December 3, 2012 | Borough of Manhattan Community College
“I might write 250 or 500 words a day,” says Writer and Literature major Aaron Thorpe, “but when I’m really into it, I’ll finish a story in a day.”
In 2012, Thorpe was a winner of the 8th Annual English Department Faculty Writing Award. Presented by English Professor Page Delano, he closed the award ceremony with a reading from his short story, “Natalie & Bo,” which he describes as having “dark humor,” and tells of a young man who considers an unorthodox solution to his depression.
“Now I’m working on length and structure,” says Thorpe, who grew up in Queens and Brooklyn, after his family moved there from Jamaica, and “always loved telling stories.”
Editing: “No easy task”
President of the BMCC Writer’s Guild, Thorpe co-edits the student literary magazine, The Guild, and “manages that very active club, no easy task,” says one of his professors, Guild advisor and fiction writer Lara Stapleton.
“The Guild cultivates all kinds of student writing,” says Thorpe. “Students share their work, critique each other’s work, and we create a foundation for student writers.”
Editing The Guild has been an object lesson in group dynamics. “I try to get past my own personal taste,” he says. “In each work, I try to find something I like, and sometimes it’s hard. There are often pieces one person likes but no one else does, and we talk about it.”
Thorpe makes copies of the magazine available at BMCC expos, and visits groups around campus, inviting fellow students to submit. “We try to make the magazine open to all students,” he says.
The magazine’s student editors are guided by English faculty advisors who are writers, themselves, including Lara Stapleton, Ivelisse Rodriguez and Robert Masterson.
“They give us tips, especially on selecting the work, and on how to structure the magazine,” Thorpe says. “The first issue, we organized by theme. The second one was more random, but we did separate it by genre.”
Well known guest writers share expertise
Thorpe recently attended one of the Writer’s Guild’s regularly sponsored workshops led by Craig MuMs Grant, a poet and performer known for his hip hop career and role on the cable series, Oz.
“He echoed the sentiment I’ve been feeling lately, how to transition from one genre to another,” says Thorpe. “He also discussed uninhibited creativity, playing around with words. We did an activity with prompts that got me really thinking about language. I realized, ‘Language is malleable’. I enjoyed that a lot.”
Another Writer’s Guild event this semester featured NYC slam poet Jon Sands, Director of Poetry Education Programming at the Positive Health Project (a syringe exchange center in Midtown, Manhattan), a CUNY adjunct lecturer and Youth Mentor with Urban Word-NYC.
Sands’ experience as a performer and writer—he has represented NYC multiple times at the National Poetry Slam, where teams from all over North America and Europe compete for the national title—inspired students who are building their foundation as writers at BMCC.
“The exercise he gave us was so cool,” says Thorpe. “It was using stream of consciousness techniques, and also focused on how to begin a piece of work. One of the things he stressed was, ‘Read, read, read’.”
The importance of reading was a concept Craig MuMs Grant focused on, as well, Thorpe says.
“MuMs described it as, professional basketball players need to watch games so they can learn their craft, so writers, if they’re serious, need to read. I’m really into the Beat writers now, that whole period of writing history.”
Eventually, he hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in writing. “I want to become a journalist, writing narratives, and creative non-fiction,” he says, “but I’ll still do poetry, fiction and screenwriting on the side.”
Thorpe is already writing plenty, “on the side.”
“I just finished a story last night, just under 1,000 words,” he says. “I sent it to The New Yorker, which is kind of a joke, but why not? I felt like I had nothing to lose.”