A Unique Chance For Student Writers To Network

English Professor Kristen Lauer Offers Students Discussion With Writers and A Plate of Lasagna


Published: April 22, 2010

As the taxi makes its way uptown, I sit in the back thinking about how anxious I am. I can’t wait to see everyone and taste the delicious meal that I’ve been hearing about for months. Finally, we are at an apartment building that I’ve never been to. It’s beautiful and as I take the elevator up to the top floor, I’m ready to get inside and get the party started. I ring the doorbell and begin to feel a little nervous. It’s not often you find yourself ringing the doorbell for the apartment of your professor. However, that is exactly where I found myself on April 11.

As I wait for Kristen Lauer, associate professor of English, to open the door, I think about what kinds of opportunities this class has already presented me with. The Writer’s Road is a class that was created by Lauer herself and basically helps explain the writing journey to those who are interested in the field. Guest speakers come every other week and are working writers that have graduated from Fordham and who have even had Lauer as a professor at one point.

“The best part of teaching The Writer’s Road has been watching my students from years gone by give back from their lives as writers to all in the class,” Lauer said. “This class, I felt, was composed of unique and talented students. I have enjoyed getting to know each one.”

The visiting writers spend two days guest lecturing on the profession and offer helpful insight into the ups and downs of the job. On top of that, they have been more than willing to keep in contact with us if we need advice or have any questions. The dinner provided even more of an opportunity for us students to pick the minds of these visiting writers. We all sat around going over short pieces of writing that some of the students had submitted to Kevin Killian, a working critic currently living in San Francisco. Other than that, we were given the chance to simply network with a couple of the other writers, Bill McKay and Brian Centrone, both of whom were once students of Lauer’s and who went on to become successful in the writing journey.

It is rare that working writers will take time out of their schedules to help students find their way and truly want them to succeed. The guests we have had this semester are a testament to how amazing Lauer is. After all, flying cross-country (made possible because of a Fordham donor excited about making this class possible) or dedicating a book to her is no minor detail.  This is one professor whose kind actions definitely don’t go unnoticed.

“I love how relaxed it is, and it’s nice to know that Dr. Lauer knows and cares about all of us,” said Sara Ingle, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’12. “It’s really different how much effort she puts into everything. She bought me the ‘Screwtape Letters’ and she bought a few other people books, and I don’t think I’ve ever had an English teacher that picked out a book for me outside of what we had to do in class in a long time.”

Being able to get to know these writers on a personal level greatly increased without the borders of a classroom. Our stomachs were full from the lasagna and a specially mixed punch. Instead of desks, we were sitting on large comfy couches with a view of the Hudson River and how can people not bond over the deliciousness of homemade chocolate cake?

About the dinner, McCay said, “It’s also good strategy, I think. Offering a way for students and guest speakers to mix informally allowed us all to escape the structures—or is that the strictures?—of the classroom. It allowed us to get into some one-on-one discussions. I’m always amazed at the questions I’ll hear when people aren’t inhibited by what their classmates will think.”

In a society where it is all about who you know, having a professor that understands this is a blessing. Instead of hounding students with pointless work, Lauer encourages us to discover our own writing techniques and take our time figuring out who we are as hopeful writers. She pushes us to get to know those who have been successful before us, who have started at the same campus with the same professor. This class has done more than present ideas from a textbook and it has benefited many students.

“When I started the class, I just kind of thought it would be fun to do, but I didn’t really expect it to go anywhere,” Ingle said. “But now I’m thinking that I could probably actually have a chance at getting published in the next year or something. And I know that I have Dr. Lauer’s support in whatever I do.”

That’s just it. This class has helped us perfect the stories we want to tell and has let us network with some of the successful writers who started where we are today. On top of that we’ve received a dinner party, permission to call our professor on her home line at all hours of the night, and of course, the emails signed with “love.” What more could one student hope for?