Overcoming the Fear of Submitting Personal Writing

Personal WritingLast semester a professor of mine asked us to write a personal essay about a lie we’ve told or heard. I chose to write about the habitual secretiveness of my sexuality, my relationship history, and the veneer of denial that my family has kept up for over a year. I finished the essay in one sleepless, tearful night, tripling the required word count. I titled it “Not Another Gay Essay.” My professor wrote two words in red on the last page: EDIT. SUBMIT.

Haley reading “Daughters” at the 2016 Convention.

Writing about personal experiences is emotionally exhausting, scary, risky, and therapeutic. It also happens to be something I do every day. My poetry journal drips with irrational feelings, the kind of thoughts I must write down or else I’ll burst. This does not always produce the best writing. I’ve found when I workshop or present this work, readers and listeners rarely follow and understand. I tend to use comedy in my scripts to flip situations on their heads, but this requires some creative distance. My scripting professor argues that writers should take a decade before they try to write and present their trauma. When writing “Not Another Gay Essay,” the challenge of objectivity toward my current situation was the ultimate boss.

One of the hardest, scariest things about writing these things is the possibility of a reader misunderstanding, critiquing, or disliking it. Workshopping in class or to friends, submitting for publication or presentation, or even just turning an assignment in can be nerve-racking. Not only did I put all my energy into writing my “Not Another Gay Essay,” but I was turning in my biggest secret to a supercritical professor and was encouraged to show it to others. She later explained, “People love reading things like this.” I was afraid to show it to my partner and my peers for editing advice. I still haven’t decided if I can submit it to our chapter’s literary magazine, Harbinger, though having my poems about my parents published in the 2015 issue was extremely validating. Even as I write this blog, I’m aware of the vulnerable position I’m putting myself in by mentioning it.

Writing JournalsSo, does that mean we shouldn’t write about a subject until we’re absolutely over it? No! Writing helps me through many external and internal struggles, especially when I’m only writing for myself. I write letters I’ll never send to estranged and deceased loved ones. I jot down day dreams—future grocery lists, road trips, and pet names—when I feel like I can’t get through the day. I keep a pocket-size journal of unlined pages on me at all times for angsty impulses and jokes my friends won’t think are funny. Every now and then I am able to use these pieces to see a bigger picture, find irony, outline a story, or make a character more authentic.

I’m happy with the feedback I’ve received from that essay so far, and I’m glad I wrote it. I’ve since enrolled in a queer theory class and I even decided to develop my senior thesis on queer comedy. The process of writing my thoughts, finding theorists to supplement them, and organizing all of it so someone else could understand has helped me understand myself and grow.

So take a deep breath, sit down at your computer, and write that personal narrative! The prospect of baring your soul to potential criticism and rejection is daunting, but the process is cathartic and so worth it in the end. And once you’ve edited and revised, take that next step and submit your work to your school’s literary journal, or even to one of Sigma Tau Delta’s journals (due May 7). You never know, your personal narrative might be just the thing someone else needs to read.

HCoburnHaley Coburn
Student Representative, Midwestern Region, 2017-2018
Alpha Epsilon Eta Chapter, Secretary
Stephens College, Columbia, MO



Sigma Tau Delta Journals

The Sigma Tau Delta journals publish annually the best creative and critical writing of undergraduate and graduate active chapter members of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society.

All active undergraduate and graduate members of active Sigma Tau Delta chapters are invited to submit their work to The Sigma Tau Delta Review and The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle. Chapter Sponsors, faculty members, alumni (including members of the Alumni Epsilon Chapter), and honorary members are not eligible to submit.

Submissions for the 2019 journals are due between April 2 and May 7, 2018.

View Submission Guidelines.

Mixing Writing and Technology at EA Games

Technical WritingUnsurprising to the English majors reading this, I love to write. I feel most complete when writing novels, short stories, or academic papers. Only when I find the right sequence of words can I effectively bare my soul.

However, as I have explored more writing genres, I have found that my passion for the craft exceeds creative and academic pursuits. I became interested in how writing was utilized in everyday contexts, how typified genres were explored in professional contexts, and how writing is used alongside rapidly evolving technologies. For these reasons, I started to consider Technical Writing, not just as a career option, but as a way to explore alternative writing genres. I began thinking about how Technical Writing marries writing and science to form a new genre, and how that is important to those of us who are irrevocably enamored with the craft.

Technical WritingTo satiate this curiosity, I accepted a Technical Writing internship with EA Games. During my internship, I witnessed the importance of writing within a professional setting. Many technology companies are frequently on the precipice of new and innovative ideas and products. While the importance of these ideas or products is abundantly clear to the engineers and designers who made them, there is an exigence for explaining the importance in accessible language. I was tasked with crafting such language. I also learned how writing is used to communicate across global communities, and also how it evolves with technology. While there was a focus on the engineering forces at EA, the importance of writing was an unspoken accompaniment. One could not exist without the other. As our economy becomes focused on technology, writing is becoming more and more important to the accessibility of technology.

EA GamesThrough this internship, I learned my passion for writing was not exclusive to the creative and academic outlets I am accustomed to. I understand that writing has utilitarian function in contexts I wouldn’t have previously considered. In this sense, my passion for writing has grown because even though I have considered myself a writer for years, I have realized there is still much to explore within the field. I believe that the sense of the unknown, that sense of continuous evolution, is why my passion for writing will remain a lifelong devotion.

Banned Books Haley HelgesenHaley Helgesen
Student Representative, Midwestern Region, 2016-2017
Phi Delta Chapter
Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL

If You Feed Them, They Will Come: 5 Tips for Throwing a Pizza Social

The beginning of a new semester is an exciting, whirlwind time for returning students and new students alike. Organizations begin to put their plans in motion for a productive term, and that involves the necessary act of new member recruitment. While a campus organization fair is a great way to quickly meet new students, it’s also a bit of a frenzy. There’s not much of an opportunity to talk with students as they quickly head from table to table. A follow-up event, such as a pizza social, can be a great way to gather your returning members and have them meet and mingle with new students.

Host a Pizza Social!

At a pizza social, you can talk about what Sigma Tau Delta is, your school’s chapter, the annual international convention, and who your chapter members are. Plus, if you feed them, they will come. Trust me: Free food is always a reason to attend an event!

Pizza Social RecruitmentWhile the costs for a pizza social depend on your chapter’s budget, here are five tips on how to host a successful social:

1) Schedule Your Event

Don’t forget to promote your social with flyers posted across your campus and numerous social media posts on your chapter’s accounts, accounts hosted by your English department, and any other applicable accounts for your school.

2) Buy Local

Help support your local pizzerias by buying from them. Don’t forget to ask for group discounts. Also, be aware of students’ dietary needs and order a gluten-free pizza or two.

3) Stick to the Classics

Don’t get all fancy ordering pizza with a dozen toppings. Cheese and pepperoni are the way to go.

4) Quench that Thirst

Buy drinks! Head to your local grocery store and pick up some 2-liters of soda and water. Your potential new members will thank you for the choice between a fizzy drink and a healthier alternative.

5) Make It Rain . . . with Recruitment Materials

Have a table set up with applications and recruitment flyers such as the official Sigma Tau Delta At A Glance flyer. Don’t forget to provide information such as what your application funds go toward and the numerous benefits of joining Sigma Tau Delta.

When your event is over, don’t forget to clean up and thank your members for all their hard work and help.

Additional Sigma Tau Delta Resources

What kind of new member recruitment events has your chapter hosted? Let us know in the comments below!

Shelly RomeroShelly Romero
Associate Student Representative, Midwest Region, 2016-2017
Alpha Epsilon Eta Chapter
Stephens College, Columbia, MO