had three books listed as New York Times Most Notable Books, and is a celebrated newspaper reporter, editor, free-lance writer, essayist, short-story writer, novelist, and author of creative nonfiction books. Currently, she is completing a novel set in the 1950s; putting finishing touches on The North's Most Southern Town: An Oral History of African American Princeton, 1900-2000; and writing/revising short stories and essays. She writes lyrics, sings and drums with PLP TheUnity, a performance arts ensemble. Her apprentice will research events that occurred in the 1970s for a novel-in-progress that explores the human condition, racism, interracial relationships, and the prison system.
This project and others may include some interviews and transcriptions. She also wishes for help with the nuts and bolts of the writing business, including letters regarding permissions and submissions; proofreading; editing; fact-finding, and fact checking (sometimes on the spur of the moment for a political commentary). The ideal apprentice will enjoy having fun and searching for gems in the assigned research, be well organized, thorough, flexible in terms of the scope of the work, and interested in matters of social justice.
Michael Hennessey’s apprenticeship (Jeffrey Boruszak)
PennSound's first apprentice will work closely with Managing Editor Michael S. Hennessey, building a strong foundation in the technical skills necessary to keep the site running (site-specific methodologies, audio editing, file transfer protocols, webpage building), before assuming more administrative duties, such as workflow management, fact-checking and research, correspondence with poets and archivists, site promotion through Twitter and Facebook, and writing copy for the site. Final goals will include independent oversight of several small projects and writing several short features for the PennSound Daily column. For the ideal candidate, this apprenticeship will be an excellent opportunity to develop useful communications skills while indulging a fervent interest in contemporary poetry and poetics.
Elizabeth Van Doren’s apprenticeship (Heather Schwedel)
Elizabeth Van Doren is Editor-in-Chief of a small, illustrated book publisher in New York. She juggles a full-time job as well as teaching creative writing at Penn. She needs the help of an apprentice in working on several huge book projects that are overwhelming in their schedule, exciting in their scope, and require various skills from research to editing the manuscript, writing captions, seeking permissions, photo research, creating an art log, proofing pages, etc. The apprentice will have the opportunity to become part of a publishing team, learn how books are acquired, edited, illustrated and made, and to contribute to the making of one or several books to be published in 2009 by performing a variety of tasks research to organizing material to writing. For anyone who thinks they might be interested in pursuing a career in publishing, this is a rare opportunity to work with an experienced editor in a fast-paced professional environment. Since the company is in New York, it would be ideal if the apprentice could come to New York occasionally to work in the office.
Dick Polman’s apprenticeship (Emily Schultheis)
Dick Polman, national political correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer, describes the apprenticeship he is hosting as follows: "I have a demanding journalistic routine, writing a political blog - called 'The American Debate' - that is read by as many as 35,000 people a day, and I write other political commentary as well. All these duties require a lot of research, and a constant updating of fresh ideas. The work requires great discipline, but the rhythms are also very unpredictable, because of the need to react quickly to the news. I'm not sure what the writing mix will be like during the spring semester, but there will always be much to do. I'd require a good-humored, political-junkie apprentice who works fast and efficiently, who has a talent for news research, and who can contribute fresh story ideas. The work circumstances would vary - sometimes we would be communicating via email, sometimes face to face in my Penn office, sometimes informally in Penn coffee shops. In short, a semester-long dialogue. Any help in making my writing better would be greatly appreciated. And the helper will undoubtedly gain much practical journalistic experience."
Peter Tarr’s apprenticeship (Aaron Walker)
Peter Tarr is completing a book project (A Certain Blindness) that focuses on the U.S. government's first official effort to change the culture of foreign peoples beyond American shores. He refers to the astonishing attempt by U.S. officials and several thousand ordinary American public school teachers to establish English-language public school systems in the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba. These places came under direct U.S. rule following the "Spanish-American War" of 1898. Logistically improbable and culturally aggressive, the educational project of the American conquerors was explicitly designed to de-hispanize (i.e., Anglicize) peoples long ruled by Spanish monarchs and influenced culturally by the Roman Catholic Church. Peter's strategy has been to tell the story for the first time from the perspective of the American teachers -- many of whom were young people just out of college, and some of whom wrote hundreds of letters home. He welcomes the assistance of an apprentice interested in helping him make substantial edits in a historical narrative he has constructed after a six-year period of archival research. Useful contributions will depend on the apprentice's interest in narrative strategy and skills as a close reader and editor. In addition to helping Peter streamline the story-line -- which follows seven young men and women who taught in the Philippines between 1901 and 1910 -- the apprentice also has the opportunity to make a significant contribution to a portion of the final narrative yet to be written: a section comparing the American educational and cultural enterprise of 1900 with that of the Peace Corps, founded in 1961 by John F. Kennedy. The apprentice has an opportunity to collect primary data -- letters from the "field" written by Peace Corps volunteers -- at archives in Washington D.C. An additional opportunity at primary-source gathering and assessment, as well as narrative reconstruction, exists if the apprentice is able to travel to Carlisle, PA. There, letters may (or may not) reside, containing descriptions by American soldiers in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines of their experiences dispensing English-language instruction to "natives," an activity conceptualized by American generals ca. 1900 as a form of counterinsurgency.
Robert Strauss’ apprenticeship (Sherene Joseph)
"My journalistic life is a hectic one, and mostly solitary, but it is a varied one. I write a Friday entertainment piece each week out of Atlantic City for the Philadelphia Daily News and will be starting a weekly outdoors column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I write almost weekly for the New York Times either in Metro, New Jersey, sports, travel and special sections like automobiles and retirement. I do entertainment stories for the Los Angeles Times and national stories out of Philadelphia for the Washington Post. I do business analyses for the Wharton School, write about tech for PC Magazine, and do features for a trade publication called Today's Machining World. It's a bit of this and a bit of that. One big project I will need help with is a book I have a contract for with Rutgers University Press, an oral history of the suburbs of the 1950s-1960s. It uses as its main subject Cherry Hill, New Jersey, from which I have several dozen taped interviews I will need transcribed. I would also like the apprentice to do some more interviews, which should be fun and educational as well. I work out of my house in Haddonfield and am two blocks from the train to Philadelphia so a car, while helpful, isn't a necessity. An willingness to learn a little of everything and a good sense of humor - I use a lot of bad puns - is."
Robert Strauss' apprentice will be Sherene Joseph. Sherene is a junior majoring in English and Psychology with minors in South Asia Studies, Gender Studies and Sociology. At Penn, she has been involved with several cultural and minority organizations, including the South Asia Society (SAS), the Asian Pacific Student Coalition (APSC) and the United Minorities Council (UMC). She loved her "non-creative fiction writing" workshop with Robert Strauss and is looking forward to working with him.
Mark Rosenthal’s apprenticeship (Hillary Levine)
"I'm looking for an apprentice who can help me survive the bipolar disorder of writing screenplays for Hollywood studios. The motto: 'More Art Faster.' At any one time I might be researching a new project, while finishing a first draft, while doing a re-write on an old project -- and they might all be due 'yesterday'. Disaster always looms and the zombies are eternally at the door. I need someone who not only has sharp research skills but also the imagination to understand how to extract 'facts' that are relevant to each film. This might involve gleaning dramatic moments from historic incident, constructing sequences, or fine-tuning dialog. The intern will learn how the architecture of a script differs from novels and plays. He/ She will soon grow comfortable with the myriad day to day tasks of a working screenwriter, such as: throwing around concepts to discard dead end ideas, uncovering punch lines, finding analogous moments in earlier films, uncovering hip slang for characters, finding out the latest army weaponry, or discretely 'borrowing' from other screenplays. Since I am on campus only once a week in the spring, the ability to get up to Bucks County (either by train or car) would be a plus -- though not a deal breaker. High energy is good. Cockiness better. Most of all, the applicant should beware that Hollywood dreams are infectious and can inspire risky behavior that might preclude Penn Law or Med School to disastrous effect."
Mark Rosenthal's apprentice will be Hillary Levine, a junior majoring in Cinema Studies. She has taken several writing courses including Advanced Nonfiction Writing, Creative Nonfiction Writing and "Writing the Personal Essay/Writing Fiction." She hopes the apprenticeship will help her decide if screenwriting is a career for her.
Paul Hendrickson’s apprenticeship (Allison Stadd)
"Since late 2003 I've been engaged in a nonfiction book, under contract to Alfred A. Knopf publishers, about Ernest Hemingway. The book is tentatively titled "Hemingway's Boat." It is trying to be less a conventional work of biography than a narrative concept, a storytelling idea, that's a little tricky to explain. Basically, the project is trying to think about Hemingway through the prism and lens of something that was deeply beloved--and that still exists, on a hillside in Cuba--and that belonged to him for the last twenty-seven years of his complex life. This marks the second time I'll be pleased to work with a CPCW writing apprentice on the project: in 2004, Jessica Lussenhop, now enrolled at Columbia University graduate school of journalism, helped greatly with early stages of the research. The writing is in full swing; I'm approximately half-way through, at least in terms of a first-draft manuscript. I'm now looking for a literary-minded, self-starting creative-writing student who'll be able to work closely with me on several knotty research problems that are up ahead. It should be a good learning experience for both of us."
Paul Hendrickson's apprentice will be Allison Stadd, a Junior at Penn from Bethesda, Maryland. She has a keen interest in Hendrickson's current book-length project on Hemingway. She has alread taken his writing workshop on writing from photographs. Allison plans to pursue a career in writing.
Kathleen DeMarco’s apprenticeship (Malek Lewis)
Fiction writer Kathleen DeMarco is under contract with Harcourt to write her first childrenís novel, Drizzle, targeted towards readers between eight and twelve years-old, (although, in a perfect world, it would be accessible to readers of all ages). Drizzle tells the story of an eleven year-old girlís discovery that she has inherited a genetic ability to make it rain...or drizzle, as the case may be. [She is also, not-coincidentally, determining whether she should follow the path of her aunt, who represents all things sophisticated and creative, or her mother, who is much less dazzling, and much more interested in showing respect to people and cleaning the house.] Although this book does not need to be scientifically precise, it must be familiar with, among other things, genetics and meterology. Her apprentice should be familiar with - if not passionate about - childrenís literature, and willing to research weather patterns and the science of genetics. All aspects of writing a novel under contract will be observed, including editing the novel-in-progress with Ms. DeMarco, open-ended conversations about the narrative, discussion of the publisherís notes of the first draft, and working under a deadline. An ancillary responsibility will be the creation of a website for this novel with Ms. DeMarco, and all that such a site would entail (including teaching Ms. DeMarco how to maintain the site).
Herman Beavers’ apprenticeship (Jason Saunders)
Herman Beavers will be working to develop a book project he is currently co-editing with poet, Honoree Jeffers from the University of Oklahoma entitled, Changing Chords: Performing African American Poetics in the 21st Century, which will consist of essays by both established and emerging African American poets dealing with the state of black poetry in the African Diaspora. He is also working with poet Elizabeth Alexander to plan a major conference on African American poetry and poetics to be held in Philadelphia (with a number of events hopefully taking place at Penn) in 2007-08. The apprentice will assist Professors Beavers and Jeffers to compile a bibliography of essays written in the last decade dealing with American poetry and poetics, as well as to help with the logistics for planning the conference, which may include developing a website for the conference, corresponding with potential participants, and working to develop sites off-campus for readings and receptions. The apprentice will be privy to as many discussions on both projects as possible in the hope that s/he will provide substantial input. Because these projects involve long-range planning, a sophomore or a junior is preferred so that they might be able to see both projects along, either into the late stages or to completion.
Anthony DeCurtis’ apprenticeship (Matt Rosenbaum)
"I am a working journalist based in New York," writes Anthony DeCurtis of this apprenticeship, "who is blessed and cursed with juggling a variety of projects and assignments, often on short notice and mostly to do with popular music. Here the harrowing truths of such work will be revealed - the corners cleverly cut; the disasters deftly avoided, the mounting deadlines nudged imperceptibly into the realm of the possible. The apprentice's task will be to heroically assist in those processes while revealing nothing about how closely the abyss loomed at all times. For students who have worked at the Daily Pennsylvanian or 34th Street, this will, of course, be familiar terrain, though such experience is not at all required. The work itself will typically involve research, and possibly some transcription and fact-checking. Excellent research skills, reliability and a passion for accuracy are therefore essential virtues. Top-notch computer abilities would be a plus as well. Because I live in New York and likely won't be around campus much in the spring, the ability to travel to New York from time to time would be important. I will routinely be available by phone and email, however, and, needless to say, conversations about the ever-changing journalistic world would be a central part of this experience. This apprenticeship would probably be most valuable to students who are considering journalism as a career, or who foresee writing in popular settings along with whatever else they might be doing later. The apprentice will be welcome to participate in my work as deeply as time, distance and common sense will allow. After this, I promise, nothing will surprise you."
The three writing faculty members who agreed to take on an apprentice during the spring of 2006 were:
Kenneth Goldsmith’s apprenticeship (Matt Abess)
Kenneth Goldsmith is under contract to co-edit an anthology of Conceptual Writing, the most recent cutting-edge development in experimental writing circles. The book will be an overview of Conceptual Writing, from its inception during early modernism to the present day. It will be an extension of The UbuWeb Anthology of Conceptual Writing (http://ubu.com/concept) and the apprentice's work will be engaged on the screen as well as on the page. The apprentice's tasks will include editing, correspondence with historic figures, textual and audio conversions, garnering permissions, and extensive research into the past, present and future conditions that have made this one of the most important trends in writing today.
Beth Kephart’s apprenticeship (Moira Moody)
Award-winning literary nonfiction author Beth Kephart is currently focused on a book-length narrative that draws its inspiration from the natural and social history of Philadelphia. Her apprentice will gain exposure to the annals of Philadelphia history, participate in the cataloging of key events, and engage, with Kephart, in conversations about the always-alchemical process of transforming historic fact into poetic possibility. Her apprentice will also gain exposure to Kephart's award-winning communications firm, a writing and design company serving some of the area's largest organizations in the creation of commemorative books, annual reports, and special publications. Read about the outcome of this apprenticeship in Beth's blog!
Lorene Cary’s apprenticeship (Partrick Morales-Doyle)
Lorene Cary's apprentice will work with her on the product side of writing, first, by working on publicity details of the January publication of Free!: Great Escapes from Slavery on the Underground Railroad, a nonfiction middle-school book likely to be used in Philadelphia schools. Because the book is being published jointly by two independent presses, Ms. Cary has more to do than usual with marketing, and will need an apprentice who is fast, smart and literary to work with her on appearances, web site linking and updating, complimentary distribution, postcard announcements, databases and the like. The apprentice will work with Ms. Cary on the final editing, proofing and checking research for Blackface, an adult novel that she has just finished writing. Blackface takes place between 1936 and 1954. It tells the story of three generations of the Needham family whose patriarch is lynched in South Carolina. This post-creation work will give an apprentice a look at the writer's writing life in process. Although definitely not the fun part, publicity, editing, research and proofing are all necessary to do well to protect a writer's work and career.
Paul Hendrickson’s apprenticeship (Jessica Lussenhop)
Paul Hendrickson has been working for about a year on what will be his next nonfiction book project, tentatively titled "Hemingway's Boat," and under contract to Alfred A. Knopf. Like his previous nonfiction books, it is a conceptual project, using Ernest Hemingway's life and work to consider some thorny cultural and literary and political issues as America struggles into the twenty-first century. The work is still in the research stage; much has been done; much remains to do before the writing can begin--starting, Hendrickson hopes, in the spring of 05. A student apprentice would help the author with some specific research areas, including plans for travel to Cuba. An apprentice would also lend his/her insight to the narrative structure now jaggedly in place--and yet always in need of new youthful eyes and ideas.
J. C. Hallman’s apprenticeship (Julie Fishman)
J.C. Hallman is nearing the end of "The God Variations," a book to be published by Random House. "The God Variations" is a survey of new religious movements in the United States, told in the spirit of William James's book Varieties of Religious Experience, but in the narrative journalism style of Bruce Chatwin or Barbara Ehrenreich. The book explores movements such as Wicca, the Monks of New Skete, Atheism, the Christian Wrestling Federation, and a pair of UFO cults. An apprentice will read the manuscript to help shape some of its core thematic threads and arguments, as well as assist in some of the detail work that arises in a manuscript close to completion.
Thomas Devaney’s apprenticeship (Ilena Parker)
Tom Devaney is editing The Use of the Useless: Selected Prose, to be published by Fish Drum Press. The book is a collection of Devaney's work, a survey of the landscape of contemporary poetry. It will contain his essays, talks, reviews, and interviews, originally published in a variety of publications including The Boston Review, The Poetry Project Newsletter, and Poets & Writers Magazine. The Use of the Useless charts both established and newly-discovered American writers: Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Fanny Howe, Lyn Hejinian, Robert Creeley, Peter Gizzi, Eileen Myles, Sparrow, and others. It is a collection governed by a passion for and a curiosity about writers and writing, and it enters into the long-standing conversation and bond among critical writing, poetry, and art. An apprentice will be involved in all aspects of the creation of this book, helping compile, edit and make decisions about individual sections and chapters of the manuscript and provide editorial feed-back on the selections themselves. Tom Devaney hopes to find an undergraduate apprentice who is excited and deeply curious about writers and the process of writing.
Max Apple’s apprenticeship (Ariel Djanikian)
Max Apple will work with an apprentice on the art of fiction writing. His stories and essays are widely anthologized and have appeared in Atlantic, Harpers, Esquire, and many literary magazines and in Best American Stories and Best Spiritual Writing. The chosen apprentice will work closely with him on his or her own fiction project and will receive advice about placing the work in magazines and journals.
Gregory Djanikian’s apprenticeship (Emily Hsu)
The poet Gregory Djanikian is currently writing a book of poems about genocide--an emotionally complex, deeply personal kind of writing (as well as historical). His apprentice will work closely with him on this project and, in a sense, will be a focused study on, as he puts it, "how does one write about what is unspeakable without diminishing its enormity"? At the bottom of this page you will a full description of this project.
Greg Djanikian adds: "My project for the last two years has been writing poems about the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the diaspora that ensued, sending Armenians emigrating to all parts of the world. That genocide, during which a million to a million-and-a-half Armenians died, is regarded as the first genocide of the 20th Century, and in some ways, it paved the way for succeeding genocides and ethnic cleansings. Writing about such a cataclysm is difficult for many reasons. It raises, for instance, questions of aesthetics--how does one write about what is unspeakable without diminishing its enormity? It brings into play feelings that one has to resolve, suppress or manage without repeating the savagery of the event itself. It forces us to ask for whom the poems are being written, for the victims of the genocide, intending to pay them honor and sacralize their lives, or for the poet or readers who, for peace of mind, may want to contain the unholy brutality of such events in something as shapely and fastidious as a work of art. Finally, it tries to discover how, by focusing on particular events, it might embrace a whole range of human feeling that is not reserved to a particular time or community."
Charles Bernstein’s apprenticeship (Erin Sweeney)
This apprenticeship will involve the making (and conceptualizing) of a stupendously comprehensive digital poetry archive. It is called "PennSound," and will feature freely shared MP3 files of poets reading their own poems. Prospective apprentices should look at the PennSound web page.