In The Teacher Diaries: Romeo & Juliet Feyen has created a rare opportunity: a book about teaching, learning, and literature which avoids educational and pedagogical theory, and speaks directly to the process of remembering how our own experiences provide the basis for meaningful interaction with literature. The book is comprised of fifteen short chapters that reflect on the play’s key moments chronologically and a list of briefly-described classroom activities. The chapters themselves are each a lovely blend of the play’s thematic elements and the author’s experiences and memories as a teacher, mother, and young woman.
The volume strikes a delicate balance across the range of details that make her reflections so compelling. She braids her own memories, the diverse–but not overexposed–identities of her students, light doses of pedagogy, and the play’s iconic (and hotly debated) themes. As a teacher of literature, I found this particularly striking–that fine literature’s depth can intoxicate and induce expounding. Our desires to explore ourselves, our memories, and our relationships with art can be boundless. Feyen demonstrates remarkable ability to construct chapters that invite the reader back in time–both Shakespeare’s and her own–and into her classroom with swift, precise prose and detail selection, all while routinely avoiding cliche or schmaltz.
The chapter titles bespeak a wonderfully engaging mix of concepts and images: “Dancing with Frankenstein;” “Meeting in the Dark;” “Polka-Dotted Shoes.” Her focal points for each slice of the play as she guides students through it run the gamut from whimsical to weighty. Feyen deftly, conflates modern reality with the plotlines unspooling in Romeo & Juliet. Each chapter begins far away from the play: at the piano of Feyen’s living room; under the tree just off her property; in a memory of an epic high school foodfight; in her final days of high school, facing consequential young adult decisions and peer tragedy. The backdrops unfold naturally and directly; none feel like tricks or inappropriate conceits. Her use of chapter-contained motifs is skillful and unsaccharine. In this way, the word “diary” feels insufficient, as her intersections of Shakespeare and modern life bear the marks of careful structuring and reflection. Alternately, “diary” is utterly appropriate given that the highly personal descriptions of her teaching style and thought process are almost confessional, as when she acknowledges a spectrum of teacher emotions, including the need to send a student out of class, to become sharp and loud with a rowdy group, and to feel pangs of empathy for her loneliest students who hide it as best they can.
Working as an educator is not necessary to appreciate her clear, perceptive prose, but certainly secondary educators, particularly of English Language Arts, would find much that resonates. Feyen is clearly a dedicated, intuitive educator. Patient awareness of how young humans actually work, versus how we wish they would, saturates the ideas she employs and the practices she espouses. She addresses the obvious question many parents, students, and educators have faced: how do we manage the fact that this story features lusting teens? Feyen addresses the struggle shrewdly as a quick parenthetical within a direct discussion of engaging reluctant learners: “Usually we have to pause and clatter on about the word loins. In my professional opinion, it’s best to let them giggle or it only gets worse” (20). She knows them and how they tick. But she also knows what they crave: opportunities to revel in language, to access their knowledge of love, to watch seminal characters of a distant past grapple with struggles between duty and delight, parents and self.
The chapter “Juliet Moment” poignantly describes a perceptive parallel between the tension Juliet feels as makes her bold choice and the tension the writer felt as adulthood began and life at home ended. Throughout the book, she consistently reminded herself, her students, and her readers that the title characters’ depth and range of feeling as they simultaneously reckon with the intensity of love and come of age is the heart of the play–and the heart of human experience.
Feyen impressively remembers that she was once one of the young students charged with facing challenging literature. She writes in awe of them and with contagious, though not overzealous, enthusiasm for the continued relevance of Shakespeare’s characters and their struggles to modern humanity. Feyen admits that teaching the darkest hours of this play might scare her–that she sees the barely exposed inner pain of students struggling to hide it. And thankfully, she is unwilling to wrap each section with a pithy bow to provide a sense of security so that we can trust everything will be “okay.”
One of the most masterful examples of this occurs within the chapter “Tricks,” in which she blends her students’ and her daughter’s variety of anxieties–storms so swift they cause soccer games to be cancelled, their changing bodies, the “body talk” just before middle school–with heady decisions and consequences the characters face. About assisting young people to carefully work through the “slice of awkward pie” which is facing the changes of adolescence, Feyen asserts that “…this kind of deep thinking and creative work helps students to not so much run away from the tempest, but stand in it for a bit. Because, after this, the stars begin to cross, and lightning is no longer a strobe in the clouds, but a pulsing vein searching to strike and electrify. Cardinals sent to protect can make fatal mistakes, and children are left on the open field to play the game for themselves” (68). Feyen knows this is everyone’s destiny, that we will all have to face fears, to make painful decisions which may not end well, and that no parent–or teacher–can hope to prevent this from happening. Readers will certainly appreciate her clear-eyed yet highly personal narration of this reality.
Our reviewer Katie Chicquette Adams teaches English at Appleton’s public alternative high school, holding BS and MA degrees in English and history. She is a live storyteller with Storycatchers, Inc. Her work appears or is forthcoming in River + Bay, Mothers Always Write, Heavy Feather Review the radio segment “Soul of the Cities,” and on the Storycatchers blog. She lives in her hometown of Appleton, WI, after more than a decade studying and teaching in Milwaukee.
The Teacher Diaries author, Callie Feyen has an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University. She’s served as a middle school teacher, is the Teaching and Learning Editor and Children’s Editor for Tweetspeak Poetry, is a contributing writer for Coffee+Crumbs, and serves as the At-Risk Literacy Specialist in the Ypsilanti Public Schools. You can visit her at calliefeyen.com.”
I remember so clearly the way my mom talked about pregnancy. My sister who died. The miscarriages, one after another. Me, almost dying, kept in an incubator, unbearably special from the get-go. So, when my now husband and I married (on a day when I was thinner than I had been but still bigger than all of my bridesmaids), I warned him it might be hard to have children.
Not so for us, it turns out. Not in the way of some of my friends, heavy underwater in a wanting-not-yet that I can’t begin to imagine. No, I got pregnant right away. I threw up, took a test, and off I went.
That first puke, tidy and quick in a waste paper basket, was quite the foreshadowing. I had, it turns out, Hyperemesis Gravidarum. With both pregnancies. Yes, yes, what Princess Kate has. Or, if you prefer esoteric trivia, what probably killed Charlotte Bronte. Every day, every single day, I vomited. Normally five to seven times a day. One time, with the stomach flu, I lost count at twenty. One time, delirious in the ER, the meds kept it down to once or twice. It started around six weeks in and lasted until delivery with both my pregnancies. Some pregnant women glow. I vomited.
I couldn’t tell you the last time my body had anything to do with pleasure. But I could list a ton of failures. Back at work after my first round of bed rest, wiping myself on the toilet only to see bright red blood again. Taking an Uber to the ER when my vomit had turned white, passing out again and again as they tried to get me through having my blood drawn, checking my vitals. Or the time I got food poisoning and found myself wailing in the car, on the way to the emergency room, as my body tried to turn itself inside out, no please oh please no.
That was the incantatory refrain of my pregnancies: please oh please. Let me keep her. Let me keep him. For twenty months or so, nearly back-to-back, I asked my body not to. Not to piss on the seat of my car at the red light as I puked into my coffee cup (it did). Not to puke in the faculty restrooms during class (three or four times a day). Not to push blood up my throat, out my nose, down my legs. Not to turn aside, already vomiting, to a bush, an alleyway, someone else’s lovely front hall bathroom (but yes and yes and yes).
Someone else would beg for those trials and I know it. I didn’t hate my body. And I certainly didn’t hate being pregnant. But I waited. And puked. And bled.
There are other, smaller, failures. Breastfeeding. Just screw that whole endeavor. All those weeks of darkness. The C-section scar that was so clearly made by staples. But the truth is, that now, three years later, I have two beautiful children. And I am fat. Shop-in-special-stores kind of fat. Doesn’t even get mentioned by friends because I have so much else to be proud of. That kind of fat. That kind of body.
To be fair, I have spent much of my life fat—er. Fatter than most of my friends. Or fatter than the girl we all understood to be the ideal girl. Or fatter than every single one of the women in my dad’s family, young or old. But that is a relative fatness, one that bites but doesn’t maul. Yes, I cried. And yes, I worried no one would want me. But sometimes they did want me, and I could still shop at the mall, so I made it through.
There was even one glorious season when I wasn’t fat at all. I was 24, teaching for the first time, and I had a boyfriend that now, in the beauty of retrospect, I am pretty sure hated me and probably himself as well. It was a heady combination, easy, for the first time in my life, to forget to eat. I bought a bikini. That I tried on in the department store without a single tear.
Hate certainly helps when it comes to staying at least a little thinner. A gnawing sense of inadequacy that can easily tip into self-loathing. Some brand of it kept me swinging between a size six and a twelve for twenty years. Briefly a small, mostly a medium, every now and then a large. Not anymore.
Do you remember FitMom? Her picture, ripped abs shining, draped in small children, with the caption: “What’s your excuse?” Oh, Fitmom. I don’t have excuses. But I do have reasons. And a boatload of fears.
There are a lot of things that need to happen. I need to go to work, come home from work, do the work that work tells me to do. I need to wipe noses and buy diapers and wash laundry. And then there are the things that I WANT to happen so badly it borders on need. Someone else could rock my son to sleep. No real damage would be done. I know that, I do. But it still feels like I need to, like I get a contact high the moment his head sags and tips toward sleep on my shoulder. The weight of his body as his breath deepens. I could be somewhere else, but I still want to say, I need it. I don’t need to write those small poems that try to say what this all is. Poems strangely preoccupied with birds. And Biblical women. And oceans. Poems that don’t say fat but want to, and damn if I don’t need them.
The fears? What happens if I forget to teach my daughter to brush her teeth? What happens if she cries and I am not there? What happens if she eats nuggets, again. And again. Those fears are just as good as the needs are at keeping me rooted in my routine. Lately, I think in terms of fissures. This life I love so fiercely, am I checking for cracks? I worry more about erosion than calamity. Oh, do I worry.
My friends? The bridesmaids and college roommates and dear, dear women who keep me sane? In so many ways, our lives seem practically the same. Grumbles about who remembers to empty the diaper pails. Concerns our bosses hold maternity leave against us. A fierce need to keep our children safe, so fierce it startles us and won’t let us sleep.
They stayed not fat. Not even fat—er. They have babies and spin class and sweaters that drape just right. Maybe their hips are wider than before. Or their hair a little flatter, styled a little faster. I know we are all tired. But however hard won, they all won their bodies back.
Me? God, not at all. Instead, sometimes when I cough, I am still scared I will vomit. I still think in terms of food that might stay down (the answer is bread). I still think, sleep while you can. I still think, what does it matter? Your body is making a person, that is enough. Of course, it isn’t.
During my C-section to deliver my son I had my “tubes tied.” I was too afraid my children would remember the sound of me weeping on the bathroom floor, throwing up for another nine months. I was too afraid all I would remember was me weeping on the bathroom floor.
If self-hatred kept me in check for so long, the girl devastated when the scale hit 150, slumped on the elliptical for two hours straight, something else keeps me fat. I don’t hate myself. I don’t have time. My self-hatred was luxurious. I’m sure not all of them are, but mine sprawled and lounged through time and commitments and relationships. No, I don’t hate myself these days. But I don’t like my body at all. I would just absolve myself of bodiness if that were an option. It gets in the way, tires me, singles me out.
I read enough, mostly at night, on my phone, as I try to sleep train or something equally terrible, to know how this article ends: I found an app! Or yoga! Or a shake! Or just value in my own fat self! And look at that Instagram: proud, well-coiffed fat mom in dark rinse jeans.
I haven’t. I don’t. I am on Instagram, but I am not in my pictures.
I wish someone would name this threshold land of just dislike. Profound, powerful, but not unlimited dislike. I don’t love my body. But God do I love my children. I am not sure those two statements have anything to do with each other. I am not willing to Google it, or ask a forum, or post on social media. I don’t want to know. This is my motherhood, for now, and enough.
Maggie Blake Bailey has poems published or forthcoming in Tar River, Ruminate, San Pedro River Review and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Bury the Lede, is available from Finishing Line Press and her full-length debut, Visitation, will be available from Tinderbox Editions in 2019. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two small children. For more work, please visit www.maggieblakebailey.com or follow her @maggiebbpoet.
I’m not an English grammar genius, and I don’t remember a lot about literary terms from the classes I took in school. I do know what onomatopoeia is though. And now my six-year-old daughter does as well, since we covered that term in our Homeschool Cooperative Class last week. Onomatopoeia, noun: the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.In class we discussed words like pow, smack, and ruff. The children in my class wore blank looks on their faces when I tried to teach them this massively syllabic word that represents such a simple concept. ”Let’s try it again, all together now…ON-A-MOT-A-PEEE-UH.”
Since this lesson, my four year old has begun calling me “Momma-pee-ah.” Depending on the situation it could be sweet and quick…”Mama-pee-uh!” or very long and drawn out…. “MOOOOOOOOMMMMMAAAAA-PEEEEEEEEEE-UUUUUHHHH,” and it either flits through the room like a butterfly or soars through the rafters like a heat-seeking missile targeting my eardrums. When he first started calling me that, I thought it was a little weird. It has the word “pee” in it after all. And then I realized that, in a way, it turned my Mommy name into something of a literary term
I’ve always said that the word “mom” should be a considered not a noun but a verb…an action verb. When the word is muttered around our home, it’s hardly ever attached to a statement like “I love my Mom.” It’s usually used more as a call to action: ”Moooooom, I need toilet paper!” (this is not just a statement, it is plea that I bring them toilet paper) or “MOOooom…I don’t feel good” (this is a request for a solution…medicine, a snuggle, whatever is needed for the ailment) or sometimes “MOOOOOooooOOOm…my brother won’t leave me alone!” (translation: “please do something about this annoyance..STAT!”)
I’m wondering what would happen if I ever started to think of these things as simple statements and responded as such. “That’s nice that you’re out of toilet paper, son. I hope you can find something else to use in your current situation.”
“Thank you for letting me know that you are not feeling well. Let me know what you are able to come up with to help you feel better.”
“The Bible says that brothers were made for adversity. Looks like you’re seeing the Word come to life before your very eyes. Fascinating and good luck!!”
As my children age and I am forced to allow them to handle more of their lives on their own, I can see how the word might morph into less of a verb and more of a noun. It suggests I will become more of a listener and supporter and less of a doer and a fixer. Sometimes I think the idea of “mom” as a noun sounds wonderful, especially as the verbal requests seem to pour in the minute I get a moment in the bathroom myself, or try to form a coherent sentence when conversing with my closest girlfriend. I have five children—a few moment’s peace sounds divine.
I am reminded of my own mother and how she sometimes confuses her grammar role where I am concerned. When I’m on the other end of the line saying through the tears, “Mom, I have a fever and the baby has a cough. I’m so tired and the children are sick of being cooped up inside.”
She could say, “I’m sorry that is happening to you, I just read about a homeopathic remedy for coughing that infants can take, and it was very interesting.” But, instead, she morphs back into verb mode. “I’ll be over in one hour with a pot of chicken soup as big as your kitchen sink and will take the kids to the park to play for two hours so you can shower and take a nap,” she says. And at that point, I’m extremely grateful that the switch between verb and noun can be so fluid.
Like I said, I’m no grammar expert. Say “past participle” to me and I may think you’re giving me directions somewhere. I’m learning along with my kids as we journey through all the English rules together. There are musical jingles to memorize that teach us about the items that comprise a great piece of writing, whether it be a poem, an essay, or a short story. Yesterday we wrote cinquain poems together…five lines…one word, two words, three words, four words, then one word again. We laughed our heads off when my eight-year-old son composed a riveting cinquain poem about vomiting. We’ll get through learning Language Arts together as long as one special word is allowed to float between knowing when to sit still and be someone and knowing when to stand and take action.
Kimberly Braunschneider is a homeschooling mom of five children ages 4-14 who loves to cook, read, write, craft, and enjoy the sunshine in as much spare time as she can muster up.
At a Little League game in early March, my husband Chris and I learned that the mother of our 13-year-old son’s girlfriend was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. “They are hoping she will make it to graduation,” a friend told us in hushed tones while parents cheered a hit from the home team. Our eyes filled with tears as we thought of Claire, the sweet, fresh-faced eighth-grader becoming motherless within several months. Then I thought of my son Robert, and on top of the heartache for Claire, came waves of worry.
Robert is our first-born and ever since his birth, one month early by emergency c-section, raising him has caused us panic and worry. When he was a toddler, breaking everything in his path like a red-headed baby Godzilla, I asked more experienced mothers if it gets easier as they get older. “It has to,” I pleaded. The moms of teens told me it gets physically easier, but the challenges are greater. I didn’t understand then, but I do now. As Robert aged from tween to teen, growing inches taller than me, his jaw line more angled, I felt a parental shift. The situations are trickier, the stakes higher. I no longer worry about him falling and cracking his head open on the coffee table. Now I worry about things that I can do nothing about — whether or not he has kind, caring friends or if he is a kind, caring friend to others. When he was younger, I could line the coffee table with protective padding and tell him not to run around. What can I do now? Follow him around and whisper in his ear, telling him what to do and say, like some crazy mother version of Cyrano de Bergerac?
When we learned the news about Claire’s mother, Claire and Robert had been dating for seven months, practically a marriage for eighth grade. When Robert first became friends with her the previous summer, pairing off from the group at the beach club, Chris and I were delighted. Claire was an honor student, an athlete, sweet, and kind. She’d always greet me with a wave and a “Hi Mrs. Jannuzzi,” in the sing-song tone of teen girls, her long ponytail swinging back and forth. Some of Robert’s other friend choices were questionable. One kid got suspended from school for an Airsoft gun in his backpack. Another was in trouble for inappropriate Snapchats. Claire seemed like a good influence.
After Robert’s birthday party in August, I snuck a peek at his birthday cards. Claire’s card was handmade. On several sheets of copy paper, folded up like a book, she listed in tiny, girlish print 113 moments they had shared. They were mostly silly inside jokes, but I could tell from the list that Robert and Claire were more than just friends and that she truly cared for Robert. I showed up on the list at No. 29: “How your mom is my bestie and spirit animal.” I knew what Claire meant. She and I were connected somehow. Was it our mutual love for Robert? Was it because we both wore our hair in ponytails? I didn’t know at this point that we’d both share the experience of tragic loss.
You might think Chris and I wouldn’t want our young son dating. He was only in eighth grade after all. But the fact that Robert could maintain a relationship with this well-rounded young lady lifted some of our concern for our maturing son. Out in the world, our neighbors report that Robert is polite and kind. But at home, it’s a different story. He is high-strung and intense, and his anxiety usually comes out as anger. He hurls insults at his younger siblings and gets infuriated when things don’t go his way. Often we notice damage on a piece of furniture or a dent in the wall as a result of his rage over losing a video game. This relationship with Claire proved our teenage son could behave like a rational, caring person or so we hoped.
At the beginning of November, Robert tried out for the school basketball team and didn’t make it. When I picked him up from try-outs and learned that he was cut, I knew we were in for a long, stressful night. Robert’s anger was explosive and frightening. I tried to calm him down, but whatever I said seemed to fuel his fire. After dinner our doorbell rang, and there was Claire and another friend with two gallons of ice cream, coming over to cheer up Robert. After I passed out bowls and spoons, I had to turn away to hide my tears. Here was someone who could soothe out Robert’s rough edges in a way I couldn’t.
Robert’s last year of middle school had so many moments like this. My emotions bounced up and down like a rubber ball. Robert made the school baseball team. (Yay!) But the coach rarely played him. (Ugh!) He caught the winning out in a playoff game. (Yay!) But sat on the bench for the final championship game. (Ugh!) Those were the little moments. Then came this big real-life situation — his girlfriend’s mother was dying. This was far above and beyond the normal teen drama. For Claire, of course, it was devastating. For Robert, it was unfair. He should be worrying about slow dancing at the upcoming school dance or whether he had enough money to buy Claire a Frappuccino at Starbuck’s. At 13, he shouldn’t have to console his girlfriend through the most difficult thing she would ever have to go through.
One day in April, I took Robert’s cell phone away as a punishment for being rude. While it was on my dresser, a text from Claire popped up. “I’m watching Stepmother and getting upset.” Stepmother is a 1998 tear-jerker where Susan Sarandon’s character dies of cancer, leaving behind her young children in the care of Julia Roberts, their stepmother. The text hit me in the gut. I pictured Claire sitting on her bed, watching the movie on her laptop, surrounded by crumpled up tissues, her mother bedridden in the next room. On one hand, I wanted to shield this text from Robert. How can he handle this? He’s only 13, he doesn’t know what to say or do. But on the other hand, I wanted Robert to text the right words to comfort Claire. I gave Robert back his phone immediately. Never mind the punishment. I told him a text had come from Claire and he should respond. “Now,” I said. Then I turned away and hoped for the best, whatever that was.
I know from experience what it takes to be a friend to someone who has had a tragic loss. When I was 18, my older brother died in a car accident. And when I was 25, my oldest sister died by suicide. Each time I lost friends who couldn’t or wouldn’t support me through my grief. Really, all they had to do was stick by me, but some people can’t handle being that close to tragic loss. Of course, I had true friends who didn’t leave. Which of these types of friends would Robert be? Which one did I want him to be? I wasn’t sure.
My feelings on the situation would swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. On one end of the arc, I wanted Robert to be the strong friend, the one who would meet Claire at the park behind our house, hanging out on the jungle gym in silence because he knew she only needed him to be there. On the other end, I wanted him to be free of this complicated event. My own childhood had been wrought with strife due to my siblings — rehabs, hospital stays, therapy sessions, and a constant under-current in the house that something was wrong. I wanted the opposite of that for my children. I wanted the months leading to Robert’s eighth grade graduation to be filled with silly revelry not morbid reflection. But then I thought of Claire and what this year would be like for her, and then the pendulum would swing back to wanting Robert to be there for her. I was dizzy from the back and forth.
I was making dinner one evening in early June when Robert called out for me from the kids’ den. “Can we talk mom?” he said. I slowly entered the room and pretended to be preoccupied with picking dead leaves off the jade plant. I was thrilled he was seeking my opinion, but I didn’t want to appear too eager.
Robert explained that he wanted to break up with Claire, it was getting too serious, he was only in 8th grade. But he wasn’t sure if he should do it now or after her mom died. I was both devastated and relieved. My fantasies of him consoling her like the hero in a Y.A. movie now vanished. But I was relieved he wouldn’t have to deal with this. The pressure was off. Robert wouldn’t have to “man up” and be the shoulder on which Claire cried. His shoulders weren’t quite broad enough anyway.
I gave Robert the best advice I could. “Talk to her now. Be honest with her, that it is all you can do,” and I once again turned away and hoped for the best.
Claire’s mother attended their eighth-grade graduation in a wheelchair. During the ceremony, I stared at both Robert and Claire on the stage of the school gym. They seemed so grown up. Robert in a white tuxedo and Claire in a formal green dress with her hair and make-up professionally done. I hoped to see some connection between the two of them. Maybe a kind knowing glance to indicate they were still friends. But as far as I could tell, they didn’t look at each other once. That night in November when they ate ice cream together at my kitchen counter seemed so long ago.
Claire’s mom died at the beginning of August, almost a year after Robert and Claire started dating and two months after they broke up. We went to the wake as a family. “It’s going to be awkward,” Robert said. “Yup,” I replied, thinking of my “friends” who didn’t show up to my siblings’ wakes, one telling me “I can’t handle this.” While standing in the receiving line at the funeral home, several of Claire’s young cousins pointed at Robert and whispered behind their hands. Robert pretended not to notice. When it was our turn to offer condolences, Robert shook Claire’s father’s hand and gave Claire a quick hug. Even though he went through the process as fast as possible, I was proud of him for showing up. Claire was so poised standing there. She gave Chris and me her usual smile, looking us in the eye, and thanking us for coming. I wanted to tell her it was okay to break down. It was okay to say this is all unfair. It was okay to say Robert’s a jerk. But I just gave her a hug and moved on quickly as well. I’m not really her spirit animal, just the mother of her ex-boyfriend.
Chris and I see Claire around every once in a while. She helps coach our daughter’s volleyball team some Saturday mornings or we’ll catch a glimpse of her ponytail when picking up Robert from practice at the high school. We report these sightings to each other with a sigh, wishing simultaneously that she and Robert were still together and that she is doing well on her own without him.
Robert has yet to invite me in to another conversation about Claire or any other girl. As far as I can tell, his transition from middle school to high school went better than expected. What could I have done if it hadn’t? Not much, I’m finally accepting.
*The names of the children have been changed to protect their privacy.
Elizabeth Jannuzzi lives in New Jersey where she is writing a memoir about her recovery and personal essays about parenting her three children. She is currently a student in the Advanced Creative Writing Workshop at Project Write Now in Red Bank, NJ. In 2017, she attended the Sag Harbor Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference, the Rutgers Writers Conference, and the Litpow Author-Preneur Workshop. Elizabeth is proud to note that her personal essay “St. Francis” was a finalist in the 2016 International Literary Penelope Niven Creative Nonfiction Awards.