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Something Virtual, Something Gained

An old adage about investments and returns suggests “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” This academic year has certainly sparked new ventures and adaptations in the student realm with an eye toward maintaining meaningful relationships and creative momentum in the Thomas More community.

With a determined interpretation for adding just one more Zoom meeting on the calendar, writers and artists gathered on the evening of Thursday, April 15, to virtually launch the 2021 edition of “Words,” Thomas More’s campus literary magazine.

This showcase-style public event, which usually fills Steigerwald Hall, brought in nearly 60 attendees in its virtual format. An enthusiastic audience enjoyed short readings by award-winning students and contributors from Creative Writing Vision’s Draft to Craft community course, taught by artist-in-residence Pauletta Hansel. Awarded student artists showed work visually via Zoom’s screenshare feature and also offered reflections about their mediums and inspiration. A musical offering by Tellico family band and short readings by Thomas More artists-in-residence Dick Hague and Pauletta Hansel added memorable texture to the gathering, along with informal conversations among artists and attendees.  

“’Words’ literary magazine promotes a high-energy generational continuance for Thomas More University,” noted Sherry Cook Stanforth, director of the English Department’s Creative Writing Vision program and “Words” faculty advisor. “The material and content quality of our publication rivals many others in national circulation—and yet this project is managed from top to bottom by undergraduates. Our student artists, writers, and editors set a high bar for talent and leadership. They are willing to branch out beyond the campus in order to value relationships with the wider community.” Stanforth added that the diverse audience role mix (student, parents, friends, faculty, staff, board member, alumni, local and regional writers) reflects evidence of Thomas More’s value for ongoing family-oriented interpretations of community. 

Northern Kentucky author and retired business executive Chuck Stringer views Thomas More’s arts programs, including public readings, as a means for nurturing positive, impactful relationships over time. “The genius that sets this place apart from other academic institutions is that it brings together both student and regional writers in multiple class and retreat settings,” he said. “We are building relationships year after year.” During the past eight years, Stringer has regularly shared his work with “Words”—various “Words” editors (including alumni) have expressed open appreciation for Stringer’s constant support of their work. Stringer, along with other local writers and interested Thomas More students, attends the Writer’s Table, Draft to Craft courses, and Community of Creative Writers retreats.  

Stanforth added that Thomas More students are frequently adaptive and curious-minded in a way that allows them to naturally weave themselves into the wider community of practicing writers and artists. Throughout the years, students have demonstrated impressive leadership and collaboration in programs such as the “Words” Celebration, public readings/performances, workshops, and retreats. “This year, of course, is unique in that we all must shift our usual gathering practices,” she said. “I am lifted up, though, by how our students continue to carry creative light forward with excitement and a love of expressive innovation. At the end of a very busy semester, my computer screen lost its sometimes draining symbolism and assumed a new kind of energy at the virtual ‘Words’ Celebration—it just came alive with good energy, reminding me that these great young people intend to carry on through thick and thin.”

Having hardly caught her breath, English major and current managing editor of “Words,” Alyssa Dowdell, is now collaborating with Stanforth to design and deliver several small creative writing prompts to help out a Clermont County, Ohio, fifth-grade teacher who is looking for ways to virtually inspire of her gifted students. “Words” art editor and soon-to-be-graduate, Michael Thompson, whose riveting senior show Strange Fruit was recently displayed in the Eva J. Farris Gallery, is now busy interviewing with nonprofit art outreach organizations. Both Dowdell and Thompson will serve together this summer as editorial interns with the regional literary journal, “Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel,” and they will no doubt spark new ideas and creative energy in all of the future communities they serve. 

People who want to share Words with family and friends are welcome to email moreover@thomasmore.edu to receive a copy. Words literary journal will add an inspiring flair to your coffee table and bookshelves. You are also welcome to pick up copies while enjoying the “Express Open Mic – Wonder, Praise, Gratitude” happening on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, from 1:30-3 p.m., outside on Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel’s amphitheater steps. 

Winners of the Words literary magazine awards:

Sandra L. Cuni Award

 “The Dinner Party” by Angel Rapp (fiction)

Appalachia Award in Poetry

“I remember everything since the age of 21/2 because of a traumatic experience in my life” by Michael Thompson

Appalachia Award in Prose

“Let Nothing You Dismay” by Hannah Langdon

RUCA Award

“Museum” by Michael Thompson (poem)

Honorable Mentions

“Dishes” by Margaret Dredger (poem)

“Old God” by Eliza Kohl (poem)

“The Day Shift” by Katelyn Weldon (poem)

“The Soul of a Man” by Michael Thompson (poem)

Kate Bilbo Aspiring Writer Award

“Bereavement of a Motherless Daughter” by Angel Rapp (poetry)  

Kate Bilbo Aspiring Artist Award

Looking at me? by Kennedy Yurt

The Art Department Choice Award

Rat Coat by Elizabeth Butler

Cover Art Selection

Portadora de Vida by Michael Thompson

Cover Design

Michael Thompson

Several of the Words Celebration participants have been featured as Saints Spotlights. To listen to their segments click on the links below:

Artist in Residence Pauletta Hansel: Saints Spotlight part 1, Saints Spotlight part .

Artist in Residence Richard Hague: Saints Spotlight part 1, Saints Spotlight part 2.

Thomas More Professor Lynette Guzzino: Saints Spotlight part 1, Saints Spotlight part 2.

Student award winners Michael Thompson and Elizabeth Butler: The More You Know Emerging Artist coverage.