Welcome to ENGL 1157!

In Awesomeness, The Art of Writing, The Writing Life on August 18, 2012 at 2:01 am

This seems to me to be something of a “This is WarrenEllis.com” type of post, but for those of you who are students in my ENGL 1157 class, it seemed like a good idea to introduce myself, much as you will all have to introduce yourselves to me. Plus, it seems to me that Sally and Arleen don’t know quite all there is to know about me, and that just has to change.

As an introduction, my name is Wendy Withers. I am currently a professor at UNO (though I in no way speak for the university, and my views are not necessarily those of the university or the English department). I am from Florida and received my BA in journalism from the University of South Florida. I have worked for a number of newspapers and magazines and have had a few short stories published. I am also a slush reader for Nightmare Magazine and am about to commence contributing blog posts to Crossed Genres Magazine. I love “B” movies, role playing games (the non-video game kind), and New Orleans. I may or may not admit to being a crazy cat lady. I am currently finishing up a graduate degree at UNO; if you ever want to be completely overwhelmed, ask me about the significance of the appearance of Cupid in Renaissance literature. I have taught a number of writing workshops and used to teach composition classes at DCC.

As for writing, I feel that I am a competent and often precise writer. Because of my background in journalism, I do a pretty decent job of organizing my writing. I am also good at meeting deadlines and wordcounts. I have been told that my writing often looks at the world in new ways, and I seem to have a habit of saying things that other people don’t. It might be the nerd in me, but when I write I spend a lot of time researching. I want to know the context behind the story; if I’m writing about a modern short story, I want to know how the story fits into the larger tradition of its genre. If I’m writing an article about a politician, I want to know his record from ten years ago and how it contrasts with his stances today.

Even though I make sure to provide context in my writing, I feel that it often lacks depth. I would like to be the kind of writer who finds ways to add complexity to her writing instead of glossing over important details. Some of this is my newspaper background holding me back; newspaper reporters often have short wordcounts that keep them from adding the detail to a story that will really bring it to life in the reader’s mind. I would like to be the kind of writer who appears in The New York Times, not Podunk Weekly. I have found that my writing has been improving since I began reading more widely for my graduate degree. Stepping outo of my comfort zone of reading contemporary science fiction, fantasy, and horror has definitely improved my prose.


Night Circus review

In Awesomeness, Book Reviews on February 21, 2012 at 3:08 am

As I previously posted, I recently won a copy of The Night Circus. While I can’t give it an impartial review, I have to say that I loved it.

Erin Morgenstern’s book was suspenseful and magical. The characters were interesting and nuanced. Not only was I entertained, but I always felt invested in the action.

In the book, the protagonists literally will a circus of dreams into being. There is an intense magical duel, multiple love stories, and kitten acrobats all masterfully woven into a story of complicated human connections. I winced, I cried, I laughed, I loved, and when all was said and done I wished there were another hundred pages. I didn’t want to leave the world behind.

The only thing I didn’t love this book was the way time shifted throughout the story. As I read deeper in, I could see why Morgenstern set the chronology the way she did, but I was confused for a good portion of the book. She clearly marks the date changes; I just have a tendency to speed read past markers like those.

All-in-all, I have to give The Night Circus high marks. I enjoyed it, and winning it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a while.


I won a book!

In Awesomeness, The Writing Life on January 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm


I arrived home from school Monday tired after a thirteen hour day. I left for work at the writing center at 8:30 a.m. and arrived back home after 9:30 p.m. I was worn out and grumpy. Then, when I checked my mail, I noticed a key in my box. The key was to a row of lockers to the side of the mailboxes that hold larger packages.

Finally! Something to be excited about.

I tore open the package on the way up in the elevator and discovered Erin Morgenstern’s
The Night Circus. The book included a personalized note, some confetti shaped like top hats and bows, a book mark, and a calling card. The book was signed and included a personalized doodle.

I won the book in Kyle Cassidy’s Night Circus Contest (under the name Howlokitty); I had to write flash fiction revolving around Cassidy’s cat Roswell and a night circus. It’s hard to describe the feeling an author experiences when someone validates their work. It did a lot for me and my confidence. I’ve been racking up more than a few rejections lately.

So far, I’ve found the book delightful. This is the type of book that makes me jealous that I didn’t write it first. I hope to have a review up soon. It definitely won’t be an objective review. I feel the kind of pride I felt when I received my first check for a published news story. This book will forever be linked in my mind with the moment that I opened my mailbox and found a key inside.