JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor
Every year at Fairleigh Dickinson University, many seniors complete a thesis, which, ideally, allows them to apply what they have learned while studying their respective majors.
Most of the theses are academic in nature: case studies, lab reports or research papers.
The Department of Creative Writing does things a little differently.
Creative writing students are assigned a creative thesis, which gives them a chance to focus on a larger piece of work, whether it’s a collection of poems, short stories or a novel.
David Grand, creative writing professor and published author, is in charge of the entire department’s senior writing class, where 17 students meet to workshop their theses.
Grand has published two novels and just handed in a third to his publisher. Most students in the class are working on novels.
The class is exceptionally large this year.
Among them is Leanna Kelly, who is working on a young adult novel.
Kelly explains how Grand divided the class in order to manage it more effectively: “Grand has divided the class into groups, and we’ve been paired up with specific people to work with outside of class as well. We have a monthly small group meeting. We also have our partners to work with during the rest of the month.”
The first group meeting was on Sept. 29.
There is no required number of pages that have to be finished for the first draft, but Grand expects a completed draft by the end of the semester.
“Grand understands the writing process. He knows some of us can get blocked sometimes,” said Joseph Jasko, who is also in the class.
Jasko is working on a satirical novel.
In the novel, “God is living in an upper-class neighborhood. There’s no explanation as to how He got to this cul-de-sac-like place, but the people accept Him as God,” Jasko explained. “He gets Himself into some trouble in the neighborhood when He has an affair with the main character’s wife.”
The main character in the novel is a man who has become disconnected from God, who is personified as a partier and playboy.
“He’s at his house with a hang over while the rest of the neighborhood is getting up early to go to church,” Jasko said.
Every time Jasko thinks of something funny to say, he laughs to himself before sharing.
“It’s half fiction, half sacrilegious.”
According to Jasko, his own disconnect with God began when his beloved dog died when he was a boy.
“The first time I prayed in my life was for my dog to get better,” he said. “It didn’t work.”
Jasko, who normally thinks of himself as a humorist, is struggling to find the humor in this novel, which he describes as “very dark.”
Megan Osborne, a junior and Jasko’s girlfriend, said, “He’s excited to write more serious stories.”
Before Jasko embarked on this surreal tale about God, he worked on many little short stories he liked to share with his friends and family.
“Many of them involve cannibalism for some reason,” Jasko said. “The newest one I wrote is about incest.”
Jasko hates the word “taboo” and gets very excited when one of his stories cross the line between what’s okay to say and what’s not.
He writes in the mornings and, according to Osborne, “sentences just come to him.”
Jasko asserts that it really isn’t that easy.
“I’m obsessive with grammar and rhythm. I write in no particular order. If I’m working on chapter 1 and something turns up in my head for the ending of the story, I work on that. I’m always picking at the story.”
It is no coincidence, then, that Jasko has Grand as his mentor.
“Grand is big on revision,” Jasko said. “He is very helpful and constructive. He’s not afraid to tell you the problems he encounters in a story. If David doesn’t believe something, he says so.”
The process will culminate for Jasko on April 18, 2012, when he presents his thesis to an audience of students and faculty members as part of an honors program requirement.