Two creative writing alumni, Dan Brady ’04 and Sarah Blake ’07, are returning to TCNJ to celebrate their success as authors and read from new books published this month. Below, they remember their time at the college and share the wisdom they’ve gained over their publishing careers.
How does it feel returning to your alma mater to celebrate the release of your book?
Sarah: I always love coming back to TCNJ. It feels like home.
Dan: It’s so nice to be welcomed back to TCNJ! The support has been amazing and I’m so happy that I get to launch the book where my writing life started.
Can you give TCNJ students some tips on how to make that leap into publishing?
Sarah: That’s a tricky one. I think the best advice is not to rush into it. There’s time. And it’s better to have a lot of quality work built up before you venture into the business side of writing. Enjoy the writing without the business side for as long as possible!
Dan: I think it’s important to realize that books are made up of their smaller parts — individual poems, short stories, scenes in a novel — so at least in the beginning, focus on those smaller units. Before you can think about publishing a book, you’ve got to focus on crafting good poems or stories and sending them out to literary journals. To get from something you wrote in a Google Doc to a real, live published book, you’ve got to focus on the fundamentals: actually writing and actually submitting.
How did your time at TCNJ prepare you for where you are now?
Sarah: Catie Rosemurgy and Cathy Day taught me everything I ever needed to know about how to be a good reader and an articulate one. Writing Communities taught me how to write press releases, marketing copy, reviews, and other types of writing that have been immensely helpful.
Dan: My time at TCNJ, particularly in the creative writing program and through Ink, laid the foundation for so much of what I love about my life today. It showed me how to make friends and build community through the arts, which has been central to my life after college, and I learned the skills I would need to have a career working in the arts, from programming to marketing to fundraising and more.
If there’s one thing you could tell current TCNJ creative writing students that you think would help them most during their time here as future writers, what would it be?
Sarah: I can’t think of only one… Use the library! Attend readings! Read interviews! Write your favorite authors notes about how they’re your favorite authors! Be generous with what you can be — your time, your praise, your kindness. And at least once a year, practice describing your work and your goals as an artist.
Dan: I would tell them something that one of my creative writing professors, Frank Hannold, told me, which is: “In a creative endeavor, the only difference between an amateur and a professional is that a professional never gives up.” You’ll get there. Believe in your own writing. Press on.
Dan Brady is a TCNJ Class of 2004 graduate and a founder of Ink, TCNJ’s student-run creative writing group. He is the author of Strange Children (Publishing Genius Press, 2018), as well as two poetry chapbooks. Brady is joining us on campus to launch his latest poetry collection, Subtexts (Publishing Genius Press, 2022).
Event information: Tuesday, February 22, 12:30-1:30pm, Education 115, Zoom simulcast https://bit.ly/DanBradySubtexts
Sarah Blake is a TCNJ Class of 2007 graduate and has published three volumes of poetry, as well as a novel—Naamah (Riverhead Books, 2019)— that received the Goldberg Prize from the Jewish Book Council. Blake is returning to TCNJ to read from her new novel, Clean Air (Workman Publishing, 2022), released on Feb 2.
Event information: Friday, February 25, 12:30-1:30pm Zoom only https://bit.ly/SarahBlakeCleanAir
— Samantha Segreto ’22