Finding the Words: YCP Writers Explore their Craft
April is a great time for writers. Spring is in full swing, with flowers blooming and the world opening up in all kinds of inspiring ways. It also happens to be National Poetry Month, with National Encourage a Young Writer Day (April 10), Haiku Poetry Day (April 17), World Book Day (April 23), and Tell a Story Day (April 27) thrown in for good measure. And at York College of Pennsylvania, members of our vibrant writing community are reflecting on how their skills and passions have grown.
Inspiration from Unexpected Places
Michael Zerbe, Professor of English, remembers when he was first inspired to be a writer. As an undergraduate Chemistry major, he was assigned a research term paper in a biochemistry course. “I discovered that I loved writing in my introduction about hemophilia running rampant in European royal families during the 18th and 19th centuries,” explains Dr. Zerbe. “I earned an A on that paper, and then my technical writing professor suggested I look into science and medical writing as a career option.”
It was good advice. Zerbe has been writing and editing ever since, and even went on to become an editor for a cancer research journal at the National Institutes of Health before furthering his career as an educator. Now, he’s determined to pay it forward.
“I always ask new Writing majors and minors what they like to write about,” he says. “Many students discover their passion for writing through an interest in social justice, the environment, literature and film, or science and technology.”
Julianna Orkin ‘23 has experienced this firsthand. A double major in Professional Writing and Mass Communication, she uses writing as a way to connect with activism. “I really enjoy writing about civic engagement, and how that relates to literature,” says Orkin. “In the Advanced Composition class I took with Dr. [Erec] Smith in fall 2020, I was inspired by many of the civic activists trying to enact change in society.”
A Love for the Process
“Writing is really rewarding to me,” says Grace Duncan ‘24, a Literary and Textual Studies major. “I think the experience of writing and editing your work (with a cup of coffee, of course) is something that everyone should try.”
A supportive environment is essential for many writers, and YCP’s writing community aims to provide exactly that. Students have the opportunity to work in a variety of genres, depending on their course selections, and professors are ready and willing to help them grow their skills.
“I had a poetry writing project that I did with Professor [Vito] Grippi,” says Duncan. “I went totally out there—I mean really out on a limb—and he told me that it was great! That was very inspirational to me.”
She also enjoys the personalized approach faculty take in mentoring young writers. “A faculty member who really takes time with me is Professor Kurowski. He has an amazing library in his head, but somehow he is able to speak on my level and really make me understand. Professors Kurowski and Grippi are the type of professor that I would like to become.”
Orkin has stretched her writing muscles in YCP classes, too. “For the Print Media Writing class I’m taking this semester, Professor [Paul] Vigna has been encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone,” she says. She’s been taking on a greater variety of writing projects and interview subjects this spring, and learning new ways of working as a writer.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
For students who want on-campus assistance with writing, including everything from tutoring to peer-to-peer encouragement, the Writing Center is a hub of resources and community.
“I know I always feel so energized from our Write-a-Thon events,” says Dr. Kim Fahle Peck, Director of the Writing Center. “I’m glad we’re able to support writers and help establish a community of writers at YCP.”
The Center hosts “Write-a-Thons” several times throughout the year, providing creative writers with the opportunity to challenge themselves and indulge in their creative outlet. “Each day, writers set a writing goal, whether it’s writing a certain number of words, writing for a certain length of time, or completing a specific task,” explains Peck.
The event moved online during the pandemic, with students and Writing Center staff gathering over Zoom to discuss their accomplishments and “bounce ideas off each other.” The next Write-a-Thon Day for the Spring 2021 semester will take place on May 7. Any interested student can register now for information about the event.
Putting Words to Work
With several writing-related majors and minors, and even more relevant classes and resources available for YCP students, our Spartan wordsmiths are preparing for careers in which their talents can shine. Writing and communication are routinely touted by employers as in-demand transferable skills—so many student writers are taking advantage of their college years to hone their craft as they prepare for the workforce.
“Dr. [Gabriel] Cutrufello and Dr. [Brian] Furio have been instrumental in ensuring that I can combine both my love of writing and my love of news into a double major, which has greatly enhanced my experience at York, and will make a huge difference in my career readiness,” says Orkin, who also plans to take on an internship before she graduates. And she’s not the first young writer from YCP to feel the pull of a career that involves professional writing. Generations of alumni have found success in industries like journalism, publishing, business, healthcare, marketing, law, and more.
“I’m so inspired each day when I hear about what graduates of these programs have amounted to, and hope to be someone who amounts to that level of excellence because of my education at York College.”