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English Department guest speaker says writing can be fun

Published on November 04, 2020

English Department guest speaker says writing can be fun

Mark Polanzak on Zoom
Guest speaker and author Mark Polanzak speaks with Eastern students virtually.

Writing is a fundamental life skill and workplace competency in our 21st century society. It’s not surprising, then, that the ability to write at the college level is a requirement for all Eastern Connecticut State University students.  As guest speaker Mark Polanzak described on Oct. 28, writing also can be fun and personally rewarding in the process.

Polanzak, who teaches writing and literature at Berklee College of Music in Boston, was the guest of English lecturer Mika Taylor and her two classes as part of Eastern’s Visiting Writers Series.  Author of “The OK End of Funny Town” (BOA Editions, 2020), Polanzak used two stories from the book to share the joy of creative writing with Taylor’s students. 

book cover In “Giant,” Polanzak creates an imaginary figure — taller than the City Hall — who wears baggy pants and no shoes and eats giant berries. He has long stringy blond hair, never speaks and is a town curiosity.  In “Used Goods,” Polanzak describes a man moving from one apartment to another, leaving most of his old stuff on the curb and vowing not to cram his new apartment with new belongings when he moves across the street. However, he ends up buying every bargain he can find and fills up his new place with more clutter — curtains, nightstands, paintings, brass ash trays, dusty turntables, second hand oak desks and more.

“Mark Polanzak’s stories are full of wondrous beings, inventive activities and new and surprising happenings — and they're also well aware that much of the time we find the wondrous and inventive and newly surprising kind of irritating,” writes Matt Bell, author of “Scrapper.”

Polanzak told Eastern students, “The simplest way to start a story is to start wherever the story begins. The character is almost always in the first line.”  

His audience was impressed. “I thought the event was great,” said Salwa Mogaddedi ’21, a labor relations and human resource management major from Fremont, CA. “It's not common for readers to be able to meet the authors of the books they've read. It was great to be able to hear directly from Polanzak on what his inspirations are, why he writes the way he does, and what he is symbolizing with his quirky characters and magical settings.”

Pranav Thaker, ’22, a business administration major from Colchester, said, “I really enjoyed this presentation and reading; it helped put perspective of how voice can impact a story.”

Polanzak’s stories have appeared in “The Southern Review “and “The American Scholar” and anthologized in “Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017.” He is a founding editor of “Draft: The Journal of Process” and a contributor to “The Fail Safe” podcast.  

Written by Dwight Bachman

Categories: English