English major Debra Lewis recently had her convention submission “The Other Side of Two” accepted for presentation at the 2015 Sigma Tau Delta Convention. This year’s convention will be held March 18-21 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before she goes, we asked her to share her story with us, and she promises an update when she returns from the convention.

Debra Lewis
Debra Lewis

Year in school? Program of Study?

Senior* in English Literature with a Creative Writing Concentration plus a History minor. (*Double meaning. True, I am a senior undergrad at CSU and excited to be graduating with diploma in hand come May. It is also true that I am a senior as in crone, though in actuality how can that be because my AARP discounts don’t even kick in for another 7 years?!!)

You recently had your convention submission “The Other Side of Two” accepted for presentation at the 2015 Sigma Tau Delta Convention, whose theme this year is “Borderlands and Enchantments.” Congratulations! Can you tell us something about your submission and why you chose to submit for this conference?

The submission is very raw. The only reason I put anything together was because about a month before the deadline a professor-poet sent me a tiny little email with a tiny little prompt suggesting that I should put something together. I worried and waited until two days before the deadline and then panicked and scrambled.

I wish I could say that my submission was a well-thought out compilation of inspired verse. Well, the verse was inspired – as verse usually is – but I’m not sure at the time that it was well thought out. I had recently come out of a period of mad grief at the loss of my husband and mother. Once that grief began to wane, the creativity started flowing. So, it was more of an impulse really, a mad fleeting compulsion to see what would happen, what-if, why-not, share some poems, belong to a community of similarly-interested people.

What are you expecting from this conference? Any particular hopes or concerns?

Nothing really, and everything. I heard from a past attendee that it is like the best English class ever on steroids. That would be sweet. The conference itself is so brief. Just a few days during spring break and the brevity of it sorta gives it the pit-a-pat feeling of a fling – short, sweet, relatively uncomplicated and most likely completely disrupting. Fleeting literary crushes, though, can invigorate reader and writer alike. I hope overcome my innate intimidation and actually flow into my fears and spark up a conversation with Leslie Marmon Silko.

What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?

CSU’s English Department presents a rich language experience in both theory and application – I like that. And I love that the faculty consists of many published authors and poets. This school is really a hot-bed of talent all working together to help students find our scholarly and creative fit. Oh, and don’t miss the deadline to get in on the undergrad student publication team of Greyrock Review.

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?

If what you love is language and story – that is, you read more and write more than even a full semester’s load of sadistic brilliant professors can assign to you – then ignore the cultural cross-fire you find yourself in between conservative speculation about your major’s merits on the one hand and tirades about the effectiveness of fine arts reading and writing on the other. When it came time for me to make that decision the first time 30 years ago, I chose the side of common sense and ignored my personal passions. Guess what? The so-called secure route was not so secure anyway. Every venture takes risks. Do what makes you feel most alive.

Favorite quote, book, or author?

While of course I have many favorites, I do continue to go back often to Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. I think that is primarily because of his two leading characters, he let the female heroine simultaneously disappoint both the Devil and the Christ. Who couldn’t love that, again and again?

What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?

Grandchildren, three of them, grace my life. I’m planning a hike to the headwaters of the Saint Vrain soon. There’s also the gray whales off Depot Bay to visit. They don’t need me but I need them. Off the coast of Maine, there are these puffins on an island that sometimes let humans come and care take them for a while. I’d love that.