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Summer 2016

English Majors “Find Home” at Sigma Tau Delta Convention

This past March, we travelled with Dr. Simone Billings to the 2016 Sigma Tau Delta International English Honors Society Convention in Minneapolis, MN. The trip came after months of anticipation and preparation. Natalie submitted “Venus Reborn,” a short fiction story about a woman who dies and reawakens into a Renaissance painting, trapped somewhere between life and whatever comes after. Helena revised and submitted, “Ozymandias’ Paradise in the Sonnets of Michelangelo,” an essay she wrote while studying abroad in Roma, which analyzed Michelangelo’s sonnets through a sculptural lens. Our chapter sponsors organized a practice reading so we could smooth out our delivery, and this was when we noted the charming coincidence of our overlapping art themes.

After overcoming several flight delays, we were thrilled to arrive in Minneapolis, a city known for its chilly winter weather and warm bookstores. The hotel was buzzing with literary murmur: there were author readings and writing workshops, book fairs and poetry contests, and over a thousand undergrads, grads, and professors from around the world. Upon checking in for the convention, we found ourselves in a world where poets were heroes and literary allusions were currency, in the company of fellow English enthusiasts who got the same thrills from figurative language as we did.

Natalie on her presentation:

“I was nervous, but having Simone in the audience and Helena moderating my panel gave me some confidence. I tried to ‘inhabit my character’ to make the story come alive for the listeners, an effort which threw me far out of my comfort zone, but taking some risks was worth it to avoid a deadpan delivery. (Shoutout to Dr. Stephen Carroll for all the stellar performance advice.) I received a few questions from the audience—some thoughtful, some provocative—so at the very least I got their attention. What more could I ask for?”  

Helena on her presentation:

“With two days extra to practice, I graced a crowd of 20 students and sponsors. Finally being behind the podium, I felt the words I wrote transform—from words into sounds with my rhythm, my pauses, and my tone taking over. Despite not including the actual sonnets in my essay, I decided to read the poems for my audience so that my analysis and favorite lines would resonate in their minds. ‘Now this. Now that. At hand. At will.’ It was over in a matter of minutes, and when the first few questions were directed towards me, I knew I had rocked the spoken words.”

In addition to presenting, we also attended a reading by a Hmong writer and teacher, Kao Kalia Yang, on her 2008 memoir The Latehomecomer. She was this year’s featured author and turned out to be an excellent speaker who answered even the most lifeless audience questions with grace, humility and insight. Because of her beautiful language and extraordinary personal history, Yang’s reading was an emotional experience for most everyone in the audience, and one of the highlights of the convention for us.

On the last night we attended the convention gala dinner and awards ceremony. Natalie’s story won second place in the category of Original Fiction, ending our trip with a bang. As we waved goodbye to Minneapolis, we proudly wore shirts that read “Metaphors Be With You,” knowing this convention’s positive energy would strengthen our writing endeavors back at SCU. So far, we think it has.

Metaphors be with us all.


Natalie Grazian '16 majored in English and minored in Spanish.
Helena Alfajora '6 double majored in English and Art.