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Courtney Druzak, Editor of The Minor Bird

 

When did you first know you liked writing? Did you write often as a kid?

For a long time, I didn’t like reading at all when I was a kid – in fact, I was so bad that I I was in one of those supplemental reading classes in elementary school. But then I got my hands on a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when I was ten. A few years later, in middle school, I kept reading and reading and reading until I realized, I’d like to try to be on the other side. I wanted to try to write stories that others could enjoy. So it wasn’t really until I was a teenager, around 13, that I actually started to write. I began with short stories.

You attended the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School for Literary Arts. What was the experience like?
 

Being a part of the Literary Arts Department at Lincoln Park was an amazing experience. I’m not sure I can fully do the department justice. Our teachers – Adam Atkinson, Dan LeRoy, Deanna Mulye – were simply amazing. It’s thanks to them that I am a writer, and thanks to them that I attended Chatham. The department offered classes in beginning and advanced workshops, film classes, bookbinding classes, writing for the radio classes, philosophy classes, even courses that covered a bit of theory. There was Shakespeare and Camus and Huxley, and everything in between. And there were so many amazing opportunities, such as readings and our very own literary and media arts magazine, pulp. We even had our own professional publishing press, called BatCat, which I was a part of my senior year. Sorry if I’m rambling – I can’t help but brag when it comes to Lincoln Park!

How did your high school experience shape you as a writer and a person?

Wow. Well, I’ve always been a very science-minded type of person. Through my first two years of high school, I was still set on going on to study biology. I’ve always been interested in bodies and how they work. But then writing got under my skin. It was inevitable, being at Lincoln Park. I realized, I can’t do anything for the rest of my life but write. I’ve gotta do it. The department made me absolutely committed to the written word.

Why did you choose Chatham?
 

I actually found Chatham while I was searching for biology programs my sophomore year of high school. Then I saw that there was also a great writing program, and I decided to check the school out. My uncle brought me up to see Chatham in the fall my junior year of high school, and we both fell in love with the campus and the people. The following year, my parents came with me to visit, and they were more excited about the possibility of me attending than I even was, I think. Chatham was everything that I loved. It had a great writing program, amazing professors, was dedicated to the environment and to women. I couldn’t ask for anything more. So I applied only to two places…. When I got into Chatham, I immediately knew that was where I was going.

What are you majoring in at Chatham? How did you choose it?
 

I’m a Creative Writing major with an English minor. Again, I just chose writing because it got under my skin. I ended up tacking on the English minor because, after taking a few English classes, I realized how much I loved really working with and analyzing a text. And I saw how much being able to do so really improved my writing.
 

How did you get involved with The Minor Bird? How long have you been involved, and in what roles have you worked on the literary magazine?
 

I began working on The Minor Bird my sophomore year. I was just a board member then. The next year,  I applied to be Assistant Editor. I didn’t think I would actually get the position, as I was only a junior, but I did! It was a great experience, and I enjoyed getting to work with Alison Taverna, who was Editor last year. This year, I’m the Editor, and I’m always glad that I had the experience of being Assistant Editor the year before. It’s made everything a lot easier.

For those who haven’t read an edition of The Minor Bird, can you give a quick overview of what it is and what’s inside?

The Minor Bird is Chatham University’s undergraduate literary magazine. In the past, it has really only focused on writing, but in the last couple of years we’ve been trying to bring art more into the mix. We look for poetry and prose from undergrads that is of a publishable quality – and I’ve got to say, Chatham writers are some really, really good writers. I’m always happy to look through the submissions because many on our campus are so talented. That goes for art too, of course. We typically have cover art, sometimes back cover art, and we’ve been incorporating interior art as well. It’s a great place to seek to get writing or artwork published for Chatham students.

How can people get involved with The Minor Bird?

It’s really easy to get involved! Anyone interested is always free to contact me – stop by my room or shoot me an email, even message me on Facebook. To be a part of the Editorial Board, all someone has to do is set up a short meeting with me (10-15 minutes) to go over procedures and expectations.

What else are you involved in on or off campus? What interests you outside of writing?
 

I’m a member of Beyond the Page Book Club and the Creative Writing Club, and an officer in Alpha Delta Lambda, Chatham’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta. I also work as a Humanities Department Assistant, which is always exciting! It’s definitely the best job I’ve ever had.

Besides writing, I’m actually really interested in bookbinding – or physically constructing books by hand or with a machine. I learned how to bookbind in high school, and it’s a great (and painful – you have to sew the books sometimes and I can’t count the number of times I have stabbed myself with a needle) kind of crafty activity. I’m also really interested in Shakespeare, Sailor Moon, and Supernatural.

Personally, what genre do you love to write most? Do you have a favorite piece you’ve ever written?
 

I’ve always been a fiction writer, and I especially love fantasy. I get really into creating worlds and magic and rules and characters, and fantasy is a great genre for all of those things. I also think its a really playful genre that allows writers to get super creative.

I’m not so sure about a favorite piece I’ve ever written – I don’t think I honestly have one.

Any tips for beating writer’s block?
 

I had a writing teacher in high school that told me writer’s block doesn’t exist – and typically, that’s pretty true. But when I get really stuck, I always return to the books that I love and reread them. I find that immersing myself into the work of a writer I love always gets the gears turning in my head again.
 

What advice do you have for young writers considering attending Chatham?
 

Do it. Just do it. A lot of people will say that trying to get a degree in Creative Writing won’t really serve well in the real world, but I don’t think that’s true at all. Writers are needed, they’re necessary in so many different ways, and you can do so many different things with writing. Writing is a really versatile line of work, and if you love it, you should just go for it.

  Mara Flanagan is entering her seventh semester as a Chapter Advisor. After founding the Chatham University Her Campus chapter in November 2011, she served as Campus Correspondent until graduation in 2015. Mara works as a freelance social media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She interned in incident command software publicity at ADASHI Systems, gamification at Evive Station, iQ Kids Radio in WQED’s Education Department, PR at Markowitz Communications, writing at WQED-FM, and marketing and product development at Bossa Nova Robotics. She loves jazz, filmmaking and circus arts.  
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