Author Visit Wows Students: Martha Witt at MHS

Lainie Rowland, Co-Editor in Chief

Martha Witt, Assistant Professor of English at William Paterson University and author of the book Broken as Things Are and various short stories that have been published in national magazines and journals, has received acclaim and fellowships from prestigious organizations such as Entertainment Weekly and the Library Journal. In addition, she has received the New York Times Fellowship and McCracken Fellowship, among many others. And most importantly, she visited Madison High School on January 15th, 2013.

Conducting writing workshops for the AP Language and Composition class, Mrs. O’Rourke’s Creative Writing class, as well as for members of the Glyphs literary arts magazine, Ms. Witt was not only received extremely well by our Madison students, but she also managed to pass on some insightful tidbits of writing advice. Several students were surprised even for her, a published and professional author, writing can be a challenge: monotonous, dull and difficult at times. She advised the students, “Discipline is half the battle.”

When Ms. Witt finds herself struggling from “writer’s block,” she often uses her character Sweety-Boy, to discover the course of her own novel or story. She explained that knowing a character as well as she knows Sweety-Boy, who appears in a few of her short stories, as well as her book, is very beneficial. She inserts Sweety-Boy into a plot and allows Sweety-Boy’s interactions with other characters steer the story line.

Ms. Witt not only discussed the struggles and joys of writing with our aspiring students, but also explained many aspects of the publishing process, the Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree (of which she is a professor of), and what it takes to be a writer. Her book, Broken as Things Are, for example, took 10 years to complete. She passed around many versions of the original manuscript, letting it’s one thousand plus pages speak for itself. The manuscript was considerably heavier than the finished copy: a book of less than 300 pages.

Ms. Witt has applied for a sabbatical next year in Brazil in order to research and write her next book, which is set in Brazil.