Beyond the classroom: Applied learning options for creative writing

Lauren Smith seating on a chair in the student lounge
Lauren Smith, who graduates in December with a degree in creative writing, spent three months as an intern with BOA Editions, a publisher in Rochester. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

It was just five days in Vermont, but second-year student Emma Perrone returned from her poetry retreat with Bianca Stone more devoted to her creative writing program.

“I’ve never felt more present in my life than in those few days,” she said. Perrone wrote and listened to poetry as part of a small group led by Stone, whose poems, poetry comics and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and other magazines.

Lauren Smith, who finishes her associate degree in creative writing in December, had a different experience but a similar response. Lauren interned for BOA Editions, a not-for-profit publisher of poetry and other literary works in Rochester.

“I learned how much there really is to the publishing process, and how much I love proofreading and editing,” she said.

Both found a renewed commitment to their field of study through what is generally known as applied learning, or learning by doing. Research shows applied learning can increase students’ engagement in their studies and even boost their later earnings. Jon Palzer, professor of English and coordinator of the creative writing program said he noticed a change in both students this fall.

Emma Perrone

Perrone discovered the poetry retreat by following Bianca Stone on social media, though the competitive application gave her pause. She reasoned “the worst someone can say is no,” sent in four poems, and admits to being “absolutely bonkers” when she got accepted.

A group of people seated in a farmhouse porch
Emma Perrone, far right, was accepted to attend a poetry retreat in Vermont in August.

The program made her feel accepted and challenged at the same time. “It felt safe to be stretched,” she explained. Perrone keeps in touch with those in her retreat group and looks forward to graduating in May.

She is considering applying to Hobart and William Smith Colleges for her bachelor’s degree with a long-term goal of getting a master’s in fine arts. She also has a piece in the new FLCC literary journal, isotrope.

“Emma returned enthralled by her experience at the writing retreat. Spending time with established poets not only further inspired her but also demonstrated that a life in letters is genuine and can be accomplished,” Palzer said.

Lauren Smith

Smith learned of the BOA internship in class with Palzer, and worked twice a week from mid-May through mid-August.

“My tasks ranged anywhere from writing blog posts to mailing out books, but also included interviewing editors and utilizing BOA’s programs and software to organize reviewers, submit authors to contests and reply to any customer emails.

“I mainly worked in publicity but occasionally got to indulge in proofreading many manuscripts for books that were recently published this fall! BOA is not only a flexible and laid-back environment, but it is also incredibly inclusive and driven to bring light to POC (people of color) and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer) authors. Each employee I worked with was enthusiastic and excited to teach me, and it created a healthy and comfortable work experience.”

Smith plans to resume her studies at a four-year college next fall. “I hope to work in publishing as well as write poetry and travel, maybe even be a book reviewer if I get the chance.”

“Lauren shows an inspired enthusiasm for the publishing field. It has clearly deepened her appreciation for the industry that supports creative writing,” Palzer said.”Moreover, she exhibits greater confidence in her ability to address works-in-progress in her creative writing classes.

FLCC has been sending students to BOA Editions for the last 15 years. Another local option for students is Writers and Books, a Rochester nonprofit that promotes reading and writing for personal and community enrichment. Perrone has just signed on to a new internship opportunity right at the college in which students assist program coordinators, the faculty members charged with keeping degree and certificate programs up-to-date. Next semester she will intern as an assistant to Palzer in the creative writing program.

Author: Lenore Friend

Lenore Friend is the director of public relations and communications at FLCC and the college's liaison with Finger Lakes TV. Contact her at (585) 785-1623 or

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