Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

On Sept. 24, Dr. Mary Buckelew and a community of interested West Chester graduate students and teachers gathered in the Phillips Autograph Library to witness a series of self-proclaimed, literary speakers through the sponsorship of the Pennsylvania Writing Literature Project (PAWLP) Author Series.
Beginning in 1980, PAWLP remains one of the oldest and largest programs of the National Writing Project (NWP). PAWLP provides professional development, resources, and research to communities of those interested in literature education, while also working to improve the teaching of writing and learning in schools and in the public. PAWLP believe that high-quality educational experience should be accessible to all learners and students. PAWLP further supports educational improvement through structured leadership programs for all.
The PAWLP Author series is entering its second year at West Chester University, now able to host more sessions than ever before. Through the series, students, teachers, and the public are invited to attend a variety of sessions intended to grow and expand their exposure to various genres of writing. Attendees are also given the opportunity to pose questions regarding the process of both self and professional publication.
PAWLP hosts a series of such workshops and lectures throughout the semester, each session centering on a different theme. This particular session was geared towards self-published and professionally published authors, focusing primarily on memoir writing. There were four authors in attendance. Each author spoke for approximately 10 minutes, sharing such information as their writing process, the inspiration for their works, the outline of each document, and their favorite excerpts from each piece. Authors shared a variety of literary documents used to compile their memoirs. Authors shared a multitude of items ranging from poetry and prose, to multi-genre pieces including photographs, passports, and birth certificates.
Following the presentation section of the event was a question and answer session. Students and teachers enjoyed asking such questions as suggestions for informative memoir writing, what activities the authors do when they are not writing, how much money they make, and their process of writing. Because writing accurately from memory at an early age can be extremely difficult, an audience member questioned how the authors were able to differentiate between fact and fiction in their memoir writing.
One author explained the importance of researching and asking questions from various relatives or friends who were also present. They stressed the importance of asking such questions sooner rather than later because the passing of loved ones can allow the details of many stories to be forgotten. When in doubt, one author explained, the memory can be truer than reality.
The host and director of the PAWLP series, Dr. Mary Buckelew states “the PAWLP Author series provides the authors and attendees with time to interact and ponder the art of writing together in an entertaining and edifying fashion.” The low-key yet professional atmosphere allows the authors to feel at ease sharing in their journey of creating such memoirs and pieces. The conversational setting further allows those in attendance to feel more interactive and open with the authors.
Many of the students in attendance were graduate students from Buckelew’s graduate class. Of these students, many are well on their way to self-publishing and professionally publishing their own pieces of literature. Due in large part to the question and answer section, many of the students were able to interact on a more personal level with these authors, and share in the experience and difficulty of writing and finishing a piece. After facing some difficulty in completing a memoir, one student stated, “It’s inspiring to see the differences in approaches to memoirs… [this was] very powerful, and very inspiring.”
Buckelew explains from experience that “attendees leave inspired and excited to write or read or both!” The session was designed to encourage and motivate students to write their own memoirs, and to write them sooner rather than later. One author who was much older, commented on the importance of documenting one’s memoirs before it is too late. She encouraged everyone to take up a pen and paper and write down their own stories while they still can, regardless of whether or not they feel they have a story to tell. To quote Alex Haley, “Every time an old person dies, it’s like a library burning down.” One author added, “We all have stories to tell.” Now, it is a matter of whether or not you are ready to tell them.
The next PAWLP series session will feature publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and the other will feature Young Adult Literature authors. The events are free and open to all students and the public. To find out more information about the PAWLP series and for dates and times of the upcoming sessions on campus, visit
Laura Wayne is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at

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