By Bindu Bansinath
Meet our Summer Mentees of the Week, Christina Qiu and Adelina Ceretto! Over a six week period, twenty-six high school-aged mentees work with members of The Adroit Journal staff to develop an innovative vision of their writing and find what makes their voices unique. Let's get to know some of the Adroit mentees better, and take a look at what's really going on in this workshop— Late night Skype calls? Taylor Swift love? A Poetry Mentor who resembles Ponyboy Curtis? It's never an ordinary day, here at Adroit.
Introduce yourself in a haiku.
Christina Qiu, Prose Mentee: I’ve sacrificed all—
my health, my wealth, my saneness,
for these high-heeled shoes.
Adelina Ceretto, Poetry Mentee: I’m Adelina
Lena for short— with an “e”
Can’t explain the change.
How did you first find out about the journal?
CQ: A couple of days before the deadline of the 2013 Adroit Prizes, I found out about The Adroit Journal through an advertisement by The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. I wouldn’t have considered myself a writer then because even though I thought a lot about the craft and wrote a lot, I wasn’t submitting anything anywhere and I never thought other people would recognize my work. But because my writing buddy, Oriana Tang, also a mentee, was submitting work to Adroit, I submitted two short stories and three poems. I was put on the Editor’s List that year for my short story The Hubei Boys, my first published story ever.
AC: My very talented mentor and former teacher, poet Bri Cavallaro, suggested the journal for a potential first publication for me—unsuccessfully. (Fingers crossed for a publication before college!)
What made you decide to apply to the workshop?
CQ: I love Adroit and have had many great experiences with its programs and its staff. I also wanted to get more opinions about my work from people who were passionate about writing and reading. I’ve found that workshopping experiences in the past—and this program is not an exception—have allowed me to look at my own work more objectively and incorporate fresh ideas into my writing. It also seemed reasonably relaxed, which was perfect for me at the time.
AC: A handful of gracious rejections made me want to improve, and there lay an opportunity, presented by the very rejecters themselves!
How did you react when you were accepted?
CQ: I was very excited! I read through the entire intro packet, stalked some mentors and mentees on the Internet, and explored the deep dark world of Canvas.
AC: I screamed and messaged my best from from writing camp, Emmi Mack, when I saw that she was in it too. It was a dear diary moment.
Who is your mentor, and what are they like?
CQ: My mentor is the awesome Kaitlin Jennrich. She’s so funny, random, and passionate. She has no problem marking everything up on the stories I submit (which I appreciate a lot). She loves memes and Taylor Swift. She is very supportive. She is very Team Kaitlin biased, for reasons I’m sure no one can derive. She gives wonderful advice. She is a fairy. She has just emailed me with the message title “oh boi”.
AC: Caleb Kaiser is my mentor, and he is quite possibly the coolest person I’ve ever met. Think Ponyboy Curtis meets J.D. from Heathers, but with phenomenal writing ability. I basically want to be him when I grow up.
What has been your favorite moment in the workshop so far?
CQ: I had this three hour long Google Hangout session with Team Kaitlin (Kaitlin & fellow mentees, Charlotte Goddu, Lindsay Emi, and Lucy Silbaugh). I had read the wrong pieces by the right authors, so I couldn’t say much during the workshop, but there were laughs and spilt coffee and platonic relationships and sex talk and bad church anecdotes. I got so much excellent advice and met wonderful, talented people. I finally assigned a face to my mentor critiques. This was the second day of my research internship, so going to sleep at 1:30 AM probably wasn’t ideal, but I think it was totally worth it.
AC: When Peter LaBerge - the Peter LaBerge - followed me on twitter, I flipped out. That’s when it got real for me. I was so excited to grow as a writer.
If your writing were a Disney Channel sitcom, which one would it be?
CQ: I actually recently just watched Disney Channel, so I’m all, you know, up to date with my Disney Channel sitcoms. My writing would be like the sitcom Jessie—too many characters with too many diverse backgrounds that glob around too many random events. Especially during the mentorship program, where I’m forced to write a story a week, I often feel like my writing is a hodge podge of randomness that doesn’t actually fit together. But it’s cool. That’s what editing is for (oh noooooo).
AC: It would have to be Cory in the House. That’s a bit self-deprecating, but once the thought popped into my head I couldn’t stop laughing.
In seven words, describe the last piece you wrote.
CQ: Someone walking off with alla my stuff. (Ntozake Shange reference, which was a catalyst for the majority of the last story I wrote).
AC: About a boy from my mental hospital.
How has the workshop helped you develop as a writer?
CQ: The main thing about this workshop was it forced me to be prolific, and though I don’t believe every writer has to be prolific, there is something very spontaneous and organic about generating a large amount of material in a short amount of time. I squeezed a typically month-long process into the span of three days, and there is definitely something very fresh about the writing I have been generating recently that I had not seen before. I’ve also experienced that exhilarating yes I can moment that Obama has been trying to infuse into me since 2008.
AC: Oh wow. It’s hard to describe how much this workshop has affected my writing. The critiques from Caleb and my peers have changed the way I look at my own work. I can see bigger picture issues now, and that’s been huge for me. I think my future revisions will be much more in-depth, and that’s exciting.
What can we expect from you in the future?
CQ: Wow! What an introspective question! In general, I don’t like putting expectations on myself or else I feel like I have to accomplish them. But in terms of writing, I’m planning on discovering more about myself and playing more with language. I’m expecting my stories to get more conservative and more innovative simultaneously every time I write. I know I will be experiencing new things and writing about new topics. Expect a lot of development and a lot more maturity—and hopefully, when I’m ready, I’ll be able to share it, and people will find it meaningful.
AC: Hopefully a collection or two! Maybe a YA novel? Assuredly some ridiculous stories and tattoos.
Want more from Summer Mentees of the Week? Check out our previous installment, featuring Emmi Mack and Robert Esposito!