The Tale of the Heart-shaped Cheesecake

It was a snowy Wednesday afternoon. School had already been cancelled. Colson Hall was quiet except for a few creative writers who were still roaming the halls. MFA student, Lisa was making copies and came back to her office to find that a sweet treat had arrived on her desk. She looked around.

“Where did this come from?” She asked her office mate, Jeremiah. The response:

She studied the treat. It was a heart shaped cheesecake. It looked delicious. Although, she didn’t know where it came from, she couldn’t resist eating it. She was nearly done devouring the cake, when Melissa, a fellow MFA student stopped by to say hi. Melissa saw the cheesecake.
Cheesecake was her favorite thing in the world and she started crying because she had no heart shaped cheesecake.
Melissa held up the crumbling heart and wondered who the mysterious person was that was giving out these treats and if she could get her own. At that very moment fiction writer, Justin walked in. Melissa began to tell the tale to Justin. Lisa wondered how she would find the giver to thank he/she. A broad smile came across Justin’s face. Then he pulled something from behind his back.

He too had received a heart shape cheesecake and knew the identity of the mysterious giver. He wouldn’t tell but only gave the clue: The person’s name rhymes with dairy and there is no in the department named Larry. Guesses to the identity of the giver of the heart-shaped cheesecake?


Another Weekend in Paradise

This long holiday weekend was filled with excpetionally fun writerly activities. Saturday night myself, Rachel (fiction) Charity (poetry) and her date went to the legendary Morgantown bar/restaurant Mario’s Fish Bowl. Apparently, the place has been around forever. It’s known for its gigantic “fish bowl” glasses of beer but we were more interested in the walls. As shown in the picture above, the walls are completely covered with notes that people have left. They range from philosophical ramblings, to drunken shout outs to quirky drawings. We decided to write a couple poems while we were there; one had to include a word found on the wall. Most people were there to watch the Steelers game but yes, the wonderful MFA students were there to write poems.

Today, Rachel, Charity and I went to one of the campus libraries to visit the art section. WVU has three libraries in Morgantown. The downtown campus library (where most of us spend our time because it houses the literature section), the law library (where none of us ever go) and then the Evansdale library that holds the art books among others. All three of us have varied interests in art and how it inspires and affects our writing so we sprawled out in the aisles and flipped through the books.
I was very into the journal of the French painter Delacroix. Skimming through it, I came across the sentence, “Contrary to my usual custom, I made a very good luncheon off a slice of ham and a jug of Bavarian beer.” I was intrigued: “What did he usually have for lunch? I must keep reading!” Rachel came with a purpose to find book on Picasso’s Rose Period but alas half the paintings had been ripped out and stolen. Charity’s favorite find was a book on Victorian fairy paintings. If you know Charity, you know how perfect that book is for her. There’s not much that can compare to getting lost in books for a couple of hours. Although, the bathroom in the library comes close. Notice the light shade of green on the stall doors, the green sherbert color of the wall tiles and then the multiple shades of green in the floor tile. It was great. If only the toilet were green…

Poets and Friends’ Potluck, Installment II

Well, it happened again: our poets proved that not only are they a most creative bunch (I avoid saying “the most” for obvious reasons), but fun, sociable, and good cooks, too! On Friday, November 19th, Christina, Danielle, Melissa, Justin Crawford and his wife Jessica, Ben, Micah and Charity’s friend Vincent gathered at Charity’s apartment for veggie lasagna and garlic bread, chicken casserole, very tangy green olives, crackers and cheese, chocolate chip cookies and cranberry-walnut cake. So much to take in! Once the poets had eaten as much as was polite before the Writing Exercise of the evening, they settled into a circle of nine (circled and pounced upon in turn by a black Weimereiner and a blue-gray kitten) and took on the following challenge. Nine books of poetry were chosen at random from Charity’s library, and in quick succession the poets passed the books, taking one line per book to create a nine-line poem. The source material ranged from Lisa Russ Spaar, Rita Dove, Antonia Machado, Mark Doty, and Jane Kenyon (incidentally, no one wanted John Ashbery…hmmm….). Most poets chose to let their poems be as the lines came, without reorganizing; however, some were fastidious. Whatever the outcome, there were ooooohs and ahhhhhhas as we went around the circle and read. It was amazing and delightful to note that despite using the *same* source material, each poet had created a piece that sounded very much like his/her own work! This sparked a conversation about “stealing,” voice, and source material in general…

Here is a sampling of the poems written:



Winter could not be smaller:

here our duels are horizontal, monumental.

I do not know what is my home,

so I am exactly where I need to be.


The world is made flesh by the snows.

Outside the swollen moon is turning white.

Return, like bodies over time, to earth.

You can’t protect yourself


on the table of the field I hold.

And the heart learns a pity for itself,

easy, coarse, common as the grave.

No roads, no landmarks to tell where you are.


~Melissa Atkinson




Fat spider by the door.

The children are singing a song about

the humpbacked moon.

Even the cool, testicular grapes

with no time to slow down, no time for time.

Two pots of salt of cobalt

buckles on my shoes…schoolboy!

She didn’t care if he stayed home.

Tell me: which is better?


~Jessica Crandall-Crawford


Poems were also read from the books we had stolen from, in celebration of the source of our inspiration. There were plenty of interruptions throughout—there was other food to be eaten, after all, and animals cavorting about, demanding attention! But, conversation never wavered, and ideas for a following poets’ potluck include, but were not limited to: a hat party while watching best-worst movies… Stay tuned!



What does a cow have to do with the MFA?

Yes, even the cow is confused. Actually, COW stands for Council of Writers. This is the graduate organization for creative writers at WVU.

Last Friday, November, 12th, COW put on a reading for the MFA students at Zenclay Cafe.  Our featured writers were Rebecca Schwab, Christina Wulf and Charity Gingerich (who has some poems up here). Also reading were first year students as well as some seasoned veterans.  Highlights included blueberry beer, subtle emceeing by Alex Berge, no fatalities from creative writers trying to cross University Avenue and a clear plastic podium which one reader described as the feeling of unwillingly becoming part of an installation art piece.

COW puts on a reading every semester so make sure to catch the next reading in the spring!

Golden Finch. Sounds poetic, right?

What do you creative writers do in Morgantown on a chilly Friday night? Try out posh sounding new restaurants and chat about AWP of course. Well at least that’s what we did Oct. 29th. A group of poets were graced with Mary Ann’s presence to discuss all things poetry and get the low down on AWP which will be in Washington DC in February. Since Morgantown is only three and half hours away from DC, many WVU MFA students are attending.

As far as the Golden Finch, it was an interesting experience. The location is great. It’s on High Street in the middle of the excitement. Since we were there two day before Halloween, we had the privilege of seeing Superman, Dorothy, and a group of girls walking around inside a playpen (?). The menu at the Golden Finch is eclectic: seafood, sandwiches, Thai, tiny salads, Mexican, Root Beer floats. I think everyone was satisfied with their meals but not overwhelmed by the excellence. I would probably go again but not on the weekend because it was very loud and crowded.

Good food, wine, poetry and a parade of costumes…doesn’t get much better than that.

Escape from West Virginia

After grading forty-four student portfolios and turning in my final work for workshop, a fellow MFA student and I decided to get out of Morgantown.

We took off for New York City! After a six hour drive, we arrived.

new york

We rubbed elbows with some of my literary idols: Nick Flynn, Matthew Zapruder and John Ashbery. Also, my spirit was lifted by gazing at some Picasso, Vermeer, Hopper, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, etc.

Morgantown is surprisingly close to many fine cities. It’s an easy drive to New York, Toronto, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Washington DC, Philadelphia and only an hour and half to Pittsburgh.

Oh the possibilities!

Writers just don’t get angry like they used to…

Comments like this are heard all the time in Colson Hall. No, not really. We like each other here at the WVU MFA!

My personal favorites are what Maurice Sendak said to the readers of his children book Where the Wild Things Are and what Mark Twain wanted to do with Jane Austen’s bones.