A Creative Community 

From left, graduate student Brenna Croker, undergrads Terrik Kobryn and Savannah Lanz, and Writing Center Director Jil Hanifan. (Photo by Patrick Dodson) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 2, 2019) – The English Department’s Undergraduate Research and Writing Conference on April 17 will be followed by a reading from contributors to Arch, the undergrad e-journal of creative arts and writing.

Professor and novelist Lynne Tillman is the featured speaker at this year’s conference, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in HU 354 and HU 290. Tillman's topic is Practice Means Begin Again, a plenary about creative writing, at 12:30 p.m. in HU 354. 

Arch will celebrate the release of its Spring 2019 issue during the conference. In addition to featuring contributors, the 5 p.m. release party will highlight winners and runners-up for the department’s two creative writing awards – the Shields-McIlwaine Poetry Prize and the Leah Lovenheim Prize for best student short story.

Brenna Croker, a graduate student in English, has been a part of Arch since the Lindenhurst, N.Y., native helped to found the journal in 2014. Arch features poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing, drama, photography and music.

“I’ve always been a writer,” she said. “I remember as early as second grade I would be writing stories in class instead of paying attention to my lessons or reading during recess instead of running around.”

As a freshman, she was a member of the World of Writing, part of the Living-Learning Community program, and a student of Writing Center Director Jil Hanifan. One of her classmates, Alyssa Shanderson ’17, had proposed the idea of starting a creative writing e-journal for undergraduates, and an interest meeting was scheduled.

“I thought it sounded like fun so I joined up,” said Croker, who writes fiction and, more recently, short stories. Others who helped found Arch include Stephy Zhao ’18, Taylor Sweet ’18 and Brian Ball ’18.

Arch is really great for creatives of all types because it has built a community of creative people, of editors and writers and readers, from a wide variety of experiences,” Croker said. “I’m always surprised and delighted by the number of people involved with the journal who aren’t in a writing-related field; they are biology majors and business majors and math majors who just have that creativity and desire to make something.”

Croker said she feels more creative just by being in the presence of other creative people. And Arch provides exposure to contemporary work.

“A lot of times in class we’re reading work written in the past. It’s a nice change to read or interact with work that people are producing in the here and now,” she said.

The name Arch was inspired by the modernist architecture on campus, characterized by the trademark sweeping arches and domes of Edward Durell Stone.

The founders spent months convincing others to participate.

“Art, especially writing, tends to be such a private and personal practice, and it was difficult to convince people, since we are not professional writers, to share their work in a public venue. Somehow we did it though, and we are so proud of the work we’ve done,” Croker said.

Terrik Kobryn, a senior English major from Schenectady, is the Spring 2019 editor. “I believe that Arch is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring writers to get their work published,” he said. “Arch allows me to work creatively with other writers and hone my craft.”

Kobryn, whose parents have long encouraged his passion for writing poetry and non-fiction, draws inspiration from African poets and artists. He aspires to write for a TV show or movie.

“When an issue of Arch goes live, it attracts thousands of hits within a few days,” said Hanifan. “And this past issue was amazing. Each semester, the editors have worked hard to build a diverse community of contributors, and to encourage new writers to get involved.”

The latest issue of Arch, for instance, features the winner of the University in the High School (UHS) Creative Writing Contest.

Winter 2018 Editor Savannah Lanz, fiction editor Malcolm Flanigan, and UHS English liaison Christina Thyssen served as judges, and the issue features the winning entry, Making Connections, by Stephanie Markowitz, a high school student from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

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