Creative Writing Program Honors Thesis Readings (2020)

good evening welcome to the virtual Creative Writing honors thesis reading hosted by the Kelly writers house sponsored by the Creative Writing Program I’m so thrilled that this can happen if not in person in the virtual world I’m Julia bloch director of the Creative Writing Program and each year we give a limited number of students the opportunity to write a creative thesis for consideration of honors in English and the goal is for students to envision and complete a substantial project that serves as the capstone of their creative writing careers here at the University of Pennsylvania the main body of the thesis consists of an extensive piece of writing this might be a novel or novel excerpt a collection of stories poems or essays a script for stage screen or radio a piece of long-form nonfiction or other writing and also hybrid and cross genre projects that might combine writing with art video sound or even sculpture students also preface the thesis with a substantive critical commentary that describes the work and also performs an exercise that reiterates our program’s commitment to the value of training writers as readers tonight we’re gonna hear excerpts from many of these projects we have a downloadable program that represents all the students in the Honors Program and we’re thrilled that most of them are able to join us tonight we’re gonna go roughly in alphabetical order and several writers will be introduced by their advisors who are also joining us in the zoom room tonight and I also want

to say a couple of quick thank yous first of all to Lise Funderburg who curated this event made sure everyone was able to get online at the right time and choose the right language and provide excerpts and abstracts for our downloadable program I’m super grateful to Lisa for helping make this happen I’m grateful to Amanda Silberling for designing our program and other design goodies on social media also to david martino for technical assistance and also finally to Zach Cardner our fearless engineer at the Kelly Writers house who is literally making this possible to happen on youtube at the same time that we are in a zoom room together so without further ado I think we should dive in because we have a lot of readers and we want time to hear from everyone the first person I’d like to virtually invite up to the podium is Beth Kephart who will be introducing work by Charlotte Bosch Thank You Julia last summer Charlotte called me to talk about the simmer of an intriguing idea she was pursuing a novel about one althea Blaine whose PhD studies in London are cut short by news that her classics professor mother has disappeared inspired by a real-life disappearance in a very small town Charlotte whose beautiful writing had first encountered during a young adult fiction class wondering what I thought whether this might become the stuff of an honors thesis absolutely I said and so Charlotte became part of a trio of novel writers with whom I met every Tuesday during this semester our workshop was a kind and honest place our writers you’ll meet together soon read each other with greatest care nudge suggested enthused and through it all Charlotte’s novel marathon unfolded her elegant sentences locking into compelling scenes for scenes adding up to a propulsive mystery her story ripening on the vine of her imagination a time to final prevent Charlotte from being live with us here today but she was pre-recorded this reading for us and I’m so grateful that you all had a chance to hear her read hi everyone I’m Charlotte and I’m gonna read an excerpt from Marathon hi everyone I’m Charlotte and I’m gonna read an excerpt from marathon this section is from just after the main character Alvia gets a call that her mother has disappeared and this is her deciding to fly home from London to Marathon to look for her it occurred to me how alone my mother was in marathon her parents were dead I’d abandoned her Dorothy was the only person in marathon I known her to speak to with any regularity I worried at times that I’d inherit her isolation but in London you could go out to buy milk and talk to the man at checkout about his daughter who was applying for university you could sit down on the tube next to a woman who happened to have the same purse you at the National Gallery you could eat cake in the cafe across from a couple from Yorkshire who called you love that was the energy of the city separate lives crashing into each other at odd angles in Marathon, there was no chance of this with any person you met on peach Street you could have only the same conversation you’d had a hundred times a half-remembered insult from 10 years ago stayed with you the rest of your life this was the place in which I left my mother alone I took up my laptop and booked the soonest flight to Washington than Syracuse for the first time I used the bank account my grandmother had left me on the plane I compiled a list every place we’d ever found my mother every place she’d ever wanted to go also every person I could think of who might want her gone when I dragged my suitcase through the automatic doors at the airport door Dorothy was standing on the sidewalk next to her car she wrapped her arms around me she smelled as she always had fabric softener and dollar store shampoo an hour later at the green sign appeared amongst the trees entering marathon the graveyard tombstone slick and tumbled over furred with moss the rotting frames of barns rising like shipwrecks from the early morning fog the trailer park muddy grass littered with ATVs and broken fisher-price lawn toys finally Main Street the post office with its garish

mural Norm’s old-fashioned soda shop the neon ice cream cone in the window already lit teenagers in paper hats and apron scrubbing tables inside the fountain on the green a rusty trickle of water spreading from its head my mother’s house was a couple miles out of town beyond the cracked hem of the sidewalk that ran along Main Street tulips vanishing point the house sprawled across the crest of the hill as if it had grown there my mother never much of a landscaper had allowed grasses and ivy to creep up the foundation until it was a green gray mass on the horizon upstate New York was filled with houses like it grand and ghostly among the cornfields remnants about bygone prosperity there had once been out buildings now eaten by swells of overgrowth and earth as a kid I thought the ground here must be full of sinkholes everywhere they were half devoured barns the tops of trucks lying atop the grass like they’d been buried ribs of burnt farmhouses sticking up from the earth our house too was slowly sinking Thank You Charlotte wherever you are okay our next reader is Juan Botero and his advisor Marion Conte was not able to be with us but she sent me this beautiful introduction that I’m going to read on her behalf Juan Botero is going to read excerpts from his play and I’m very pleased to be able to introduce him and his work his play scenes the foxes and the caribou address problems Juan knows and has experienced but he has not written a personal confessional he has done much more he has captured cultural patterns and turned them into an analysis of social behavior he transformed his observations into scenes of embodied knowledge at first there was only an ambitious plan to write a play but as a singer and musician Juan already had experience of how to create works of art that are going to be enacted first he mapped the space in which the play would had fold then he set timeframes once he had decided on space and time he placed characters into this world he has managed to produce scenes that on the one hand successfully use existing performance models as inspiration: operas ballets popular TV series and on the other to invent a small imaginative cosmos of his own writing play texts is unlike writing short stories or novellas or novels it requires understanding of the dynamics of the stage a performance is always an ensemble art it is always a collective endeavor Juan has captured this aspect as well and I hope that at some point he will see his scenes played on a stage welcome Juan hello I’m going to read a little bit from my play it’s going to be hard because I’m going to be making voices for two of my characters so here it goes. Caribou stumbled in from the side of the stage from which the shouts reverberated he was tied up into metal harness the clippity-clop of his clubs walking and the rattling of the metal against his body sounds like a thunderous applause rise fair queen most beautiful damsel in the land the wielder of eternal power protector of all that lives laughing to cry dear beauty caribou what brings you to my resting place the prison that has taken my hopes and dreams away the ground that has been watered and fertilized by my sorrow for full tears my lady I humbly apologize for bringing more sorrow it is only out of necessity that I come to you to share my story of pain none of my attempts have been successful so I resort to you all-powerful modern for health for I and caribou of the western Woodlands am in dire need of assistance a time ago I lived happily with my herd and a small clearing between the mossy Boulder we had once been tormented by silver fox who craved nothing but pleasure but with the strength of my kind we trapped him in a crystal prison since then. a soft scream from offstage caribou screams along to it but tries to hold the agony and Bella does not make much of it we were happier than any caribou community ever was carefree uncomplicated simple woodland folk with the rise of this morning’s Sun a young fox visited our home she whimpered and cried shrill mixing calls she limped and skipped in painful agony when we saw this poor being cloaked in the innocent fur of pain and youth we approached with no caution a fast footed youngster was taken first a bold knock much older than I disappeared soon after I watched my best friend get attacked by her deceptive paws and bench even behind a silhouette of accumulated dust caribou oh Caro your story saddens me beyond compare continue and tell me how this travesty

came to an end with the heavy heart I must tell you it hasn’t my dignity was stolen my community disbanded my chivalry insulted my trusting heart was taken advantage of and I fear I will never be able to find my hurt again but my sorrows don’t stop I have been left alone and betrayed when all that I wanted was love another shot from Nikolas this time Caribous mouth agonizes along with the sound the screen becomes Caribous cries of pain dearest Caro Bella I’m sorry for the distress I have cause for the pain my shrill scream that inspired in you you see this heart is so tightly wrapped around my body yes what is that torturous device exactly that a torturous device once the Vixen finished taking away my network of support she imprisoned me in this harness this metallic contraption is fitted with miniature iron Barb’s and puncture my delicate skin through the protective barrier of my luscious fur every few minutes it tightens pinching me dreadfully and making me cry out most violently that is why I have come to you with hope that you will help free me hating me and correcting the wrongs committed against me thank you Juan also beautiful trees outside the window I think contestant for best Zoom background next I’d like to virtually invite Weike Wang to the podium I’ll start like I’ll stop saying that obsessively virtually invite to the podium I’d like to invite Weike Wang to introduce faith Cho hello faith Che was a student of mine a ballet class she came to me with an amazing project about a Korean American family a multi-generational story of brothers of cousins of siblings of how we keep secrets from our most loved ones and in order to protect them yet as a result of these secrets lose a part of ourselves as her work changed throughout the semester I was stunned by her dedication to the narrative to her characters all of whom were both personal and fictional I want to thank her for her efforts and for following through with a project that from the very beginning started as one thing and became another and through this process she improved both as a writer as a thinker and as somebody who I truly believe brings a level of professionalism to her work I would like to welcome Faith in reading the beginning of her completed novella hi I’ll be reading a short excerpt from the beginning of my novella it’s called the funeral the Sun was indecently bright almost obscene considering the morose mood of the gathered family a dark green tent had been erected over the casket and two rows of tactic green felt tears in each row there were only four seats and so the less important family members stood out in the Sun Claire only child of the first sun sat on the fifth chair she imagined what they must have looked like from God’s point of view a huddle of people dressed all in black in the middle of a sparse graveyard a dark green shade over a dark green grass this is her first funeral she didn’t suppose her mind was as minds usually were during such a ceremony but she hadn’t been all that close to her grandfather Claire could only imagine what he must have looked like inside the wooden casket Park myung-soo had been a thin man tan to the point he was almost brown where his skin folded into wrinkles he was as dark as the chestnuts he used to crack open with his teeth hidden going blind and the curly gray smoke that occurred in such eyes had always left Claire feeling a bit unnerved she hadn’t gone to his wake her parents didn’t think she needs to be disturbed and come to Jersey twice in one week suspected the shed and early experience death yet not in the way all people were eventually meant to and she planned like keeping that way for as long as possible while in college Claire’s dog died she’d ask their parents to cremate the body before she came home they informed her that the evasive ashes was sitting in the guest room after two years Claire still had not stepped foot inside that room with no idea the size shape or color of the vase that carried her dog of ten years a quiet sniffle came from somewhere in front of her but Claire let her eyes dripped over to those standing in the Sun she couldn’t bear to watch her father cry uncle Jay Aunt Mimi Stephanie Tyler and there in the far distance Claire caught sight of another woman a woman she could not recognize perhaps due to the sunglasses she wore or the thin black scarf wrapped around her head Claire squinted a little harder craning her neck a little farther when she pulled a squeeze on her thigh her mother shot her scolding look turning around she saw everyone getting up to place handfuls of dirt one by one in the dark hole the casket had been lowered into do you see that but when Claire turns to point the strange woman out she was gone confused Claire waited until it was her turn to shovel out a small portion of dirt she carried it at the hole and let the dark soil fall with as much grace as she could as Claire who joined her family she glanced back at the empty space or she knew she had seen a woman crying Thank You Faith next I’d like to invite Karen rile to introduce Caroline Curran

good afternoon everyone it’s my genuine pleasure to introduce Caroline Curran who will read from her short story collection ultraviolet lying Caroline has been writing fiction for only a few years a fact that continually amazes me I suppose it would be easy just to say she is a natural because it’s true her characters young women of her own generation are drawn with psychological nuance as a pro stylist her sentences are vivid yet clean resonant yet never mannered and conscious the not self-conscious she instinctually understands how to create and sustain narrative interest and tension but caroline is more than just extraordinarily talented she is a worker she revises and polishes she knows how to use a suggestion or critique while maintaining the integrity of her own vision during spring break Caroline was enjoying a productive writing residency sponsored by Kelly writers housed at the Claire Ming cottage in Washington State when the pandemic shut down the nation when she returned she redoubled our efforts working in continued isolation punctuated by our intense zoom editorial sessions her progress throughout the strange semester is both formidable and instructive I’m so proud of her project and proud to invite her to read for you this afternoon welcome Caroline thank you Karen I’m going to read an excerpt from a story I wrote called summer 2004 I pedaled alone in the dark occasional ribbons of crisp nighttime air passed with indifference and the breeze cooled the sweat at my upper lip I switched gears and climbed steep hills the network of metal cogs creaking beneath me I found the house easily fifty yards past the last stop sign and right when it looks like you’re about to hit a dead end the lip of a driveway I dropped my bicycle behind a bush and walked beside the gravel toward the house I squatted at the edge of the tree line the length of a large garden separating me from the house. ridges of dirt and underneath seeds germinating beyond the house fields of crops and woods behind inside the television was on in the living room colored light flashed onto the walls and windows chaotic I thought and violent even though I couldn’t tell what was playing minutes passed and I watched then a lamp flicked on in the second-floor bedroom and a dark silhouette appeared fear bloomed inside my body the nervous energy of getting what I wanted what I had come for i re-adjusted my footing and twigs snapped under my feet I lost my balance landed on my hand and something sharp pulsed in the flesh of my palm I ignored the pain and watched the figure sit on the bed and gather her hair into a ponytail I could tell it was violet the quick grace of her movements she went to her dresser opened a drawer took something out a sweatshirt she pulled it over her head every day movements the same I might do without knowing I was being watched it was strange to see her like this in her own room or I hadn’t yet imagined she could exist like when you move and your furniture looks out of place in a new house another minute while she moved around picking things up and putting them down in other places I knew she was just straightening her room but from far away I felt that I was witnessing something sacred she disappeared for a moment and I felt uneasy like she would appear behind me and ask me if I was lost if I needed help she would somehow know my name and she would say it Adele she would say are you okay she would be calm worried about me not angry just confused and I would come up with an explanation something that made sense and she would nod and understand but then she came back into her room and turned off the light thank you Thank You Caroline I’d like to invite Beth Kephart

to introduce Lauren Drake what a pleasure this is more than two years ago Dr. Bloch introduced me to Lauren than a sophomore at work on the novel of deeply personal significance Back then Lauren joined my weekly gathering of independent study and honors thesis writers showing up each week with new pages of nearly blindingly unique and heroing poetic power and finishing that semester with an abundance of good work between all kinds of scientific classes and lab work journalism and campus leadership Martin continued to work on her novel caught between the teeth throughout her junior year and this past semester she became an integral part of our Tuesday workshop offering a student insights into the work of her peers while weaving new scenes and tenderness and plot plunge into her own Lauren’s hope has always been to transform some of the challenges she has lived with into a work of meaningful fiction and Laura you have done that I am trying not just of what you have achieved but of the intelligent searching and quietly relentless way you have gone about your achieving I’m looking forward to hearing you thanks laughs I’m going to be reading an excerpt from a chapter where the main character ollie gets into a disagreement with her mother about going to therapy dumb mom says it calmly and quietly just say it Ollie it’s just a word it isn’t going to hurt you I don’t want to come on Ollie out out with it fast I can’t taste it gum it is vile and awful and wrong vibrating through every notch in my teeth I need to scrub it off my tongue see was that so hard mom sighs it’s just a little stick it’s nothing Ollie I know that but I can’t change how I react to it I just can’t I think getting some help would be good for me my lips twitch that word is still foaming in my mouth you know maybe someone who’s professionally trained to deal with people like me if people like me even exist you don’t want me to help mom narrows her eyes that’s not what I’m saying mom I just don’t want to be like this I want to get better that’s why I’m asking you to let you find someone who can help a therapist or something To what mom whispers sent you to a stranger you want me to hand you off to some shrink who’s going to tell me she understands you better than me when you’re my own daughter the spoon handle clatters to the floor you’re my daughter nothing we’ve done has worked you can’t help me not with this my fingernails dig into my arms draw blood dig for some relief from the rage from the fact that I said “it” all I want is to help you I want to help you so much but you don’t know how you need to let us in honey you need to consider letting God back in – she hath got a breath and he’s in your head again she doesn’t get it I can’t reassemble it in the words anyone can recognize none of that will fix this you can’t fix this mom I’m not sure if anyone can I storm up the stairs she shouts for me to come back but I slam my door I rip the crucifix off my wall and check it across the room it doesn’t break like the last one did today the son of God only leaves a dent in the plaster I dropped to the carpet rubbing my tongue against the fibers i raked my teeth against it flipped my lips inside out I need to pull apart my mouth until it isn’t the same one that said that word scratchy mixes with rust the carpet patch stains red can’t stop until the disgusting cased of that word is fuzzy and raw everything is too clean too orderly to much like how it been when I left for school or strangled by alphabetized books and folded clothes and home smell I have to undo it it has to be undone the first pile of laundry falls like a building collapsing on its side story by story each piece is still too folded still too neat tear each one from the stack and fling it across the room coat the floor in t-shirts and panties and stiff pairs of jeans folds become wrinkles all those perfect lines shake apart books from the shelves crashed down a second scattered a flash up titles made from their overlapped covers plopped down in the middle of the home a tornado it’s not enough not enough not enough never enough Tommy opens the door finds me rocking front back front back trying to calm thoughts next to me beefy little arm squeeze tight squeeze warm he breathes slow and I copy we rock together in the dark his wet eyes blink on my shirt I hope my baby brother tight I want you to be ok he whispers I kissed the top of his head me too kiddo the sounds are thick of my swollen tongue I just don’t know how thank you Thank You Lauren all right I’d like to invite Jeff T. Johnson to introduce Briar Essex Briar Essex’s transcripts or provisionary poetics is an investigation

of language operations as they form the book and inform our conception of the body both textual and fleshy so an investigation of the book as an ideological structure in open collusion with the ideological structure of language making that plain keeping it open a poetics of non arrival of transit and transport it’s been my pleasure and great edification to meet with Briar along the way to this non arrival to receive their dispatches and compare notes their seriousness is made substantial by their commitment to play just as humor and its signal gestures are the Levellers of institutional sanctimony Briar picked up every thread then put down the ones whose patterns had not emerged I look forward to seeing where this poetics and this poet might lead even as they insist there is no destination thank you so much Jeff I’m gonna read three short bits from this longer piece in this piece every piece of writing is prefaced with a definition that I’m also going to give so body 1 contrasted with the soul 12 a United or organized whole an aggregate of individuals characterized by some common attribute a common mass consider body language as embodied language what you imagine from knowing the soul of the body brought together in unison alliance aggregate conversation and collective language given as ephemera gesture tone citation wards worn on the outside for the beholder to read can you know the words as separate if you only read them from a body how do you hold a body how do you hold its language from where do you know a body and its language the binding commonality of the language is the body language is made and carried by the body consider the body of language as language you read with the body what you imagine from knowing the body of the language brought together in unison alliance aggregate conversation and collective language given as ephemera gesture tone citation words within the body of language for the beholder to read can you understand the language if you read separately from a body how do you hold a language how do you read a body from where do you know a body and its language the binding commonality of the body of language is what you read on the body the body makes and carries the body of language what does it mean to have a body reading noun 1 a single or separate act or course of perusal exit the Vietnamese deli on 47th and a man asks me for a cigarette he assumes I just bought I show him a sad bond me by way of response he says can I get some of that telling him this is dinner today and lunch tomorrow seems odd I just apologized and returned to Bertha the bike pulling away I realized I don’t know if he said man or ma’am writing this down note the geographic location of a single letter making all the difference kinship noun the quality or state of being in kin one relationship by descent consanguinity first Phiilly advice was wiped down your bike after salted streets the person at 50th in Baltimore cut offs and I ate a wrap dad said don’t spend too much time there but I trod those stairs last week for a date shared a bagel talked of tattoos and Internet trans grandpas they told me about t stepped out to smoke and I had to pee three times sipping coffee the whole time I thought about salt thank you thank you Briar next I’d like to invite Cathy DeMarco Van Cleve to introduce Samantha frisky hi I’m thrilled to introduce Samantha in some ways I think that she was my mentor and I was the advisee because she was just so exceptional in her writing and she seems to me a dramaturg and she was able through this process to remind me how much playwriting is at the heart of so much of my understanding of

the stories we tell each other her specific story all the dead frogs is I hope we all get a chance to see this in action some exam because it is in the tradition of the great playwrights Marie Irene Furnas and Tony Kushner she Sam was able in her first I didn’t know the sound but it’s her first full-length play she talks about and dramatizes the themes of climate change queer identity families reproduction in biblical plagues in one play and it works much in the same way that was the miracle of billion themes Sam has written her own uniquely brilliant insightful piece about human nature and all in front of a giant iceberg on the stage so it is a pleasure and privilege to introduce Sam right now thank you so much Patti at rise Noah sits on the edge of an ice-filled bathtub Charlotte leans against the bathroom door holding a box of her belongings Charlotte Noah you’ve been in there a while Noah can I no answer Charlotte enters Noah is sitting at the edge of the bathtub staring at the ice in the tub Noah it’s an ice bath Charlotte I can see that Noah Noah wipes her nose against her wrist has she been crying maybe voice flat all the same athletes who use them after strenuous exercise for decades to ease muscle pain even Olympic swimmers they Charlotte you’ve been sitting around the house all day I don’t think you’ve been doing strenuous exercise Noah we can trace ice baths back to the Greeks to Cryotherapy Cairo of course meaning cold in London Cryotherapy was not only used to cure sickness but also depression and if we Charlotte unless a living mental health professional told you to submerge yourself in ice water I wouldn’t Noah I haven’t gotten in yet I’m waiting waiting for the month for the ice to melt a little bit which is funny given everything Charlotte I came in here to get my toothbrush I was serious about moving out I mean I was serious Noah you seem serious you have a box and everything I’m starting to think that if you just get up and leave no one will ever know that you were there that you can quite easily cause your own extinction Charlotte yeah baby Noah I think the frogs were right when they hopped into the grey pot I mean when they wanted to cause their own deaths they took something inevitable and reclaimed it they took their own extinction and reclaimed it like like the old man whose wife died in a hurricane that’s the argument you were trying to make with the euthanasia wasn’t it that was the Charlotte let’s not know uh okay Charlotte okay Noah do you need help packing or Charlotte I’m almost done all I just have to get some things and then I’ll load up the — this isn’t for show you know that don’t you know what I do Charlotte the end Noah I suppose it is Charlotte turns to leave heartbroken stops herself Charlotte did you ever think Noah did you ever think for just one second thought it was tiring being with someone who always dreaded disaster did he’d ever cross your mind that it could be tiring to love someone who didn’t listen to what you were saying because they were too busy waiting for the sound of a far-off glacier breaking Noah right now Charlotte it doesn’t feel that far off Charlotte wants her to have said something more something better but she has Charlotte exits Noah sits on the edge of the tub for a moment completely silent very still she takes in a breath and holds it plunges in waters and ice cubes spill over the sides and excess she comes to the surface screams from shock the plain black curtain that has been the backdrop of all of Act one falls to the ground revealing a massive iceberg Noah immediately resubmerges herself end of act 1 thank you thank you Sam I’d like to invite Chi-Ming Yang to introduce Grace Knights Thank You Julia can everyone hear me okay I am delighted to introduce grace knight and her thesis which is a wonderful blend of journalism and memoir and it’s entitled me and my lungs a college chronicle of cystic

fibrosis grace has taught me so much about resilience in the face of isolation as someone who has lived her entire life in and out of hospitals with a chronic genetic illness that’s largely invisible to the rest of the world and before I met grace I knew very little about cystic fibrosis about how it wreaks havoc on the lungs and the digestive system and how people with CF have to stay always six feet apart to avoid contaminating each other with possibly deathly bacteria so Grace’s meditations on proximity and distance and the very unique bonds of the CF community I think resonate with us all now especially in a time of COVID-19 and I’d just like to congratulate grace and also all of you thesis writers for making it through your time at Penn and for moving forward in 2020 with such gusto and creativity so I give you grace Knight hi everyone okay so I’m gonna read a part from the beginning of my thesis while in quarantine I hear echos of the voices of the CF community I have been interviewing for the past several months they represent a variety of ages genders and levels of disease some of them are post transplant some are living way past the life expectancy and some are in their 20s a handful used oxygen tanks a couple run marathons and one is in graduate school although each experience is unique some factors unite us: the very first being our understanding of time the life expectancy for people born in 1998 is around 31 years old although that isn’t a number I like to dwell on it does speak to the power that age has within the CF community by societal standards I am a young 22 year old adults but in CF years I am old as statistically I have 9 years left to live even though the life expectancy has risen dramatically with scientific developments each year is an uphill battle because of the damage already present in our lungs cf is a progressive illness which means it worsens as patients age this leaves those that are living into their 30s 40s and even 50s almost godly in the eyes of CF patients these are the people we turn to for guidance their stories have shaped how I see my own college journey many CF patients experience a decline around college age and this decline is often associated with a change in perspective Amanda Barnes a 25 year old 3-time lung transplant survivor explains that she became more aware the debilitating parts of her disease as she aged she felt a big shift in her first year of college it was during this year that she had an emergency lung transplant due to a rare fungus that had been wearing down her lungs since their —. like Amanda Tiffany Rich a 30 year-old lung transplant survivor also saw a dramatic plummet in lung function due to a bacteria she had been fighting for years while both Tiffany and Amanda would survive college it was definitely an uphill battle and a turning point in their lives living through the rough parts of CF gave both of them a heightened passion for speaking out about their illness and working towards a cure Tiffany explains that when she was in middle school she tried to hide her CF but once the going got tough she became an advocate for the cause by founding a nonprofit called Salty Sisters with Leah firown’ and hosting a podcast called breathin with Gunnar Esiason both of whom were fellow CF patients I watched their podcast every Saturday through my college years although Leah would lose her battle with CF in 2018 she gave me hope thinking of awareness and truthful wearing of their hearts on their sleeves even though the lows of CF are incredibly difficult overcoming them is a powerful accomplishment one that is often inter woven with the ordinary tasks of daily college lives it was this lesson that I would learn as a freshman miles away from my hometown thanks that’s it Thank You grace all right we are about halfway through what is usually an epic reading like epic and in the good way and around this time we’d start to like smell the smells of the delicious reception in the next room so I want everyone to just try to imagine that there’s a delicious reception waiting for you just outside the room that you’re sitting in and maybe grab whatever you have nearby I see people with various drinking vessels I’ve got a cup of turmeric tea here and vyi to go and grab your own delicious snack or delicious delectable beverage next I’d like to also invite Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve again to introduce Jessica Lee

jessica lee amazing Jessica Lee – I want to echo what the other advisors have said this is really extraordinary and well personally speaking it’s been so great to advise Sam and Jess through this year to listen to all the other work is a delight especially on this last day of classes so congratulations to all okay so jess is amazing and she wrote a novella and a screenplay which is kind of my dream come true and it’s about the Sun her novella and screenplay is about a man who returns Hong Cambodian American man who returns home to his family in South Philadelphia after his brother’s suicide that’s a correct blog line on her story but it is so much more than that what I love so much about just as writing is that she is able to express in words a both a universality and a specificity of this Cambodian man’s experience to make us both understand and learn what a joy again Jess to have worked with you on this project I so much want to read the sentence that made me completely jealous as a writer that I liked it so much but I suspect it’s part of your reading so I’m gonna let you do it so but she’s um – talent to watch as are you all so Jes thank you so much Kathy for the very very kind introduction um I’m actually not going to read that line but I’m pleased I might mention it afterwards you know if I can like find it in in a document but I’m gonna be reading an excerpt from the middle of this piece and I hope you all enjoy it’s amazing how used to things you can get in a month the smell of curry wafting in the house the sound the doughnut mixer makes when it’s getting through our particularly hard batch of dough the old homeless man who lives outside her shop who comes in every Wednesday morning and points to a glazed doughnut and we give it to him no questions asked no money exchanged Bo’s altar which now has an updated photo a picture of him grinning widely next to a car he fixed with Johnny in high school both hands and a thumbs up he’s wearing sunglasses indoors it’s nice right dad says one afternoon to no one in particular his elbows on the counter watching people walk by through the window next to him a half-eaten glaze twist the summer before I started college Bo started taking a lot of night drives by himself he would slip out of our room at around midnight thinking I was asleep I’d look at her window and see him taking dad’s car and driving away into the moonlit Horizon I would try to go to sleep only to be awakened at 2:00 a.m. when he came back and quietly go back to bed I could smell the cheap cigarettes off him I never bothered to ask what he was doing on these drives as we grew older our relationship was mostly based around a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy we lived our separate lives like planets hovering next to each other never crossing paths the night before my move-in day at college Bo showed me awake at midnight want to come on a drive with me he asked in my half awake state I agreed we drove through Cambodia town weaving in and out of the deserted alleyways I couldn’t I could tell he didn’t have a destination that the driving itself is the purpose the sound of the rap radio station Bo religiously listened to and the warm wind running through my hair was oddly comforting I stuck my head out the window closing my eyes letting my vision blur in and out when we finally stopped somewhere it was outside the little bookstore mom would take us to when we were younger he lit a cigarette inhaling and exhaling letting the smoke invade the car are you excited for college he asked I guess yeah I said I played it cool not wanting him to make fun of me you’re finally getting what you wanted right you’re leaving he smiled a little blowing more smoke out the window you’re going to be all right here helping mom and dad out alone right the tiny amount of guilt I’d been harboring about leaving was released in this hesitant question he laughed of course he said turning the music higher always thank you thank you so much Jess next I’d like to invite max Apple to introduce ?Pear Louseman? hi everyone Pear started with the great imagination his characters are recognisably his own during the past two

years he’s taught himself how to keep the reader intrigued by those characters with terrific comic language he fools you into thinking there’s a plot there isn’t instead there’s a resident magician always in full charge I think you’ll hear a little of that out thanks max that was beautiful so I’m gonna read something from the last story of my thesis, just a small excerpt from the middle of it Edgar looks up at me he’s tearing up it’s just so needless but I tell him that it never is Edgar everyone around here needs something I get up to leave but he grabs my hand and he pulls me down to his eye level no don’t leave you should hunker down hurricane Henry’s coming and he pulls me to my knees and kisses my forehead I look down I’m using his shins to stable myself as he pulls me into his grief and we sway back and forth like he is the tree and I’m the brave young squirrel dancing amongst his limbs we give each other life in this way he is my shelter and my stability and I’m his pride his life his joy I gripped his shins tighter and Joe Joe snores on the couch with an ice pack taped to his leg I don’t know is this how one should react when their son loses the ability to dance this man has lost all sanity is that all it takes aloud nor is in a tree root but I wouldn’t know Sheila and I have no children Sheila says she will be a good mother and if she has a child with a broke man like me she is already not a good mother I don’t begrudge her but once again and once again I told you she’s equated my dreams with money be fruitful and multiply but you see she does how she makes me a sellout I carry Joe Joe on my back down to the river he shows me the clearing at the mouth of the marsh he’s been sneaking through to practice the clearing is light and springy and there’s room for me to tuck Joe during the corner and leap around flexing my calf muscles using the dampness of the ground a bounce higher and higher it’s so humid and I work up a sheen of sweat before settling down in the moths we lined the thicket of trees together staring up at the road and when Joe Joe’s dad’s pickup truck rolls by I carried Joe Joe home I ruined his ballet career at the least I can do is help him skip school but Edgar was so sad for his son here Joe Joe is avoiding him your dad loves you very much Joe Joe I say I need to fix this I’m the father figure Joe Joe never had I palmed the back of his head like a basketball and a calming gesture Joe Joe coils thrusting the back of his head into my lower lip which splits and I walk home blood off the edge of the road i watch it fall in one pink unified blob and land in the algae with a plunk an offering to the swamp monster thanks everybody thanks so much Pear. Kitsi Watterson would you please be willing to unmute yourself and introduce Sarah American alright here we go Kitsi I think you’re muted how’s that okay I’m delighted to introduce Sarah American she’s an English and cinema studies majors from Singapore and Singapore has had an influence in her project in many ways Sarah’s project reflects a time and place between worlds between yesterday and tomorrow not unlike where we currently find ourselves this is where Sarah courageously steps from childhood into the future and the past she takes us from the presence of what once was both in memory and geographically that is no longer there it’s transformed into something new yet in reclamation even of land she shows us that the essence of what was still exists or at least it is retrievable to some extent which Sarah is doing by looking back into its history and bringing it forward I’m very happy to introduce Sarah to you she’s given me new ways to look at nature and to think about big transitions so thank you Sarah American Thank You Kitsi in my thesis I focus on Singapore’s land reclamation a large-scale national undertaking that has gone on for almost 200 years and expanded my country by around 25% this constant transformation of

the country leaves an eternally uncertain feeling into the national consciousness a sense of unsettled sin a constantly moving land one professor has written about Singapore’s emerging urban grammar of amnesia speed compression and congestion which comes with an urgency to make sense of one’s relationship to space In my project I hope to give a literary form to this urban grammar through a series of parts from personal essays the roots of reclaim can be traced back to the Latin cry out against protests and the old French for to make team Singapore’s land reclamation is a protest against this inadequate land a reach against the tides of history and nature for being so miserly so ungenerous in their carving of the coast well what of the salty smell the sea that used to laughter in my grandparents house are the deformations that new malls and towering residences bring to memory of cycles to the beach protests can be loud and furious proclaim through the deafening roar of drills and constant din of construction storming through the country but they can be quiet to – by a frail widowed grandmother on her dusty porch to her adolescent grandchild who silently etches grandma’s ways into her heart. one day she’ll go to college in America she’ll stumble into a creative writing class in the second year and she will finally find a pen to write those words down chiku. chiku is the name of a childhood memory where a large lone tree blooms from its center around the tree are cousins spritely teenagers playing under his large green canopy digging in the sand pit late afternoon race touching their skinned the trees at Chiku tree one that bears an oval scruffy brown fur tucked away in several tropical and sub-tropical lens yes other names Sapodilla means berry dewy but it is known as Chiku and Chiku only to us a few times a year the uncle’s will tell us that the Chiku fruits are ripe and mature enough they take out long poles with a little bag and hook finagle unto the end amidst the belling laughter of the uncles we pull the fruits from the tree we wash their brown hairs off and bite into their flesh if the abiding image of my childhood is grandpa and grandmas garden that sweaty oddly magical place then the Chiku tree is at the center of that secret wall from which all infant joy and tender remembrance radiate out Thank You Sara ok I am really really excited to introduce Mary Osunlana. Mary Osunlana’s wildly ambitious visually dense and narratively rich poetically curious project is just the kind of capstone I expected from a writer who in her first year at Penn took English 10 with me and produced the kind of work that is only possible when a student writer possesses the courage to let their imagination really really soar and it’s often the case like this in English 10 when students at the very beginning of their paths as undergraduate writers take the most risks because they haven’t yet internalized all those messages we writers get about limits and expectations but I also want to say something about Mary’s sheer talent as a writer she’s someone who lives so close to language that it clearly just delights her as much as it delights us to read her work this is work born of hard work but also work that is also grounded in a love of words this thesis project is one of those theses that I feel like I didn’t simply advise as much as sort of watched unfold and occasionally would like throw books at Mary and watch her walk out of my office and wait for the next draft I’m so proud of the writer and photographer this is a really visually rich piece so if you ever get a chance to see an excerpt I I know that you’ll just delight in it. Mary has become an incredible writer and photographer this last year of hers here at Penn and I cannot wait to see what she produces next in the world please help me welcome Mary Osunlana Thank You Julia um so I’ll be reading thank you so much it’s such an amazing introduction I’ll be reading from my project which is a multimedia anthology of what I conceptualize is film stills and this is an excerpt from the short story called the black bird which is a Southern gothic fusion horror story adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s poems A Raven I’ll be sharing my screen because I have images so we’ll see if it works doesn’t look like it’s going to so I’ll just read there was a noise at the door

a scuttling scraping as if someone was dragging their fingernails all over his father’s very rich very expensive very vintage ebony doors or something suspicious which could peek through the peephole before opens the doors properly it was past midnight and strange folks outnumbered the normal ones this far down so Richard didn’t see anything It took him longer than he cared to admit to wipe the grind I covered the glass a second less hazy look revealed his mother’s neglected bed of daffodils a generous driveway oak trees with moss whipping violently in the wind and just as he expected the cat named Delilah who acted like she didn’t love him she watched him with glowing eyes from the end of the driveway and Richard patted over barefoot to scoop her into his arms hey girl he whispered stroking her fur noticed that her hackles were raised when the – feeling of eyes stickly trained upon him registered his hackles raised it as well the foyer Mr. Dandridge a gray haired and brown skinned man who lived across the street struggling with two trash bags that were larger than his frail frame Evening Mr. Dandridge Richard yelled over the wind Mr. Dandrige continued toward the trash cans not at all embarrassed being caught staring a little late for that huh can I help doesn’t look like I need Mr. Dandridge heaved from one black bag into the trash can held on to the room for balancing of breath before tossing the other inside your goddamn help we think he turned back up his driveway Richard grumbled as he turned to head back up his own the moment his hands touched the brass knobs on the very expensive very vintage ebony doors however the storm that had teased their little corner of Louisiana throughout the evening finally released her impetuous fury even knowing that the man hated him Richard turned to make sure that Mr. Dandridge made it in safely making the thoughts engineering into the border is looking low through the Spanish moss across a stream behind the lowing magnolia trees Mr. Dandridge’s back disappeared into his shotgun house a door shut in the distance which returned With Delilah? a few years in his arms so that his doors could do the same Richard made his soggy and steady way back up creaky stairs armed with another bottle he made a pit stop at the back of his father’s closet changing his dad’s favorite brocade robe sandalwood leather and smoking was co-opting up when Richard shifted so it was with font thoughts of his father cigars and galantamine fresh in his mind that Richard entered the study he ain’t get very far the bottle slipped through his fingers amber liquid and shards of glass frayed over his feet so looking through the tufted doormat sat in his father’s leather chair was a woman red buzz cut big eyes as you’d see this if the video if the image worked Velocia’s grin shifting excitedly in the chair so that it squeaked the only noise in the Sun on a Roman – Richard breathing the name Taiwan. Velocia’s grin ruptured into a smile full of extremely sharp teeth she said lovely to meet you again and this is where we even leave Richard a moment there reader as I established several things so that you can see for yourself exactly how sharp Velocia’s teeth were so that you can understand why Richard called — by my name and so that like the storm so furious outside you too might demand Richards blood thank you Mary Avery Rome will you please unmute yourself and introduce Juliet Palermo who I just have to say completed 2 honor these: the critical thesis in English and the creative thesis and creative writing which I had no idea until she just suddenly dropped that into an email to me so extra congratulations to Juliet and thank you very much it’s I’m very happy to pay tribute to my friend Juliet this is a treat Juliet Palermo is a writer I don’t mean she is a journalist or a wordsmith or a communicator although she’s all of those things I speak to her her way of looking at the world of being present Juliet absorbs the moment sensitive to tone and nuance power and pretension and then she switches angles and looks again she builds a structure of details and dialogue rewriting and revising she is

dogged she wants to get it right to let words lead her to the truth to understanding for her thesis Juliet scoured multimedia sources from — — to Andrew Solomon to Phoebe Waller-Bridge to help her refine her focus hair down and go deeper she has produced a candid and touching meditation on family on belonging and growing up on discovering who you are without harming others on coming of age her self-portrait offers a full character a young woman testing her independence eager doubtful observant them unsure and the questions she wrestles with her ones we ask ourselves all the time at any age what do we take from the past what does it mean to us now how can we see our parents clearly as people do we even want to what happens when we seek out new families so we can grow beyond where we were planted on each page of Juliet’s writing you will see a philosopher probing the boundaries of experience and you will hear a poet’s love of language and music she gives me some credit for nudging her toward her profession but really consider how easily flowers find the Sun Juliet Palermo thank you so much that was so nice okay I’m going to be reading an excerpt from my essay entitled daddy’s girl during the summer of 2017 the summer after I had finished my freshman year of college at the University of Pennsylvania I worked two jobs for a combined total of 40 hours a week one of the jobs was at Penn and required me to be there at 9:00 I took an 8 or 9 train from Wyndmoore station in Chestnut Hill to 30th Street Station three times a week my other job was at a flower shop located ten minutes from my house but one that required me to stand all day if we sat we got in trouble and provide excellent customer service in a building with out air conditioning Philadelphia summers pulsate with heat it seeps through the sidewalk to strangle your ankles and it nests in your hair when I came home from work I was exhausted I like to bask in the cool central air conditioning of my living room and nestled under blankets on the couch with my phone I did this every night and did not think anything of it but apparently my dad did one night after dinner my family was sitting together in the living room watching HGTV I was huddled under my blanket half-asleep when my dad started to glare at me what what did I do he shook his head no seriously Dad I can tell you were mad at me can you just home can you just let me know what I did he stared at me is it because mom put my plate away for me I’m sorry he shook his head again he looked tense he sat in his leather chair across the room for me punching his back and pulling his shoulders to his ears he crossed his legs and clenched and unclenched his fists he looked like he was trying to fold himself into a box my mom joined the conversation mark what is wrong tell Julia what she did and she can fix it still my father said nothing I ignored him and went back to Facebook later that night when everyone had gone to bed and I was still in the couch watching TV and scrolling through my phone my father came down the stairs he stood on the bottom step and looked at me he took a deep breath Julia listen are you really going to make me tell you why I’m mad at you are you really going to make me say it I sat upm put the phone down yes I have no idea what you were talking about it and do anything you you know you did he sputtered he struggled to find the right words you come home and then you get under that blanket your whole body under that blanket and your face gets all relaxed I can’t believe you would do that in front of the family his face twisted he looks so uncomfortable clenching his hands I decides what I screamed you think I masturbate in the living room – HGTV what he began to back up the stairs don’t you he asked voice small hands limp no why would I do that I don’t even do that by myself in my room who would do that to HTV I started

shaking and crying I was a shouting shaking crying mess humiliated by the idea my dad thought I would masturbate in front of family the absolute ichy-ness of that idea astounded me is there anything worse than having your dad believe you shamelessly masturbate in the living room with your family sitting there at that point my mom came down the stairs mark what is going on go back to bed he left and my mom sat next to me on the couch she held me while we tried to reason through what had happened I guess that’s what boys do my mom suggested and I came downstairs and joined my mom and me on the couch dad thought Juliet was masturbating on the couch does anyone masturbate to beach houses she giggled then we all giggled a rough two days between my dad and me followed the incident but now it’s a family joke when we are all together in the living room watching TV one of us will yell hand-check and everyone lifts their hands of other heads for good measure we lift up the dog’s paws as well then we all laugh my dad rolls his eyes and we go back to our phones crammed together in the same house because of COVIC-19 all of us adults the topics of sex death and alcohol rub up against each other and we laugh to cope I worry constantly that my father will hear the buzz of my new vibrator I pray he has enough cognitive dissonance to assume it is something other than I sexually like my ceiling fan when I told my dad that the first scene in this essay was going to be about the time he accused me of masturbating he said oh my god why is this the price of having a writer in the family Thank You Juliet fantastic okay believe it or not we actually have three readers left I guess that’s the thing that happens in zoom things go a little more quickly because we don’t have to get up and down out of our seats I’m a little bit sad that we’re almost done but this has been so fantastic next I would like to invite Beth Kephart pleased to introduce Clara Phillips and what a pleasure it’s been to watch all of you and all of your advisers and mentors and co-dreamers it’s really a privilege I met Clara a year ago while teaching young adult fiction at Penn and over the writer I just said what she was she couldn’t walk you straight into a world with her prose she turned his sentences into theatric energy Clara is is someone who might know a playwright the former director languages never for her found strictly to the page she screamed of being a novelist for many years now and she screamed in a place called Alagore and so when she came to our Tuesday workshops with her Alagore novel and hand it was a privilege to much she worked through new beginnings new things new possibilities writing is never a straight line process progress as many as much by what we vanguish as by what we choose to keep and Clara’s journey with Alagore took her down a number of roads and to know toward the end she discovered for himself what happiness can be when it’s found in the projects that have eluded us until miraculously they no longer do I hate it got our Tuesday in-person workshop meetings became zoom meetings I truly did but I will never forget the shine of Clara’s smile a few weeks ago on my screen when she looked at me from across the effort and used the word joy as she described her week of work Clara writing tests all of us it always will it’s those of us who do not bend to the frustration who find their way through to the other side of the story and that is precisely what we’ve done Thank You Beth and I’m gonna be reading a little excerpt from the beginning of my pieces moments Sylvia had left the kitchen maybe to look at the locks or light switches and Brad gently opened the cabinet and pulled out what had caught her eye it was a bowl but not a normal one the sides were paper-thin and set with colorful translucent glass designs emerging from the glazed white clay the one she held had oranges hanging from branches tiny tear drops of green forming leaves there were six in all and Brett handled each one and traced her fingers over the designs there was an ocean pink butterflies and a luna moth the Moon and Sun an apple tree and a gaping fish mouth pierced with a hook she didn’t like that one as much there were glassy blood drops sliding down the side each bowl had an H carved into the bottom she didn’t know if these were the work of her grandfather or not they seemed a little advanced for an amateur Potter not that Brett knew a lot about throwing clay still it had to be crazy difficult to take cut glass and integrate it into a bowl besides that they’re no wonder they were kept apart from the other dishes these could break easily Brett put the bowls back her fingers tingling with adrenaline as she considered the implications of accidentally dropping one that would not be following rules

three and four and if she was gonna disregard them she wanted it to be later in the month at least what are you doing Sylvia asked standing in the doorway to the hall and Brett shut the cabinet hurriedly and stood her right foot started a tingle as the blood rushed back into it she’d been kneeling longer than she thought but time flies when you’re handling fragiley crafted items studying pottery Brett responded and Sylvia shrugged and turned away Brett knew that by this point Sylvia had a strong understanding of the on-the-fly way Brett lived her life so about an interest in pottery made as much sense as anything else Brett liked keeping even herself on her toes I’m going to read upstairs see you soon Sylvia called over his shoulder as she slipped back into the hall mom popped into the kitchen is Sylvia left and grab the bottle of wine giving Brett a weak little smile you tired sweetie we did get up early for the drive Brett wasn’t tired but she didn’t say so and burden to mom’s shoulder first level mom smelled like the lemony hand soap in the bathroom and something smoked here that clung to her hair briella her eyes fall close for a moment her neck relaxing and then laundry back gently I need to rest up for the drive tomorrow love you Brett I’ll see you in the morning eat some fruit if you’re hungry before any of us wake up love you Brett replied already missing the hug and then she was alone in the kitchen she wouldn’t want to sleep for a couple hours if not more new places jacked her energy up exponentially when Ann’s house didn’t have a lot to explore nothing new to Brett anyways this was always her least favorite part of the day when she had all the space and time to herself Brett didn’t ponder long even if Sylvia didn’t want to talk it would be easier to bear the boredom in her quiet company so Brett left the kitchen and flicked off the lights the dark was sudden an eerie and a familiar paranoid urge dwelled in her chest to turn and confront the stairs to make sure she was really alone but she crossed it she’d read somewhere that if you looked once you would always be looking thank you Thank You Clara amazing Jamie Lee Jocelyn who seems to be emerging from the bookcases in the zoo background would you please introduce Lily Schneider I sure will thanks Julia and congrats to all the seniors we miss you we love you we’re super super proud of you and I am super super super proud of Lily Snyder one of the most amusing parts of working with Lily on this project has been getting to see the titles of her file attachments on email so one of them was dad angry sad coronavirus and one was just slutty and one was family trauma and then the perhaps the most memorable one which you will get to hear more about was those fat titties and that one actually went missing for a while because my computer somewhat understandably filtered it to the spam folder for like a few weeks actually now these file names and the affiliated essay titles have been funny and you know at times it’s also content that’s upsetting but this project has gone so much deeper than that lily has interrogated her and our use of comedy are using ourselves as punch lines and using punch lines to protect ourselves and she’s contemplated the psychological and cultural cost of all of this I’m proud of the work she’s done and I’m truly amazed by the pivot that she’s made when she was forced to leave Philly and leave the stand-up stage for her family homestead in Maine her project meets the moment she has produced work that will on one hand preserved these weeks and her pasts in the context of this quarantine but she’ll no doubt do really well with this work as she continues this reflective complicated and yes occasionally hilarious stuff here’s Lily thank you so much Jamie Lee it has been such a pleasure um I will be reading a series of excerpts from the aforementioned essay those fat titties the wound was up on stage with me under the baggy white turtleneck thin gray undershirt and tight black sports bra sat my breasts one of which was bruised midnight blue from its midline to the bottom the incision on its outer side held together by butterfly stitches and some gauze looking at it beforehand in the bathroom mirror I didn’t laugh i whimpered the spotlight made me sweat beads in my armpits the wound on my chest felt especially warm currents of heat beginning there and

spreading to the rest of me from it it felt like I was standing crooked like the right side of my body was heavier than the rest still I fired off my well-rehearsed titty trauma set trying to forget that only three layers of fabric and four feet of air separated my own bandaged breast from an audience of strangers the cancer scare alone would have been enough the disfiguration of the biopsy and exhaustion of healing would have been enough but these were only new accolades in the colourful career my breasts have had in getting through painful bullshit in some sad way carrying a throbbing blackened breast around felt right I could point to it and say look someone hurt me here I am still hurt right now my first categorically bad memory of someone noticing my breasts happened at ten years old I was in the common area between all of the fourth grade classrooms when a boy named Jack called to me across the room hey twin towers in college big breasts don’t make you special but to some people they still make you subhuman this past Halloween I stood outside of a bar dressed as a fortune-teller in a bikini top and long flowy skirt an acquaintance of mine greeted me and I greeted him back so he asked looking me up and down what’s it like living with those fat titties John if you’re reading this does this answer your question at all this is the short list this is a tasting menu from a vineyard that boasts hundreds of acres of varieties of grape this is an exercise in reading between the lines Dear John far before Jack from fourth grade opened up his foul mouth I knew I had been born into a female body in fact none of these boys ever had to say one single thing for me to know from the moment I had skin I could already feel the way their world gazed in many stories the preteen girl laments being pigeon-holed into childhood I’m not a kid anymore she screams at her parents praying each night that God will grant her boobs she tries strange and inconsequential workouts she drinks 4% milk and experiments with makeup she waits impatiently for boys to notice her for people to stop treating her like a baby for her womanhood to finally commence this is not my story I skipped that waiting step and if there were a step before that I skipped that one too I had breasts long before I had time to have thoughts or wishes or feelings about breasts I started to look like a woman before I knew that there would even come a time when I’d stop being a kid by the time I’d wrapped my head around it the day had already passed ever since then I’ve been waiting for my womanhood to finally let up even just a little spoiler alert it just gets heavier thank you thank you so much Lilly Snider our last reader is Annabel Williams Annabel Williams is going to be introduced by me when Annabel Williams approached me about supervising an honors thesis devoted to vampires the rabid Buffy fan and me practically laughing out of my seat before I could muster the sober somber professor persona who just nodded thoughtfully and waited a beat asked but what do you think you want to say about the broader implications of vampire fandom working with Annabelle on this project was truly working alongside one of the great journalistic minds here at Penn Annabelle is a writer who never loses sight of the kernel of her idea at the same time that she gives herself grand permission to research wildly and I was no help with this because much like Mary I would just got throwing books at her and I was just as bad as she was about doing research upon research upon research she also was willing to think dangerously and write nonfiction that pushes the boundaries of well-sourced reporting and searing personal essay I absolutely admire and adore Annabelle’s wit and sharpness as a writer I would read anything she wrote but it was a special pleasure to see this project unfold as she discovered all the most pressing and urgent things vampire narratives have to tell us in her brilliant meditations on body image femaleness queerness eating adolescents genre and a whole host of other topics I want to thank Annabelle for never rolling her eyes every time I used the words stake or bloodless in our meetings and forgiving me the best reason ever to watch hush for the 30th time please help me welcome Annabelle Williams Thank You Julia so I’m gonna be reading from one of

actually the first essay in my thesis ok I was born 9 pounds 15 ounces but after that I was always skinny I became a runner and I became skinnier and once I’d become that thing I couldn’t conceive of unbecoming it after an injury took me out of running I stopped going to the gym because I couldn’t not be skinny I ate less Meals became an afterthought as I subsisted on Luna bars and leftovers and the occasional flaccid chicken sandwich from my high school cafeteria it was around the time that I stopped running that I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer watching Buffy’s vampires who at first are adversaries and then friends lovers or something in the greyscale I was equal parts drawn and repelled I felt like the narrator and J Sheridan lympha news Carmela speaking about her feelings towards the titular vampire I did feel as she said drawn towards her but there was also something of repulsion and this ambiguous feeling however the sense of attraction immediately prevails I wondered why I wasn’t more disgusted by the ink of it all the bubbling blood and the beaded bodies the fact that when you really think about it eating a human being is gross but now I see some of it had to do with jealousy these bitches could eat whatever they wanted while eating for me felt like a chore something I’d have to remind myself to do with an app on my phone or a — scheduled lunchtime they couldn’t get it out of their minds pirate fictions have some innate sense of the ecstatic pleasure of food scenes an interview with the vampire show the stat seated at a banquet table arranged with a pastel colored delicacy so lovingly placed that it looks decorative to him it is but the pleasures of the human food on the table underscore the pleasures of him consuming his actual food humans rather than seeing food as a chore vampires seem to embrace their need to identify and orient themselves around it in that interview with the vampire scene Lestat shows Lewis how to eat he seizes a rat and slits its throat and once platelets slip into a wineglass that steam should read his grotesque but instead it feels like a triumph of instant gratification food still isn’t easy for me anxieties about my next meal how will it taste when will I eat it subsume the one I’m currently eating meals are sometimes good and often a utility the best way I’ve found to understand my own ambivalence towards food my desire towards self-control that bleeds into self-destruction is weirdly watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a dream sequence in the episode Restless the rogue Slayer of faith tells Buffy there is no body and isn’t that the dream to exist on some level outside of human limitation to exert so much control that the body becomes subject to the mind rather than the other way around birth is a curse existence is a prison prison yadda yadda yadda but what’s so attractive about vampirism as a fiction is that for a moment it can cure us of the ill effects of being alive thank you Thank You Annabelle thank you for leaving in the Yatta Yatta Yatta thank you to everyone for those incredible readings these projects are so luminous I’m thrilled to see all of them come to fruition at the end of this term I want to echo what Jamie Lee said which is that we miss you and we love you and we support you and I’m super proud of everyone for finishing not just like finishing at all but finishing with such ambition and grace and commitment to all of your work we’re just absolutely thrilled thank you to everyone who joined us on YouTube all of our fans thank you for everyone who shared the link with their friends and family and folks who showed up to celebrate you I’m gonna raise my tumeric tea and a virtual toast I invite everyone watching to do the same to congratulate our seniors and with that good night everyone