Creative Writing Alumni
Born and raised in Buffalo's Old First Ward, Andrew Bannister '09 earned an associates degree in communications & media arts from Niagara County Community College, where he received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. He came to understand writing much better working as the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Spirit. His influences range from Sharon Olds, Raymond Carver, and William Carlos Williams, to William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and T. S. Eliot. He began at Canisius as a junior, tried a creative writing class, and thoroughly enjoyed it. He found that the techniques learned in creative classes, along with supplemental guidance from faculty, dislodged many of the impediments that stifled his previous attempts at writing. At Canisius, he believes, the emphasis is on the craft of writing: the only way to elevate our work is through practice-we write and revise, write and revise, and through this exploring, develop our abilities and channel our creativity. He is currently building sentences and looking forward to sharing them.
When Elizabeth Borngraber ’11 was three year old she wanted to become a pharmacist. Luckily, that phase didn’t last very long and she found her true calling between the pages of her most beloved YA books. Since then, she has dreamed of nothing more than seeing her name in print and contributing to the collective imagination of the fiction world. She graduated cum laude from Canisius with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and Classics. Currently, she is serving a year with AmeriCorps as the project coordinator of Speak Your Mind & Shape Your World, a literary and visual arts journal for Buffalo high school students. After her term, or perhaps terms, of service are over, she plans to pursue her MFA in Creative Writing at the most prestigious school that will accept her and also pay her way through. It is her hope to one day start a literary non-profit and to finish at least one novel in her lifetime. As far as the making money portion of life goes, she has yet to figure that out. However, she is more than willing to live in a cardboard box for a time, lined and roofed with her many books, if that means finally realizing her dreams
Cara Cotter '10 grew up in East Aurora and attended Nardin Academy in Buffalo. At Canisius she was a contributor, staff member, and in her senior year, one of three editors-in-chief of Quadrangle 2010. She graduated summa cum laude with majors in English, History, and Art History and minors in Creative Writing and Classics. Her all-college honors thesis, a study of Internet fan fiction and the future of publishing, received the Kristin M. Brady Award, awarded annually to the student who’s written the best thesis that year. Cara also received the Leslie C. Warren Award for Academic Excellence in English and the Gerald Murray Award for Excellence in Creative Writing. Currently, she’s pursuing an MFA in fiction writing at the University of New Orleans, where she works as a graduate teaching assistant and as a staff member of the literary magazine Bayou.
Originally from Spokane, WA, Dan Falkner '05 earned a bachelor's degree in English and adolescence education from Canisius. He graduated from Bowling Green State University’s creative writing program, earning a master of fine arts degree in fiction writing in 2007. At Bowling Green, Falkner was an assistant editor for The Mid American Review, studied abroad in France and Africa, and won the program’s Devine Award in fiction writing. He has published fiction in The Rectangle, among others. Currently, Falkner teaches literature and writing at Jesuit High School in Portland, OR.
Born and raised in the Buffalo area, Dean Goranites '10 became an English major mainly due to a lack of interest in any other field, then stumbled on a creative writing course his junior year. After being persuaded by his professors to enroll in more writing classes, he discovered through the help of a classmate and friend his love of poetry. Dean cites his teenage journey through the punk and ska scenes as a major influence on his writing style, but is not ashamed to admit that during the period, he could name only a handful of authors off the top of his head. Currently he owns and operates AuthorsUnleashed.com, a creative writing collective aimed at rustling the literary norms. He cites such artists as Stanley Kubrick, Charles Bukowski, David Lynch, Stephen Colbert, Kurt Vonnegut, Vic Ruggiero, and Dave Eggers as role models.
Brittany Gray '10 was raised in Derby, NY, a quiet suburb of Buffalo well-suited for shaping a creative mind. With no amusements other than rocks, sticks and passing woodland friends, Brittany developed a passion for reading early in her life. Her first literary companion was a certain Dr. Seuss, who taught her that you don't always need to use real words to make a rhyme. Like many adolescents, Brittany spent her teenage years with pranksters and troublemakers, the most prominent of which were Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde. Upon enrolling at Canisius College, Brittany took up a double major in English and History with a minor in Creative Writing. At Canisius, she was introduced to the work of many new writers, and was most influenced by George Saunders. Brittany plans on moving to New York City to pursue a career in writing and performing comedy.
Lauren Jaroszewski '10 grew up in Middletown, NY, but has roots in Western New York. For her, coming to Canisius College awakened a love for the area and her devotion to literature and writing. She greatly enjoyed her time in the Canisius College English department, especially her work with Quadrangle throughout her undergraduate career. She has been interested in creative writing since childhood, and her courses have only developed her skills, particularly her poetry. A favorite poet is Emily Bronte, because of her strong fantasy themes and explorations of human relationships. Recently accepted to University at Buffalo's graduate English program, she hopes to continue her studies of early American literature by authors such as Susanna Rowson, Catharine Maria Sedgwick and William Wells Brown.
Colleen Kersten '10 is a native Buffalonian, educated at Catholic institutions, a lifelong reader, whose eclectic tastes range from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Virginia Woolf, the subject of her all-college honors thesis. While at Canisius, she was active in Colleges Against Cancer, Relay for Life, and Circle of Women. She spent a semester abroad, studying at Oxford University, and returned to serve as one of three editors-in-chief of Quadrangle 2010. She graduated summa cum laude with a major in English and minors in creative writing and writing and was awarded the Gerald Murray Award for Excellence in Creative Writing. After graduation, she worked for a year in the insurance industry, and has since returned to school in order to pursue in M.A. in English from SUNY-Buffalo
Alix Krzemien '08 grew up in the town of Hartland, a few miles outside of Lockport, NY, where the rural landscape -- open fields, woodlands, waterways, and the shores of Lake Ontario -- influences much of her poetry. When writing poetry, she usually finds that her imagination takes her back to these places. Going to college in Buffalo has opened her eyes to other scenes, but she still manages to find snippets of the pastoral in city settings such as the way the snow covers sidewalks or the way the sunlight falls on a busy street. Krzemien is a musician, singer and songwriter, and has traveled to Poland, where she taught Polish students to play the guitar. Her favorite poet is Walt Whitman. She hopes to continue studying his work as well as other mid-nineteenth century American texts during her graduate study in English at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
To read Krzemien's poem, Old Stars, click here.
Brittani Mroz '11 grew up in Elma, NY, and attended Iroquois Central High School in Lancaster. She graduated from Canisius with a double major in English and creative writing; her all-college honors thesis was a collection of short stories, “Fleeting Faces.” She served as editor-in-chief of Quadrangle 2011. She finds inspiration in her favorite activities—road trips and music festivals—and in her favorite books—Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. Since graduation, she’s been working at a large pharmacy, gathering material for a really good drugstore story. She plans eventually to move to the West Coast and pursue an MFA in creative writing.
Duyen Nguyen '08 was born in Vietnam and grew up in Buffalo, where she attended City Honors School. She began writing in elementary school and with the encouragement of her English teachers at City Honors, she committed herself seriously to her writing. At Canisius, she learned, among other things, that she does not want to be a lawyer -- ever; that she will always love British literature best; and that she’s never regretted being an English major. Her favorite writers are Jane Austen and Pablo Neruda. She intends to devote her life to studying the former and trying to write poetry with as much beauty and passion as the latter. Currently she is a student in the PhD program in English at Northeastern University, where she is teaching writing.
Ever since she cracked the code of letters, Tonawanda native Alyssa Palombo ’11 has spent much of her life with her nose buried in a book, a fact to which her heavily overloaded bookshelf can attest. Her parents have several times threatened to stage a book intervention due to the number of books that are delivered to the house via Alibris and Barnes & Noble. Favorite authors include Ann Patchett, Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Gail Godwin, Naomi Ragen, Philippa Gregory, and Oscar Wilde.
For Palombo, the step from reading the works of others to writing her own was a natural one. All through middle school and high school, she could usually be found scribbling stories and poems in one of her ever-present spiral-bound notebooks whenever she thought her teachers wouldn’t notice. A 2007 graduate of Sweet Home High School, she chose Canisius College primarily because it was the only school in the area to offer a creative writing minor, and was thrilled to be in the first class of graduates with a creative writing degree. Her senior thesis, a collection of five short stories entitled “Love Songs in C-Sharp Minor,” explored love’s many effects in a variety of its incarnations.
Palombo considers herself primarily a fiction writer, although she writes poetry as well from time to time. She currently works for Student Voice/Campus Labs in Buffalo as a Coordinator for Campus Support.
Palombo’s other great love in life is music. A competent pianist and a beginning violinist, she is first and foremost a vocalist. A mezzo-soprano with a taste for the classical/operatic repertoire, and a big fan of hard rock and heavy metal, she plans to spend her life being torn between her two passions—music and writing—and feels extremely fortunate to have it so.
Jason Pontillo '09 is from Pembroke, NY. He started really "reading" with the Beats, particularly Kerouac, as a teenager -- like so many others have. To that end, he's tried in his writing to be flexible in form and meaning. He says, "whether I've succeeded or will succeed in the future remains to be seen." In his senior year, he worked as an intern at Starcherone Books in Buffalo, and after graduation continues working as an editorial assistant.
To read Pontillo's poem "Through the Baby-talk," click here.
Joan Stoltman '05 finished her master's work in art history at the Pratt Institute in Summer 2008. Copies of her thesis, “Engage, Perform, Act: How Contemporary Artists Use the Book as Form and the Book as Idea,” were added to the collections of more than a dozen nationally recognized institutions, including the New York Public Library, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art. Her first article, a review of the symposium “Metaphor Taking Shape: Poetry, Art, and the Book” at Yale University in March 2008, appeared in Vol. 31, no. 1 of Umbrella, a journal dedicated to artists’ books, art books and new media. She and her fellow 2005 Quadrangle alumni Amber Mazza and Josh Paufler still dream of poetry vending machines in every school, and are working towards a small press venture together.
Jon Wheelock ‘09 began writing illustrated short stories on colored construction paper in elementary school, volumes that continually appear whenever his mom finds the opportunity to showcase his cave drawings to friends and family. He also started playing music at a young age, developing an affinity for jazz that has greatly influenced his writing. Coltrane, Mingus, and Miles Davis became his mentors--their unique way of conjuring a story through musical phrases, Jon found, was very much like arranging words in a meaningful way on a page. Jon tries to bring this sensibility to his own work, and hopes that he can continue to explore new opportunities in both music and writing.
Shana Williams ’06, was born and raised in Buffalo, NY, and attended City Honors School. At an early age, she discovered her love of literature, and wrote countless short stories, plays, and poems as a child. During her time at Canisius, Shana was a proud member of the McGowan/Urban Learning and Leadership Community and feels blessed to have not only received a full scholarship to pursue her education, but to have been in the presence of some of the best friends and mentors she has ever had the pleasure of meeting. She served as the co-editor of Nia News, a literary publication of the Afro-American society, and also served as the editor-in-chief of the 54th edition of the Quadrangle. In June of 2008, Shana received her M.A. in English from the University at Buffalo, and currently teaches as an adjunct English professor here at Canisius. Shana feels her time at Canisius truly shaped the woman she has become, and she looks forward to a career in teaching and hopes to never stop writing. It’s what keeps her sane.