Witch Hunt: A Conversation with Andrea Balis and Elizabeth Levy

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About the Authors

Dr. Andrea Balis is not only a distinguished faculty member in the history department of John Jay College, City University of New York, specializing in twentieth-century political history, but also a versatile writer and director.

Elizabeth Levy is an award-winning author of over 100 fiction and non-fiction books for young readers. Renowned for her humorous yet meticulously researched approach, Levy brings subjects to life and inspires and entertains audiences worldwide.

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Witch Hunt: The Cold War, Joe McCarthy, and the Red Scare.

Story Carrier: An Interview with Jane Clark

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Jane is a retired college teacher of composition, literature, and journalism, who worked for a major northeastern university and a small, private liberal arts college. She was also the director of the Capital Area Writing Project at Penn State Harrisburg.

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The Write Time and the Furious Flower Syllabus Project

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About Our Guests

McKinley E. Melton earned his PhD from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Prior to joining the Gettysburg College faculty, Dr. Melton was a visiting assistant professor of literature at Hampshire College from 2007-2012. He is also the recipient of a 2015 Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and was a 2015-16 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University. Most recently, Dr. Melton was awarded a 2019-20 Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship by the American Council of Learned Societies, in order to support a year as scholar-in-residence at the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University.

Allia Abdullah-Matta is a poet and Professor of English at CUNY LaGuardia, where she teaches composition, literature, creative writing, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies courses. She writes about the culture and history of Black women and explores the presence of Black bodies and voices in fine art and poetry. She was the co-recipient of the The Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize in Poetry (2018) from The City College of New York (CCNY). Her poetry has been published in Newtown Literary, Promethean, Marsh Hawk Review, Mom Egg Review Vox, Global City Review, and the Jam Journal Issue of Push/Pull. Her chapbook(s) washed clean & blues politico (2021) were published by harlequin creature (hcx). Abdullah-Matta has published critical and pedagogical articles and serves on the Radical Teacher and WSQ (Women’s Studies Quarterly) editorial boards. She is working on a collection of poems inspired by archival and field research in South Carolina and Georgia, funded by a CUNY BRESI grant.

Hayes Davis’ first volume, Let Our Eyes Linger, was published by Poetry Mutual Press; he is currently serving as the Howard County (Md) Poetry and Literature Society Writer in Residence, and he won a 2022 Maryland State Arts Council Independent Artists Award. His work has appeared most recently on the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day feature, he has been anthologized in This is What America Looks Like, Deep Beauty, Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, Ghost Fishing: An Eco-justice Poetry Anthology, and others. His poems have also appeared in Mom Egg Review, New England Review, Poet Lore, Auburn Avenue, Gargoyle, Kinfolks, Fledgling Rag, and other journals. He holds a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland, and is a member of Cave Canem’s (Cah-vay Cah-nem) first cohort of fellows. He has attended or been awarded writing residencies at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, The Hermitage, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Manhattanville College, and Soul Mountain. He has appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU, 88.5 in Washington, D.C. and at the Hay Festival Kells in Kells, Ireland. He has taught English and directed equity and justice work in Washington, D.C.-area independent schools for 20+ years; he shares his creative and domestic life with his wife, poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis, and their children.

Dave Wooley is an English, Journalism and Creative Writing teacher at Westhill High School in Stamford, Connecticut, where he has taught since 2001. He has served as a Co-Adviser for the school’s hybrid newspaper The Westword since 2003. He has served as an adjunct Professor at Fairfield University, teaching Philosophy of Hip Hop, and he is a teaching fellow at the Connecticut Writing Project. Dave is one half of the rap group d_Cyphernauts and a hip-hop educator who has presented at the HipHopEd conference, the NCTE annual conference, the CSPA conference, among others. He served as a curriculum and music coordinator for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “From Harlem to Hip-Hop: African- American History, Literature, and Song” which was hosted at Fairfield University. Dave is a contributing poet on the website Ethical ELA, and he has been involved with the Furious Flower Center for Black Poetry as a participating scholar in its last three Legacy Seminars. He is one of the authors of Furious Flower’s newly created open access syllabus, Opening the World of Black Poetry: A Furious Flower Syllabus. He lives in Stratford, Connecticut with his wife and four children.

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A Visit with Novelly

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Novelly is on a mission to publish diverse teenage authors and get their books taught in classrooms, so that every student can feel seen and inspired by what they read. This episode features the founder and managing director Anna Gabriella Casalme, along with two youth authors who have had their work published through Novelly.

For the Sake of Argument: Teaching Evidence-Based Writing

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“To the detriment of education, we live in what author Deborah Tannen calls the ‘argument culture,’ where ‘winning’ is more valued than ‘understanding.’ The NWP’s approach to argument writing starts with having students understand multiple points of view that go beyond pros and cons and are based on multiple pieces of evidence, which ultimately enables students to take responsible civic action.”

The Write Time with Songwriter/Storyteller Rob Rokicki and Educator Kevin Hodgson

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Rob Rokicki is an NYC-based artist and educator. He wrote the music, lyrics, and co-orchestrated the Broadway show, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (book by Joe Tracz); nominated for a Lortel, Off-Broadway Alliance, and three Drama Desk Awards. His graphic novel/musical, Monstersongs (National Alliance for Musical Theatre official selection), is played internationally and is being developed as a VR game. He’s a two-time Larson Award finalist, an alum of the BMI Workshop, and a graduate of the University of Michigan. As an actor, Rob has performed in Broadway national tours and at Carnegie Hall.

Rob is interviewed by Kevin Hodgson, a sixth-grade teacher and musician in Southampton, Massachusetts, and a teacher-consultant with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project.

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Experiments in Reflection: A Conversation with Leticia Britos Cavagnaro

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Today we visit with Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, author of Experiments in Reflection. Leticia is a developmental biologist turned design educator, who has been a part of Stanford University’s since 2006. She co-founded and co-directs the University Innovation Fellows program, impacting students and educators worldwide. Leticia’s work integrates emerging technologies in creative methods to foster self-directed and responsible future shapers.

Frank Murphy: Why I Write

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I remember the first book I ever made—out of cardboard, tape, and cut-out pictures from the sports page of the Philadelphia Bulletin. I wrote and constructed my own little sports book about Boston Celtics great John Havilcek retiring. (Sacrilegious, I know, because I’ve always been a Philadelphia 76ers fan. But I just loved watching Havilcek play!) It was April 1978 and I was 11 years old. And, man, do I wish I still had that little book!

About 12 years later, all grown up, I found myself teaching second grade. I noticed that there weren’t many children’s books about famous historical women. So I started making my own little books for my students to read in class. I wrote a little book about Vinnie Ream, a 17-year-old girl who sculpted Abraham Lincoln from life, and Sophonisba Anguissola, a female Renaissance painter who introduced emotion into portraiture. Then I created a little story about Ben Franklin making these little mathematical magic squares. It didn’t take long for me to send some of these stories out as manuscripts to publishers. After six years of toiling and working and honing my skills (and many, many rejection letters) I, f-i-n-a-l-l-y, received a contract from Random House for the Ben Franklin story.

All of the stories I have written have been created with an intention of “breathing life” into history. From the start, I wanted to excite young readers about famous people in history, but not necessarily focus on dates and names and places. I wanted kids to think history was cool. I wanted my stories to have something interesting, maybe centering on a little-known tidbit or story about these icons from history. From Ben Franklin’s magic squares, to a lost dog that George Washington found, to a story I’m polishing about Frederick Douglass and his impact on the origin of Black History Month, I hope my stories inspire young readers to fall in love with history!

That’s why I write! I want to “breathe life” into history! I want young readers (and older, too) to read my books and walk away excited to read more about these icons. And, maybe, chase history themselves and look for and find new stories about their own favorite historical icons.

Grant Faulkner: Why I Write

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When I was a young boy, I remember going grocery shopping with my mother, and if she lost track of me in the store, she’d inevitably find me in the aisle that carried pens and notebooks. I had a strange fascination—perhaps even a fetish—for stationery, pens, and journals. When I visited my father’s office, I’d sneak away with a treasure trove of pads of papers and pens. I asked for a leather-bound diary with a lock on it for my 7th birthday. Soon afterward, my mother gave me an antique rolltop desk designed for a child, and I was in heaven. I felt like a real writer, and I wrote my first story at that desk.

This is all to say that when I think about the myriad of things that made me a writer and made writing such an urgent act, I sometimes think it was pre-determined. I felt the calling to write from as early as I can remember. I took a few steps in different directions here and there over the years, but I knew that no matter my profession, writing would always be a strong gravitational force in my life.

But that primal calling doesn’t tell me “the why” of it all. Why spend so many hours—why spend the better part of an entire lifetime—in this activity that doesn’t generally offer much societal approbation, and certainly not much money?

I once told a friend that there were at least 100 good reasons why I wrote. But after I said that, I wondered if I was exaggerating. It turns out I wasn’t.

Here’s why I write.

  1. I write to see the beginning and the end of it all.
  2. I write to find myself.
  3. I write to lose myself.
  4. I write to tame reality.
  5. I write to augment reality.
  6. I write to discover how to survive.
  7. I write to think about how to die.
  8. I write to shape my ideas with words.
  9. I write to see the world through others’ eyes.
  10. I write to exult the possible.
  11. I write to probe the chaos in myself.
  12. I write to better define the clarity of myself.
  13. I write to touch a dragon’s scales.
  14. I write to live in a wizard’s magic.
  15. I write to make the world bigger.
  16. I write to make the world smaller.
  17. I write to demystify people’s differences.
  18. I write to see with fresh eyes.
  19. I write to reorder and recombine the world.
  20. I write to listen to the heartbeat of the monstrous.
  21. I write to break open the locked chambers of myself.
  22. I write to enliven feelings that have become numb.
  23. I write to hear a tree’s whispers.
  24. I write to make the obvious strange (and the strange obvious)
  25. I write to trace the contours of nuances.
  26. I write to push the boundaries of myself.
  27. I write because I don’t know what else to do.
  28. I write to be a part of the world.
  29. I write to invent myself.
  30. I write to preserve myself.
  31. I write to change the world.
  32. I write to explore my darkness.
  33. I write to inhabit my lightness.
  34. I write to hold onto ephemeral moments.
  35. I write to quarrel with myself.
  36. I write to travel to other lands.
  37. I write to encounter the unknown.
  38. I write to live in the past and the future.
  39. I write to eavesdrop on others’ conversations.
  40. I write to peek through the keyholes of forbidden rooms.
  41. I write to find an antidote to my malaise.
  42. I write to nourish my spirit.
  43. I write to test my values.
  44. I write to read the world.
  45. I write because with each word, new expanses open.
  46. I write so that my life will not end when I die.
  47. I write to not die of the truth.
  48. I write to maintain my equilibrium.
  49. I write to be seduced by all of the strange and wonderful possibilities of language.
  50. I write to be vulnerable.
  51. I write to share.
  52. I write to find beauty in the gritty aspects of life and grittiness in the beautiful.
  53. I write to entertain myself.
  54. I write to converse with others.
  55. I write to hide from others.
  56. I write because there are so many voices in my head.
  57. I write to give.
  58. I write because I only have one life, and I want so many more.
  59. I write to get revenge (sorry).
  60. I write to find out why.
  61. I write to resist anything that threatens me.
  62. I write to pursue the things I can never quite know.
  63. I write to know the boundaries of my fears.
  64. I write to not be lonely.
  65. I write to feel solace.
  66. I write to to fortify my resilience.
  67. I write to mend.
  68. I write to feel whole.
  69. I write to know what makes bad people good and good people bad.
  70. I write to hear the music of life.
  71. I write to better enjoy my morning cup of coffee.
  72. I write to better enjoy my evening glass of wine.
  73. I write to develop a rapt eye–and then express the raptures I see.
  74. I write to appreciate others’ words and stories more.
  75. I write to experiment, to fail, and to try again.
  76. I write to pause.
  77. I write to notice.
  78. I write because words open a secret door through which all else flows.
  79. I write to talk to myself.
  80. I write to feel the immensity of it all.
  81. I write to pray.
  82. I write to rewrite.
  83. I write because there’s no way to get it right.
  84. I write so that I can buy fine journals and pens.
  85. I write to retort.
  86. I write to hear the silence.
  87. I write because I’m not satisfied with just living.
  88. I write to wend through the contortions of all of my doubts.
  89. I write to know all of the different homes where I have lived.
  90. I write to not feel misunderstood.
  91. I write to feel the awe of all of the scents, sights, sounds, touches, and tastes of the world.
  92. I write to be more intimate with myself.
  93. I write to hear what gods and devils talk about.
  94. I write to speak in tongues.
  95. I write to know the things that are hidden.
  96. I write to remember.
  97. I write because, as Gloria Steinem said, “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
  98. I write because I don’t know how not to write.
  99. I write to find hope in suffering.
  100. I write to light candles in the darkness. I write to keep going, so I’ll add just one more.
  101. I write to love.

I just sent my friend these 100 reasons and told her I think I can come up with 100 more.