UMass Lowell professor and alumna give student writers advice in preparation for Writers on Campus series

Serena Arora
Connector Staff

UMass Lowell’s “Writers on Campus Series” will be returning to campus with readings by UMass Lowell English professor Maureen Stanton and UMass Lowell alumna Diannely Antigua. The readings will be held on Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in the UMass Lowell O’Leary Library Mezzanine.

After the readings, there will be a question and answer session.

Antigua is reading from her debut publication, a poetry collection called “Ugly Music.” After graduating from UMass Lowell in 2011 with a creative writing major, she received her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from New York University.

Antigua says she is very excited to come back to UMass Lowell as a published writer and cannot wait to share her experiences with fellow writers. Antigua said that she started her writing path by writing in a journal when she was nine years old.

“Writing in this journal became an obsession of mine, recording and writing everything that was going on in my life,” Antigua said.

She then started to experiment with other forms of writing such as short stories, fiction and poetry. Antigua discovered that poetry was the genre for her, as even in writing other genres, her writing was always poetic.

Antigua’s inspiration for her writing growing up was her religion. She described how some of her early poems had “religious themes.”

However, her religious poetry leans more into the rebellious side, as the religion was very embedded in her.

Antigua said that she was “very taken by the use of ‘Spanglish’ in Julia Alvarez’s poems,” and Antigua began to utilize “Spanglish” in her poems as well and was able to meet her inspiration in person at a book signing.

“Listen to your voice. Developing your voice takes time, be patient with it,” Antigua said on advice she would give to writers. Her voice and poetry have changed so much over the years, and she alluded to writers that their work will change as well.

Antigua then said that she knows her poetry is not for everyone.

“There is a tone and particular theme to my work that has a target audience,” Antigua said. She was first afraid about her poetry not being for everyone, but she eventually realized she needed to stay true to herself first and to stick to her authentic voice.

Antigua elaborated that every poem in “Ugly Music” is connected to music in a particular way, such as classical music and more.

Antigua also described her work as “sardonic, sarcastic and unafraid to go to those places that might be dark and private.” Antigua’s poetry is targeted towards millennials and discusses sensitive matters such as sexual abuse, mental illness and more.

“A good poem makes people uncomfortable,” she said.

Stanton described her story and her voyage of becoming a writer. Stanton got her undergraduate degree at UMass Amherst, and published various works after graduating, and when she decided she wanted to become a serious writer, she went back to school to get her Masters.

Stanton began writing at a young age; she wrote in her elementary school newspaper and wrote her first autobiography in fifth grade. Stanton’s fifth grade teacher liked her autobiography so much that she kept it.

Since graduate school, she has published two books: the memoir she will be reading in the event, “Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood,” and “Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-market America.”

Stanton’s inspirations growing up were buying books and attending the library. Reading was Stanton’s world and her way of escaping.

“[A] little recognition goes a long way. Hearing you have a good voice feeds your sense that you can do it,” Stanton said.

Stanton decided to teach writing because it consistently reminds Stanton on how to write. Additionally, she obtains a lot more time to write as a teacher. Stanton learned that she enjoyed teaching through graduate school and did not get her first teaching job until she was 45-years-old. Stanton has now been teaching for 15 years.

Stanton would like to advise young writers to write as much as possible and not wait until class to write. In college, when her friends went out and partied, she stayed home every Friday night and wrote. Stanton also advises writers to read literature from “the masters of the form.”

Stanton’s memoir, “Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood,” is a coming of age story. Various people can relate to her memoir, specifically the tough teenage and childhood years that are mentioned. Stanton wrote about straying from moral education and getting into “drugs, delinquent behavior, skipping school and petty crime.” Throughout a two-year period, Stanton lost herself. However, the memoir describes her journey into finding herself again.

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