Category Archives: Master in Fine Arts

Why do we care? An examination of pop culture icons.

Celebrities are the center of modern pop culture in the U.S. and around the world. We look to these people for clues about what to wear, what music to listen to, where to spend our money, and even what to believe. These icons have become larger than life; their influence on the world around them stretches beyond their daily interactions or even the time frame in which they lived. What is it that captivates us about these characters and what is it like to live a life in the spotlight? img_3356Joe Donovan, a student in the creative writing program here at Oregon State University, is interested in the inflated influence of pop culture icons on society.

From an early age Joe has been an active writer. He recounts journaling frequently as a young student in middle and high school. During his college years, at Willamette University, Joe was influenced by a fantastic english professor who helped him to refine his craft. Joe came to Oregon State University to further perfect his writing style and he has found plenty of inspiration under the tutelage of his advisor, Elena Passarello.

Joe’s work today focuses on three icons in pop culture; Prince, an egyptian puppet named Abla Fahita, and Flo the Progressive insurance lady. His writing on Prince plans to examine the early life of Prince, specifically his birth in 1958 during the peak of Sputnik hysteria. Many people may not have heard of Abla Fahita before, but this puppet’s influence grew great enough that the Egyptian government is investigating its encouragement of terrorist attacks. Joe hopes to shed some light on how a satirical puppet can shape international policy. The third essay Joe is working on examines the rise of Flo the Progressive insurance lady. How did a failed actress become one of the most recognizable characters in current pop culture? After ten years on the air, how does actress Stephanie Courtney separate real life and Flo life? All of these characters represent simple characters who have had a surprising influence on the world, and Joe hopes to share some thoughts on how they rose to fame.

Keep an eye out for Joe’s stories in the future, I guarantee they’ll be worth the read. Also, tune in on Sunday at 7pm (PST) on 88.7 KBVR to hear Joe’s take on these Icons of pop culture.

Workshop-Around the World

Twenty years in the future, U. S. A.

 Civilization has changed dramatically in the aftermath of a plague. Communication is limited and travel is prohibited for most. Two sisters are separated by thousands of miles, one in San Francisco and one in Pittsburgh. They want desperately to reunite, but traveling across the country is nearly impossible nowadays.

 Brooke, or Book-book as her sister Lane calls her, just wants to go, anywhere, a step forward is a step closer to Lane. She can’t get a travel permit, what will she do? She boards a train west, an unauthorized passenger on a train going…somewhere. Conditions on the train are inhospitable to say the least, but what did she expect. She arrives at her destination, a labor camp. This train was not restricting passengers, and now Book-book is a prisoner. Forward yes, but now Brooke is trapped and no closer to reaching Lane.

 Conditions are worsening in San Francisco. People are desperate to the point of violence. Lane is not alone; not alone like Book-book. Now she has a choice. Does she follow her partner and flee the city for their own safety? How will Book-book find her?

The above was inspired by conversation with Mackenzie Smith about her novel-in-process.

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A group photo of some of the writers who participated in the creative writing workshops at the National University of Timor-Leste in Dili. Mackenzie Smith (center).

We are hanging in suspense this week on Inspiration Dissemination as our guest, Mackenzie Smith, first year M. F. A. in Creative Writing, briefly described novel she is writing, tentatively titled, The Clearest Way into the Universe. For Mackenzie, this novel, which she plans to use as her thesis project, started out as a short story she wrote before coming to OSU. Now she is wrapped in this novel, “chewing” over the fine details as she rides her bike, browses the grocery store, and chats with colleagues at workshop. Her message for students and young writers is, “writing is a process of thinking.”

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A “kudos wall” at the launch party and reading in Timor-Leste where audience members left compliments and words of encouragement for the writers.

Mackenzie really is writing all the time and she is no stranger to workshops. She is a former Luce Scholar in India and Fulbright Fellow in Montenegro where she ran writing workshops and hosted story clubs. She just returned from Timor-Leste where she co-organized a writing workshop that resulted in an online zine featuring original compositions from Timorese writers. Additionally, Mackenzie is the Non-fiction editor for a literary magazine Print-oriented Bastards.

 

 

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Belina Maia Do Rosario reads her work in Dili, Timor-Leste at the launch party and reading for the zine, Writing Around Memory and Place.

Mackenzie likes that creative writing allows you to expand upon your interests and experiences. In her novel, Mackenzie brings her experience traveling and conveys the human emotion of uncertainty when making big decisions that affect your future and your familial relationships. Mackenzie writes because, “when people consume a piece of art, they change the way they think, the way they act, and the way they feel. Art can change their lives and a little at a time – art can change the world.”

You won’t want to miss this interview. Hear an except from The Clearest Way into the Universe read by the author and learn more about Mackenzie’s unique and adventurous journey to graduate school by tuning into 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis or stream the show live at 7 pm on Sunday April, 17.