Stars of tomorrow
Student writers shine bright in Rochester
Back left to right: Jennifer Galvão, Miranda Cologgi, and Taylor Spragge, front left to right: Mikayla Heiss and Jordan Meechan
In college classrooms all over the greater Rochester area students are writing their hearts out. Maybe it’s in a creative writing class, a fiction workshop, or a poetry seminar. Or maybe they write late at night in dorm rooms or within the stacks of the library. Whenever and wherever they write, they bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to their campus literary community. These five students caught the eyes of their professors, and their talents are sure to gain them recognition long after they graduate.
“Sister Mary Monica, silent, thinks of those tiny baby skulls, soft in the middle, as she knits. She makes her stitches tight and even, perfectly rounded, so that not a touch of cold can creep through to press against that soft spot.”
From the story “A Liturgy of Hours”
That was the first word that came to mind when SUNY Geneseo professor Kristen Gentry read Jennifer Galvão’s short story about an aging nun who unexpectedly has to confront a past choice.
“Her eye is sharp, she catches details like the tight stitches on the beanies the nuns knit for newborns, the green flash of gum the protagonist eventually uses to break her silence. Jen cares about the words she uses, which might sound like a given, but not every student pays attention to writing on a sentence level,” says Gentry.
Galvão, originally from Westchester County, is a senior English major at the State University of New York at Geneseo. She hopes to continue her writing in an MFA program and then go on to work full time in the editing and publishing world.
She is also a managing editor of the SUNY-wide literary magazine Gandy Dancer. She has a fiction story forthcoming in the spring edition of Stone Canoe magazine.
Miranda Rose Cologgi
“Hours later he woke covered in dirt, lying in the once-straight row of marigolds. Little seeds sprouting new life split open between his fingertips.”
From the story “Sowing Seeds”
Miranda Cologgi doesn’t let her busy life get in the way of her writing. Between teaching with Drama Kids International, being a guide with Flower City Food Tours, and raising an eleven-year-old son, Cologgi attends Monroe Community College as a first-year creative writing student.
Professor Maria Brandt is impressed with Cologgi’s writing and says that Cologgi “is fiercely committed to her growth as a writer. She brings unusual human depth to her work, creating complex character-driven tapestries rooted in clear and recognizable conflict. She will make her mark on this world.”
Being slightly older than many of her classmates sometimes makes her “feel like I’m racing against the clock and don’t know where I’m going, but it is really exciting.”
Cologgi appeared in two plays directed by Patti Lewis for the Young Writers Showcase at Geva Theatre Center last November. She is also working on a film with Austin Lake called A Pharaoh’s Lonely Ego.
“The gag is loosened, and the man is screaming into the still world. No one will hear him out here. After minutes of an impressive expression of lung usage, he stops to stare at his kidnappers.”
From the story “The Spill”
Mikayla Heiss wants to go into scientific journalism “or anything where I can tell scientific stories and explain scientific processes,” she says. “Writing is the best way to engage the public.”
Heiss, a senior studying English and environmental science at the College at Brockport, wrote a story about an osprey for Professor Anne Panning’s fiction workshop that combined her love of science with creative writing. Panning wasn’t sure how the project would turn out, but she was blown away by the final product:
“Instead of gimmicky or juvenile, it was heartbreaking, thoughtful, and emotionally intelligent. She did so by doing scientific research on the type of bird it was, their behaviors, eating and hunting patterns, etc., and, as a result, it ended up being one of my favorite stories ever submitted in my workshops.”
When Heiss isn’t writing or researching she’s working on polishing the young adult novel she started her first year.
“We used to joke that there was ink running through our veins instead of blood but I stopped believing that when I watched blood seep out of your body and pool around you like you see in the movies.”
From the poem “Behind the Blackberry Bush”
To some people, Jordan Meechan, a junior English major at St. John Fisher College, appears quiet, reserved, and even shy. But Professor M. J. Iuppa assures us that, “in truth, she is a force, with a wonderful sense of humor and wisdom beyond her years.”
Meechan is in fact confident in herself and her work and has been submitting her writing to competitive literary journals. She’s been published in St. John Fisher’s literary magazine, Angles, as well as the journal Occulum. Iuppa compares her style to that of Flannery O’Connor.
“Like O’Connor, Jordan knows how to expose the curious and quirky motives of characters who are trying to make their way in a brash and difficult world.”
Her writing goal is to be a literary agent so she can “make people’s dreams come true.” In the meantime, though, she’s an avid reader whose favorite writer is Jhumpa Lahiri.
“Aiden peered again through the blur of trees. He thought about calling out to Kate, he knew she’d come. Even when she was mad, she always came for him.”
From the story “Hunting”
When Taylor Spragge started the creative writing program at Monroe Community College she almost quit after three weeks. Going back to school in her mid-twenties with students much younger felt scary and tough in ways she hadn’t anticipated. But she stuck it out and now in her second year has a completed novel under her belt and has been connecting with literary agents.
Professor Maria Brandt sees firsthand how talented and determined Spragge is and can envision a bright writing future for her.
“Taylor is one of the most driven students I’ve experienced,” says Brandt. “She has a clear, scaffolded plan towards achieving her ambitious writing goals, and she seizes opportunities to advance her professional viability.”
Her ultimate writing goal beyond publishing is to “comfort and inspire others someday with my own novels that feature things like alcoholism, codependency, and narcissism in a high-fantasy setting.”
Spragge also has a passion for rescuing animals, particularly kittens that need to be bottle-raised before they can be adopted out to their permanent homes.
Christine Green is a freelance writer in Brockport.