Category Archives: Sister of Saidnaya

How I Began Writing

After shooting off my mouth in Father Kernan’s Composition and Speech class (Contempore Speech), I began writing a newspaper column. I was trying to be Wheeling College’s Joe Blundo.

Also wrote short stories about West Virginians or Syrian people. Next came playwriting. I asked my playwriting professor, a devout convert to Catholicism, how to get plays produced. She said “Sleep with producers.”

Instead I accepted a graduate fellowship in English. John Carroll in Cleveland was integrating. I was one of the first eight women. My initial assignment was to teach the football players bonehead English five days a week at 8:00 am. I was one page ahead of them until the day I rushed in late, spoke a paragraph, and realized nothing was coming out of my mouth. We shared a laugh and went for coffee!

Can’t believe that I would eventually write a 335 page novel, Sister of Saidnaya.

Extempore speech

I escaped the clutches of family, school, and church when I received a scholarship to Wheeling College, the first Jesuit school in West Virginia. One pleasant afternoon I was dozing in Father Kernan’s rhetoric and speech class. Occasionally it was his custom to call on a student to give an extempore speech. On that sleepy day he called on me. My speech was on how to survive Jesuit education. I groused about the muddy plateau the two new buildings were on, Father Kernan’s dramatic habit of kneeling to pray before each class, his admonitions to write without adjectives and adverbs, and his research assignments to read every book written by that author. The more my audience laughed, the more outrageous my comments. Father ended the class (without prayer) saying “Now that Rose Ann has reprimanded the Society of Jesus….”

Greeks have been known to bear….

Greeks have been known to bear….

I was among the first students to enroll in Wheeling College in Wheeling, WV. The college consisted of an administration building and a classroom building floating on a sea of mud and construction. When I went to register I was told my classes. When I saw calculus and trig, I said “No way!” I had just spent my senior year copying geometry from Danny White. The response was “Then you will have to take Greek.” Before I could even say no to that, I was sitting in front of Father Gannon who said “Recite the Greek alphabet.”

Years later when I applied to graduate school, I was asked “Any bad grades?’ “D in first semester Greek” I replied. The counselor laughed.

Years after that I would explain to my English classes the benefits of knowing Latin and Greek root words.