An Oral History of Manuscript’s 70 Years As Wilkes’ Literary Magazine
By James Jaskolka ’16
In the first issue of Manuscript published in 1947, the editors expressed their hope that the literary magazine would become a college tradition of which they might all be proud. As the publication marks its 70th anniversary, it’s clear their dream was realized.
Founded as a way to ensure free and open speech in creative work, Manuscript Society and the publication it produces serve as the premier creative outlet at Wilkes. Visual art and writing are accepted from students, faculty or alumni, guaranteeing that each edition reflects Wilkes’ best creative work.
Manuscript Society also hosts creative events such as open mics, writing workshops, film showcases and the annual unveiling of Manuscript every spring, where the creators celebrate by reading their works or discussing their art.
Sean J. Kelly and Chad W. Stanley are both associate professors of English and co-advisors of Manuscript. They share a vision for the value it brings to the student experience.
“There has always been a core group who strongly self-identify as poets, novelists, or visual artists. These students often keep writing and even publishing long after graduation. If Manuscript didn’t exist, they would have to invent it,” Kelly says.
Stanley adds, “I think it is a crucial medium for students engaging in studies in creative writing, art, or design–and for students who have relevant interests in such work, but are not majoring in those fields. It complements education in many ways, and extends education and culture.”
Although much about Manuscript has changed over 70 years, reflecting the changing University and the city surrounding it, much remains the same. Interviews with previous editors reflect common themes of community and creativity and the long-term influence that producing Manuscript had on improving skills and influencing careers.
In this oral history, editors from all generations reflect on their experience with Manuscript.
For generations of Wilkes students, working on Manuscript meant time spent in Kirby Hall.
Ron [Kryznewski] Kross ’60: We met at Kirby Hall, but at that time, Kirby Hall was the main library … the smaller room on the first floor was the card catalog room, what they call the salon now was a reading and study room … it was a wonderful place in a wonderful school.
Jim Warner ’99 MFA ‘09: Kirby Hall was a great place for reading. It still is. … The weekly meetings we had used to be in the old alumni offices in the top floor of Kirby, and that place was like a clubhouse for us. We got work done, but it was also a place where a lot of friendships were codified.
CENSORSHIP AND ARTISTIC FREEDOM
An emphasis on free expression distinguished Manuscript from its earliest years.
Kross: I was a pain in the butt for the people there, because my senior year I wrote an article on H.L. Mencken’s view of Christianity. … Of course, it was anti-Christian. At that time, I was in a rebellious stage. … I was told that Dr. Farley was not pleased when he saw the Manuscript out.
Ray Klimek ’78: There was one issue where we printed something by a woman about Joan of Arc. … I think the clincher line was something like “they couldn’t [expletive] her so they made her a saint…” and this became the subject of a little bit of controversy. … We always had the support of the faculty, which was great because they were like, “We aren’t approving of censorship, they can do whatever they want.”
Elyse Guziewicz ’18: I can’t speak for all of the faculty or the administration, but the English faculty value creativity. As an organization, Manuscript prides itself on not censoring sensitive material and promoting the inclusion of all creative material in our canon. Even if the administration tried to step in, I think both the English faculty and the Manuscript staff would resist that full-force.
Warner: We were never really censored … we had controversial things, issues of sexual identity, drug use … but when you’re in college, being able to discover those spaces to talk about things that were taboo is important … I was fortunate enough to be with a department that gave us free reign.
Working closely with faculty mentors was a memorable part of working on Manuscript.
Deirdre Swinden ’95: I worked with Dr. Bonnie Bedford [Culver]…she was very open with everything we wanted to do. She sort of let us have free reign over Manuscript itself … she was really a wonderful resource. She simply said ‘think and then do,’ and that’s what we did.
Karen Mason ’85: Bob and Pat Heaman, they were real mentors for me … They were really willing to take students under their wing, spend time with students and help them. … Manuscript in a lot of ways was about relationships to me, and about having a connection. … it was a lot about community.
Klimek: Bob Heaman used to have parties every year. We’d go to his house in the woods and hang out. It was a good way to get to know your professors in a more intimate setting, rather than a formal one. It was an important experience for me, to be treated seriously by someone I respected. … there’s a lot of interaction that way, and a lot of support for Manuscript as well … it was a very special kind of thing.
LESSONS LEARNED, VALUE GAINED
Manuscript added as much to the educational experience as time spent in the classroom.
Warner: I was a pretty shy kid, so [writing] was a way for me to try to connect. Things like literary magazines and literary communities are places where the intangible is made flesh. … it’s a space for those connections to be made real … and the older I get, the more important that’s become to me … I think Manuscript planted that seed early on, that it wasn’t just about my work. There’s all this out here. … It kind of gave you that idea, that you’re not creating in a vacuum.
Kross: The greatest thing at the time was getting the feedback from the group. It didn’t always happen in the English classes, because the English classes were bigger. … when you wrote something for the Manuscript, people would discuss it, and you could go back and rewrite.
Swinden: To have [your work] critiqued by your peers at a university level and get that feedback … is really vital to everyone’s creative process. You can write as many stories as you want, but if nobody sees them, you’re only writing for yourself.
Klimek: I think the most important thing was that there were sets of values there that could be applied in all kinds of circumstances. It’s something that comes from studying literature, studying humanities, and studying the arts …I t’s learning to ask the right questions, learning to question your own motives, learning to question the values of the culture that you live in
Sarah Simonovich’15: Part of the reason Manuscript was such a positive influence in my life was the creation … being able to put something out there that you’re proud of. We live in a world where it’s so easy to see the negative and all the bad things that people do…but at the end of the day, people are creators. Whether you’re creating text, visual art…if you’re creating in a community, that in itself is such an inherently good thing.
PROGRAMMING BEYOND PRINT
For 70 years, Manuscript Society has enriched campus life with cultural events that touched the community beyond campus.
Mason: We would show films that were open to the public…Hitchcock films, James Dean…that was another way to connect with people and establish a presence for Manuscript.
Klimek: The advantage to that was it encouraged a discussion about a common experience, which is harder to do when you’re watching DVDs on your computer screen. I think that fulfilled a really important service, not only to other students but to the larger community … these were people that were sort of starved for foreign films or art films.
Warner: When I was at Wilkes we were lucky enough to have writers like Edward Albee and John Updike visit. … having these people come, interreact and give their time were sort of models for me on how you’re supposed to act.
Swinden: We had Joyce Carol Oates come to dinner, which was an incredible experience for those who were invited to attend. It was great to have people like that to show us that writing isn’t something you could just do on the side, that it was something you could use to express yourself in ways you hadn’t had thought of before.
Alumni agree that Manuscript was a life-changing part of the Wilkes experience, providing lessons that impacted their careers.
Simonovich: Manuscript was the first time I was in a leadership position … It was a learning experience … learning to understand other people’s perceptions. You think, ‘How can I approach this problem, whether its textual or with people, in a different critical way?’ I learned an appreciation for other people’s worldviews and their interpretations of things.
Klimek: I just taught my first class of the semester, History of Photography, and I made a big point about photography being, you know, not just taking nice pictures, but a kind of thinking … being both a creative tool and a critical tool … so in that way, Manuscript still informs my ways of thinking. It did make me more confident in my judgements and probably prepared me to be a teacher.
Guziewicz: Manuscript has done wonders for my professional and organizational skills, especially since I stepped up as executive editor last year. I had to learn how to communicate to a group, organize events, run meetings, and put together a publication pretty much on the fly as I was the only one returning from the senior staff.
Mason: Part of [my job] is writing a two-page letter of recommendation for every student I advise … we’re comprising that from the facts of the student’s life and shaping it into a story, which is definitely a creative act … I’m also looking at tons of essays, helping students revise, so I use those skills I developed at Manuscript every day.
Swinden: It enabled me to move better in the world. Overall it certainly changed my life to be part of Manuscript, because if I hadn’t been I wouldn’t have had that resource to take my knowledge and write it so well, and edit it so well, that I would be able to have a career as a writer and an editor. … It was always a lifelong passion of mine.
Warner: Everybody has that moment where something gives you the permission to create, to write. For me, that moment was Manuscript…being the editor gave me confidence about my own work.
The following are the alumni and current students – all editors of Manuscript – interviewed in this oral history.
Ron [Kryznewski] Kross ’60 is retired from a long career as a professional actor and an English teacher in the New York City public schools.
Elyse Guziewicz ’18 is a senior at Wilkes majoring in English and the executive editor of Manuscript.
Ray Klimek ’78 is an assistant professor at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he is also the supervisor of the photography lab. Formerly, Klimek taught English at Rutgers University.
Karen Mason ’85 is the director of college counseling for Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa.
Sarah Simonovich ’15 is lead content writer for Petroleum Service Company.
Deirdre Swinden ’95 is the director of global marketing communications for West Pharmaceutical Services in Exton, Pa., where she has been employed since 2009. She published her novel, The Inn, in 2015.
Jim Warner ’99 MFA ‘09 is a member of the faculty in the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at Arcadia University. He also is host of the CitizenLit podcast. He has published two poetry collections, Too Bad It’s Poetry, and Social Studies.
Read selections from 70 years of Manuscript–including work written by the alumni interviewed in this story–online. To view poetry and prose from seven decades of Wilkes’ literary magazine, please go to www.wilkes.edu/manuscriptanniversary