Reaching people with stories

Jan Vallone Roberts loved to write as a child, and always knew she wanted to teach.

After practicing law for 20 years, Roberts finally decided to follow her dream and became a teacher in 2002. Now, Roberts is an adjunct professor at SPU, and she is expanding upon her interests in writing and teaching.

Part of this expansion of her interests came to life through starting the "Memorable Writing" cadre.

The cadre will meet on Tuesdays in 302 Peterson Hall at 1 p.m. The cadre seeks to bring together aspiring writers interested in exploring the art of memoir, according to an informational flyer distributed by Roberts. It is a genre in which the writer strives to capture and contemplate the meaning of remembered moments, the flyer states.

"I’m doing this because I love teaching and writing," Roberts said. "It’s a great way to get to know your students."

Roberts teaches "Reading and Writing across the Curriculum" and "Young Adult Literature." She started teaching at SPU in 2007.

Prior to SPU, Roberts taught English Language Arts at Northwest Yeshiva High School on Mercer Island for seven years after being an Of Counsel Attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, in Seattle.

She originally got the idea to start the cadre when she sat in on a creative writing class that Tom Amorose, professor of English, was teaching last quarter. She said she wanted to become more integrated into the SPU community and wanted to write again.

"I want to make it totally pain-free and fun," Roberts said. "I’m always looking for comments on my writing."

The goal of the cadre will be to help members muster discipline, think creatively and compose memoirs that combine emotional honesty and artistry, the flyer states. The focus will be to become a close community that will share understanding of life and faith through writing and discussion, according to the flyer.

At the meetings, Roberts plans to discuss particular narrative elements, such as theme, setting and atmosphere, as well as have students critique one another’s work in a supportive and constructive way.

At the cadre, students will have the opportunity to present their writings to each other and then have an opportunity to comment on the pieces, Roberts said.

"People who write on their own often want to be published," Roberts said. "Anyone who puts their mind to it can revise it and if you put your heart into it can be published."

Roberts has had articles published in national publications such as "The English Journal," "Guideposts" and "Curriculum in Context: Journal of the Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development."

Annie Sleight, a junior majoring in creative writing, has considered going into the publishing industry as an editor to help tell other people’s stories.

"I want to write and reach people through story," Sleight said. "It has a great potential to help people understand each other. Stories can get that across much better than in other ways."

Sleight was in Amorose’s class when Roberts visited. She became interested in Roberts’s idea for the cadre when she saw flyers around campus and received an e-mail from Roberts.

As an extracurricular activity, the cadre presents a unique chance for students who cannot register for upper division writing classes or do not have enough room for extra credits, Roberts said.

"I hope there are some students that this can reach that don’t have the opportunity to take a writing class," Roberts said.

Sleight is looking forward to writing outside of a required class.

"We are doing it because we want to, otherwise we only get it during class which is awesome, but outside is great, too," she said.

Sleight believes that getting involved in this cadre will help with any sort of writing. By working on stories about her life, with others in the cadre, will help with translating reality into vivid prose, she said.

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Title: Reaching people with stories | Author: Hillary Ison | Section: News | Published Date: 2008-01-30 | Internal ID: 6249