Aspiring student author Matthew Litchfield presents his book

by Carina Hennessy, Contributing Writer

Historically, our English department hasn’t had many offerings for students specifically interested in creative writing, though this is changing rapidly due to the efforts of passionate professors and students.

One such student is Matt Litchfield, who took to the podium in the University Club the evening of Thursday, December 4, to do a public reading from his Honors thesis, an original novella.

The reading comes on the heels of the Living Literature series, which are readings hosted by the University Club and the English Department where accomplished authors, such as Dawn Tripp the author of “Georgia,” have been invited to read and discuss their work.

Thursday night’s event worked in a similar fashion, but instead of a published, established author taking the stage, two of our very own English students had the opportunity to strut their stuff, and they nailed it.

Senior English major Alyssa Marshall opened up the evening with a reading from an original short piece she has in development, and followed up with questions and discussion with the audience.

When asked about her history with creative writing, she admitted it was more of a recent thing for her, an answer that was surprising considering the poise with which she writes.

Matt Litchfield then inherited the podium. Also a senior English major, but graduating this semester, Matt told me that he has enjoyed reading books since he was young and discovered The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

He said he got into writing creatively himself when he took some writing classes in high school. “[I] even wrote a story for my senior project,” he says, “though this time around the final product is much, much better.”

The ‘final product’ he’s referring to is his Honors thesis, The Book of the Mountain, a novella about a young girl working as an apprentice in a print shop in a small isolated community, who discovers through neglected books that her late mother was a witch.

Matt read the first two chapters of the The Book to a captivated audience. The imagery was mysterious and beautiful, in a mountainous setting that Matt attributes his inspiration for to a rural French town at the base of the Alps that he visited while studying abroad.

With his setting and an idea of his heroine Marion in mind, he got to work. “This project started as an assignment for Professor O’Neil’s creative writing workshop last semester, and then I started putting more work into it over the summer,” he says.

He received a grant from the Honors program to take a summer writing course at Grub Street, a community writing center in Boston, where the story grew with support from other dedicated writers.

As a writer myself, I can attest that writing any long piece of work, especially for the first time, is so difficult to do. That being said, Matt clarifies that he sees his completed work so far as a first draft.

He plans to edit it and rewrite parts going forward, and even expand the world of The Book of the Mountain into more works. As Matt tells his audience, “It’s part of a much bigger story.”

As for other writing opportunities in his future, Matt says, “I recently got invited to go back and take the next section of the class [at Grub Street] with the same instructor, so I’m hoping to get to do that sometime in 2017.”

As I said earlier, our English department has historically had few options for aspiring authors to test their chops and hone their craft, and not for lack of interest. There is actually a strong community of writers on campus, within the English department and outside of it, who share and improve their writing together.

Thanks to the efforts of professors such as Lucas Mann and Caitlin O’Neil, who helped put together a Minor in Creative Writing effective this semester, and students like Alyssa Marshall who works on our campus literary magazine, Temper, and like Matt Litchfield who pursue projects and presentations that keep the creative writing spirit alive on campus, these students have the opportunity to step out more into the spotlight.

If you happen to be one of these student authors who would like to collaborate and work on your writing, join one of the many creative writing classes popping up in the English class offerings, look into the next meeting time of the campus Writer’s Circle, or create your own group!

If you would like to try your hand at a public reading of your writing like Matt and Alyssa, the Living Literature series will continue in the Spring semester, and you should contact the English department (specifically professors Lucas Mann and Caitlin O’Neil) to see if there are any upcoming opportunities for your chance to shine.

Photo Courtesy: Carina Hennessy


One thought on “Aspiring student author Matthew Litchfield presents his book

  1. Wow, Matt! So proud of you! I have fond memories of reading your high school senior project. Would love be to read this, too!


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