Ivy Leaf - Fall 2004
Some of the best learning opportunities are the result of student interaction with professors in their respective fields of study. Five years ago, the College's English faculty created another such opportunity, and the Emerging Writer-in-Residence program was born.
The program provides students a chance to work with an emerging writer and to learn first-hand what it is like to get started in the field. Over the past four years, students have had the chance to study with writers Deborah Bernhardt, Patrick Rosal, Melissa Farterrigo, and Sharon Wahl. This year, poet Lee Peterson is bringing her experiences to the classroom (see sidebar).
The College conducts a national search each year for a writer at the beginning of his or her career who is interested in spending a semester at Penn State Altoona. The position alternates between a poet and a prose writer. On average, 50 to 150 writers apply annually for one opening. The writer teaches only one class while at Penn State Altoona, enabling him or her to spend time advancing his or her own writing. The writer also performs readings of his or her own work twice a year. Of the four previous writers, three have received book contracts based on the work they have done during their year at Penn State Altoona.
Emerging Poet: Lee Peterson
As the College's writer-in-residence for 2004-2005, Lee Peterson urges aspiring writers to push their creative talents as far as possible. She both warns and inspires that "writing is always nerve-racking. It is both terrifying and rewarding, and it's the scariest and best challenge."
Raised in Princeton, NJ, Peterson grew up surrounded by the arts. Her father was a professor of architecture and her mother was both a painter and a photographer. It's no surprise that Peterson would follow on this path.
Earning undergraduate degrees in English and women's studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, Peterson moved to New York to pursue her interest in music. Graduate school at Sarah Lawrence followed, where she earned a master's in fine arts, and then a stint teaching English as a second language at Manhattanville College in New York.
But the call to put pen to paper has always existed. States Peterson, "Writing as a form of expression has always been there. It's natural for me. My mom always kept a journal and read a lot, and she and my brother wrote poetry. As a result, I began to keep a journal when I was fourteen and I wrote my first poems around the age of sixteen."
Peterson taught Introduction to Poetry Writing - which she calls "Music and the Dancing Mind" - during the fall semester and also is promoting her current book, Rooms and Fields: Dramatic Monologues from the War in Bosnia. She's enjoyed teaching at the College so far, finding the students engaging and the environment peaceful.
"From students to faculty and staff, there's a wonderful energy present here." —Lee Peterson