Scrolling Headlines:

Justin King sentenced to eight to 12 years in prison -

Monday, June 29, 2015

Two future UMass hockey players selected in 2015 NHL Draft -

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Supreme Court ruling clears way for same-sex marriage nationwide -

Friday, June 26, 2015

Former UMass center Cady Lalanne taken 55th overall by Spurs in 2015 NBA Draft -

Friday, June 26, 2015

Second of four men found guilty on three counts of aggravated rape in 2012 UMass gang rape case -

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Boston bomber speaks out for first time: ‘I am sorry for the lives I have taken’ -

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

King claims sex with woman was consensual during alleged 2012 gang rape -

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wrongful death suit filed in death of UMass student -

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ryan Bamford uses online Q&A session to discuss UMass football conference search, renovation plans, cost of attendance -

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Opening statements delivered, first witnesses called in second trial for alleged 2012 gang rape at UMass -

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

UMass Board of Trustees approves rise in tuition, student fees -

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Former Minutewoman Quianna Diaz-Patterson named to Puerto Rican national softball team -

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

UMass rowing’s Jim Dietz inducted into CRCA Hall of Fame -

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jury selection begins Monday in second gang rape trial -

Monday, June 15, 2015

Students turn attention to state legislators as decision on UMass budget looms -

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Alumna and next director of Brooklyn Museum Anne Pasternak ‘created her own path’ -

Thursday, June 11, 2015

UMass graduate crowned head of 600-year-old Indian kingdom -

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Committee recommends UMass increase tuition, student fees for in-state undergraduates -

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Darrice Griffin named UMass’ senior associate athletic director for internal operations/senior woman administrator -

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Report: UMass football will host Mississippi State in 2016 -

Monday, June 8, 2015

The future of creative writing

Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story was posted incorrectly.

The first thing you notice after walking into Flying Object, a hub of creativity located in Hadley, Mass., is the distinct smell of books.

It is not a particularly overwhelming smell, but it’s unique. It’s a smell that has been fighting a losing battle against the aroma of coffee in bookstores, new-age odorless e-books, and dust-ridden library shelves.

Despite setbacks in the independent bookstore industry, Guy Pettit refuses to throw in the towel. After overseeing the renovations of a small building across from the Esselon Café, he opened the Flying Object bookstore, letterpress and gallery on Oct. 1, 2010.

“Originally it was made to provide a space for people who are working on their own projects—like maybe they had a small press or they were printmakers or artists or writers— and didn’t have the resources that they might want, or even need, to do those things,” said Pettit.

These were the people who supported the establishment when Pettit undertook the responsibilities of director, and he’s determined to support them back.

But the unfamiliar smell of printed paper and ink is not the only thing to notice. You may look at the walls decorated with paintings by local artists, or see the shelves filled with booklets by local poets. You may go around the back to examine the press equipment, which includes a large letterpress with its associated lead letters. You may glance over at the products of the letterpress lying around everywhere, paper that’s printed with raised, inked surfaces— documents that you not only read but feel.

Or you may notice how small the place is.

“Independent publishing is something that’s not well-funded by anybody, not locals, or the state or the government,” said Pettit. “Providing a space for people and their art and what they’re passionate about is marginalized.”

The lack of money invested into the arts and its circulation is a problem that goes beyond simply disgruntling locals, however. The University of Massachusetts’ English department, which once had around 100 professors, now employs less than 50. To make up for the drastic economic cuts, others have had to pick up the slack.
One such example is Francesca Chabrier, who is simultaneously a student and professor at the university. When she’s not teaching English 354, a creative writing course, she is finishing up her studies in the Master of Fine Arts Program, from which she hopes to graduate this May.

But like most people, Chabrier did not always know that she wanted to teach, read and write poetry for a living. As an undergraduate she started off studying journalism. Eventually, her professors convinced her to take creative non-fiction. Then, after trying fiction writing, it did not take long for her to take the plunge into poetry.

“I think doing something that you really love is a wise life choice,” said Chabrier. “The writing program here is a strong program with a great reputation, and the people in it have a lot of energy and heart and dedication.”
The importance of creative writing in the job market, let alone in the world of academia, incites a lot of debate. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs held their annual conference in Washington, D.C., where the issue of the future of the discipline was addressed in a panel on February 4.

In the face of financial limitations, an increasingly consumerist society, and administrative instructions to enroll more students into the small classes, the speakers still seemed optimistic. The subject of creative writing itself, as one that is accredited and taught in educational institutions, is fairly new.

“People think anyone can write,” said Pettit. “But it takes a lot of work and practice and craft.”

Moreover, Pettit and Chabrier argued that honing your writing skills enables you to be successful in almost any other professional field. Conversely, being employed in any profession may still allow you to write in your spare time.

“I’ve had jobs that had nothing to do with poetry or creative writing,” said Chabrier. “But having good writing skills allowed me to get further in those professional fields. Writing is a major means of communication, and it’s important to know how to do that well.”

Creative writing does not always need a backup plan, however. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale recently agreed to buy the work produced at Flying Object to document contemporary culture.

The establishment is not alone in its endeavors either. Places like it exist all over the country, though usually in larger cities. They bring in the creative work of locals, give them a voice, and allow a place for the community to come and engage with each other.

“It’s not common for something like this to exist in a small town and still survive,” said Pettit.

“We’re able to do this here because there’s a history of writers and printers, and the five colleges bring in a lot of people, too.”

While addressing debates that question the existence of creative writing as a discipline, artists also face the problem of the people’s demand for an easier, faster, and cheaper means to get their creative fix. Amazon book sales have increased, e-books have become popular, and Borders has declared bankruptcy. In the midst of all of this, Flying Object and its sister establishments emerge in defiance.

“Physical objects, like printed matter, is so much more seductive to me than reading off a computer screen,” said Chabrier. “I like the way, too, that poetry and design can be married.”

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.