Alumna speaks to students about the art of writing


Photo credit/ Amanda Duncklee

Amanda Duncklee, Community Editor

On Sept. 23, author and Marywood alumna Susan Campbell Bartolletti came to campus to discuss her works and what it takes to be a writer with the Marywood community.

Bartolletti writes primarily for children and young adults. Themes include children in WWII, growing up in the Anthracite region, and the Great Potato Famine. Some of her 19 books include “The Boy Who Dared,” “Black Potatoes,” “Kids on Strike” and “Growing Up in Coal County.”

Bartoletti’s newest book “Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America,” was published on Aug. 1.

English Department secretary Jill Lynot and English professor Dr. Laurie McMillan organized the event for the community.

Bartoletti was the first speaker of the Centennial for the English department. Students and faculty alike were eager to hear what the author had to say at the event.

“I’d rather learn about a field different than my own and learn something new,” said freshman biology major Brittany Dosch. “I want to learn how to be a good writer.”
Dr. Frances Zauhar, dean of the Munley College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, introduced the event. Zauhar noted that events such as this “ground us in the present and guide us in the future.”

Following her introduction, English professor Dr. Bittel briefly discussed the life and accomplishments of Bartoletti as well as the importance of children’s literature.

“Good children’s literature absolutely must respect the complexity and agency of children,” said Dr. Bittel.

Bartoletti then began to speak to the crowd about her early love for writing. She called her speech “Mrs. Walsh Warriner’s and the Best Non-Fiction Lesson I Ever Learned” in honor of her 10th grade English teacher.

“It was in teaching 8th graders that I discovered my voice and audience,” said Bartoletti. “I would write from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. and every so often, I would bring my writing to class and they [her students] would tell me how to improve.”

For other writers, Bartoletti offered this advice: “If you really want to do something, make time for it… find and explore emotional and intellectual connections to ideas. If you don’t have it, look for a different subject.”

Bartoletti also spoke of the research and planning involved in crafting the art of the book.
“I take notes everywhere I go,” she said. “I put notes on note cards, one fact per card. I put the notes in the iCrate, a crate with folders and each folder becomes a chapter.”

Bartoletti also discussed the undercover research involved in her 2010 book, “They Called Themselves The K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group.”

“I like looking at people who lived through difficult times and their agency and what they do to survive,” said Bartoletti. “Where is the hope? Where is the glean, what can I learn from it?”

Bartoletti went to a Klan meeting to uncover information for the book. The Klan members did not know she was there for research. “I knew my fear would show in the book if I did not do all the research,” she said.

Bartoletti had more words for those who seek to write but are unsure how to begin.“Make time to write and read. I always feel you have to expose yourself to many different interests,” said Bartolietti. “It is a wonderful journey, all ways in process and progress.”

Contact the writer: [email protected]

Twitter: @ADuncklee_TWW