Anthony Cardellini ‘21: New York State Summer Writers Institute

Summer 2020

About the Project

Initially, I applied for funding to attend the New York State Summer Writers Institute, one of the best summer fiction workshops in the country. I hoped to enroll in an advanced short fiction class to study writing under the author Garth Greenwell, a brilliant writer who has published two critically acclaimed books. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop was canceled, and my admission was deferred to next year.

Because of this cancellation, I was able to use my Benenson funds to attend the University of Houston’s Strikethrough Workshop, a virtual summer writing workshop hosted in part by the university’s literary magazine. I chose to participate in Strikethrough’s “Shape of Stories” workshop, which focused on different methods and techniques for crafting pieces of short fiction. My workshop instructor was Obi Umeozor, a fiction editor at Gulf Coast Magazine, one of the nation’s best literary magazines.

Throughout the workshop, we discussed how exactly to write meaningful and evocative short stories. We focused on formulating engaging plots, developing strong and well-rounded characters, using imagery to create setting, and moving through time by switching off between summary and scene.

We read several excellent short stories from masters of the craft both old and new, such as James Baldwin and Otessa Moshfegh. We shared wisdom from our own writing backgrounds as to what story-writing practices work best for us. The workshop also gave me the opportunity to get extensive feedback on one of my short stories, both from Obi and from the other members of the class. I was also able to provide others with feedback on their own stories. Overall, the workshop taught me a great deal about formulating plots and characters for my stories, and about giving feedback to and receiving feedback from other writers in a professional workshop setting. I am certainly a better writer for having participated in the workshop.

Once the workshop was over, I was able to use my remaining Benenson funds to purchase books Obi had recommended that I read to make myself a better writer, and to submit stories to literary magazines for feedback and perhaps even publication. The generosity of the Benenson program allowed me to focus my summer on becoming a better writer, from attending the workshop to reading excellent works of fiction to seeking out feedback for my own work. I’m incredibly grateful to Duke Arts and to the Benenson program for granting me the opportunity to become a better writer this summer.