Hometown: New Haven, CT
Major: Poetry (primary genre) and Book Reviewing (secondary genre)
Internships: Editing Connecticut River Review, a poetry journal sponsored by the Connecticut Poetry Society
Honors and Awards: 3.97, and awarded Distinguished Thesis.
Before joining the MFA in Creative and Professional Writing, Lisa Siedlarz was working a full-time job in the Office of Financial Aid at Southern Connecticut State University. She wanted to keep her job, but also complete an MFA. WCSU offered her the ability to work and be in school at the same time. “I definitely had to learn balance between work, school and life. The program itself is challenging, as it should be. My full time job in addition to full time school took up the majority of my time.”
Finding such a balance can be a challenge for anyone, but Siedlarz valued the ability the program afforded her to connect with other writers; writers that she has maintained relationships with even until today. “The relationships and support network developed with my classmates is invaluable. Even after we’ve graduated, we stay in touch, share success and failures, provide support. Coming back for the residencies allows me to connect with new writers and forge even more relationships. Without the MFA program, I would never have had these opportunities.”
The MFA program has given Siedlarz a number of opportunities especially when concerned with her internship and enrichment project. For her internship, Siedlarz edited the Connecticut River Review. “I had to learn organization, layout, graphics. It was a lot to learn, but I ended up being editor for three years.”
WCSU�s MFA program also includes the completion of an enrichment project. Each student completes a project in which they acquire a new skill that enriches their ability to maintain a professional writing career. Siedlarz developed her idea for an enrichment project from attending a panel discussion called Operation Homecoming at an AWP conference. “The panel talked about writing workshops that were offered by writers to service members and their families, and the editorial process of putting the anthology together. As I listened, it occurred to me that I could offer a similar opportunity, though on a much smaller scale.”
Siedlarz got into contact with the VA hospital in West Haven, CT and together they offered a 16 week poetry writing workshop culminating in an anthology. One of the missions of the Arts Council is to offer a number of art related activities that focus on Healing through the Arts. Siedlarz’s workshop gave veterans the chance to develop poetry and learn cover design for the anthology. Siedlarz states about her project, “At the end of 16 weeks, the group had written a collection of poems, come up with a title for their collection (A Season of Now), had taken photos for their cover, and Photoshopped the images for a compelling cover. I provided layout service for their poetry, and the Arts Council paid for publication. We then did a reading tour in the state over a one year period that kicked off at Western during the winter residency.”
Siedlarz’s enrichment project turned into a published anthology. She had such a positive experience with the project that she continues to offer similar workshops to veterans and their families. In addition to A Season of Now, Siedlarz’s chapbook I Dream My Brother Plays Baseball was published by Clemson University. Her thesis, a full length poetry collection called What We Sign Up For, has been published by Pecan Grove Press. She continues to work at SCSU and as a mentor in the WCSU MFA in Creative and Professional Writing program.