English and Creative Writing major senior, Nada Shawish, was recently awarded a scholarship to attend the 2008 NY State Summer Writers Institute. According to the press release, over 350 applications were received, and Nada was one of thirty selected. Below, read more, in her own words, about Nada’s success and her representation of the GW English community. Congratulations, Nada!
1.What was the application process?
Well, I have a wonderful creative writing thesis director, Professor Faye Moskowitz, who nominated me for the program based on the work I have done with her. For this program in particular I believe you had to have been nominated to apply. After that, the director of the NY State Summer program, Mr. Robert Boyers, sent out invites to all the nominees to apply! I have to admit, there wasn’t much of a window which I was given to send in my application, I had to turn over my materials pretty soon after that. The materials requested by the program were twenty pages of your own creative work in a particular genre, a supplement application, and last but not least, a personal cover letter that describes a little about you, your experiences, and why you would be the ideal applicant.
2. What did you submit for consideration?
I tried to send in more recent material that I thought would best reflect where I am as a student at the moment. I also tried to make sure the pieces I selected were most reflective of my concerns and ambitions as a potential future writer. I thought about what I could send in that would make my creative work stand out amongst other applicants. The cover letter I wrote was more personal than I might have intended it to be, but I tried to be as honest as possible about my personal circumstances, my goals, the things I’ve learned, my inspirations.
3. What is your understanding of the type of program you’ll be participating in this summer?
When I first applied, to be honest, I didn’t know much about what the program was in too much detail. It’s safe to say I hadn’t anticipated actually winning a place among some of these other, certainly competitive applicants! I do know now that the NY State Summer Writer’s Institute is a State funded program, directed by author and critic Robert Boyers, at the Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. The students selected will spend two weeks in July working with several accomplished authors and critics. There will be readings scheduled each evening, and seminars focused on techniques, successful works, and advice in the particular genre the applicant was accepted for. I will be in the memoir/ and mixed genre seminar with James Miller! (Also featuring Phillip Lopate.)
4. What experiences at GW have you had that prepared you for this new opportunity?
It goes without saying that I have had wonderful, wonderful professors all four years I’ve been at GW. It makes me so sad to think I’ve reached my four-year limit and will not have the opportunity to work with more of the department. I’ve been a pre-medical student and an English major since sophomore year, and I have found the English Department a place of refuge where I could express my ideas, be challenged, and embrace opportunities like this one. My classes and independent work with Prof. Chu, Prof. Harris, Prof. Moskowitz, Prof. Clair, Prof. McAleavey, Prof. Greenwood-Stewart, Prof. Griffith, and more, have been just inexplicable experiences for me, there just are no words.
The other part of me that I think has been both a curse and a blessing began well before my coming to GW, but became a very loud and large part of my experience throughout my undergraduate. I am a Palestinian, an Arab, a Muslim, and an American all at once. The first class I ever took at GW we were asked to tell something about our background, and among other things, I said “and I’m a Palestinian,” to which another kid in class responded, and rather rudely, “there is no such thing.” It’s hard to say how much of my experience with the current political situation in the Middle East has influenced my entire undergraduate learning experience, but I can definitely say that similar experiences and frustrations manifest in my writing. The writing samples that I sent to the program are filtered through this particular lens of my experience, and well, it’s a part of me I can’t deny nor am I apologetic about, and in my application I tried to be as honest as possible about what I believe to be the truth of my experience.
6. How do you think you will benefit from the experience of the program? What do you hope to gain from it?
I think the best part of this program is that I get to meet other students from some really amazing programs around the country. I hope to gather as much information as possible, not just for myself, but that I can hopefully share with my peers after the program’s end. I really believe in education, it’s a gift to be able to be a part of this, and so I hope to gain everything my brain can possibly absorb while being there on behalf of GW.