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Photo Courtesy of Janice Northerns

Janice Northerns, English instructor, had the opportunity to meet other writers at Sewanee Writers Conference during the summer. She received a scholarship to attend the workshop and rub shoulders with those who have published work. Northerns plans to incorporate what she learned as part of the Creative Writing class she teaches in the fall.

Northerns wins scholarship to Sewanee Writers Conference

September 14, 2018

Maybe you’ve seen her roaming around Seward County Community College’s campus, or maybe you’ve actually been one of her students in an English Composition, Literature or creative writing class. Aside from being a professor at SCCC, Janice Northerns loves to write poetry and in fact, has multiple pieces already published.

Her poems have appeared(or are going to be making an appearance) in The Chiton Review, Descant, The Laurel Review, Roanoke Review, Southwestern American Literature, and the Iron House Literary Review.

Northerns also has recently won second place in the 2017 Marr Poetry Competition and was named a finalist in the IHLR 2017 PhotoFinish contest. Along with those honors, she is also a recipient of the Robert S. Newton Creative Writing Award from Texas Tech University.

In the summer of 2018, Northerns submitted a collection of published and unpublished poems to Sewanee. She mentioned that a couple of those were autobiographical but they mostly had no repeating theme.

“One of the poems I submitted, I actually donated it to the auction that happened here on campus, called ‘Fireflies’. It was about my trip to the Palo Duro Canyon, actually. It was inspired by the setting I was in. I imagined the battle of Palo Duro Canyon and how the Indians felt during the war. It was very inspiring,” Northerns said.

On July 17, 2018, Northerns traveled to The University of The South in Sewanee, Tennessee for the Sewanee Writers Conference.

Photo Courtesy of Janice Northerns
Janice Northerns and poet, A.E Stallings. Stallings was Northerns workshop leader and faculty mentor at the Sewanee Writers Conference.

“Overall, it was an amazing experience. There were a lot of people with scholarships there, not just me, but there were also a lot of people who paid their entire way there. I felt very honored to be there but I was also kind of a little intimidated. Once I got there, everyone was so down to earth and of course ,everyone was really good so we treated each other like equals,” Northerns said.

While she was there, she was able to experience workshops where they would sit in a group and talk about other people’s writing and each writer would also get to do a reading of their own work. She also got the experience of sitting down with known poet and published writer, A.E Stallings, for some advice.

“She pointed out a lot of very useful things, like changing the endings of some of my poems or making me realize that, ‘oh the poem actually ends here instead of there’ and although you worked very hard on that last stanza of the poem, you can always take that piece and start a new poem with it,” Northerns said.

When writing her poetry, it sometimes takes Northerns about 15-20 drafts until she’s actually done with a poem. Her inspiration for writing is whatever she’s been exposed to in her life. She looks around, takes in her surroundings and makes it out to be a work of art.

“The experience really made me a better writer I believe. Once I got home, I was recharged and ready to go. I just wrote, wrote, wrote and I even took some of Stallings advice on my poems and started new ones out of stanzas I had taken out, so it was a really helpful experience,” Northerns said.

Photo Courtesy of Janice Northerns
B. H. Fairchild is a well-known poet who grew up in Liberal. (He currently lives in California). Northerns and Fairchild have known each other for 20 years and he has done a couple of poetry readings in Liberal.

Another really well known published poet straight out of our very own city of Liberal, B.H Fairchild also made an appearance at the conference. Fairchild had actually pushed Northerns to send in her poems to Sewanee and was impressed by her work.

More authors who made appearances were: Alan Greganus, Author of  “Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All” and Alice McDermott, who Northerns says inspires her because of her really well written stories.

Some advice that Northerns gives to young aspiring poets, or anyone in general that is interested in writing poetry, is ‘to really expose yourself to multiple poets and writers to really get a feel of what poetry is about and so you can see what type of poetry appeals to you.’ She recommends B.H Fairchild, William Stafford, and A.E Stallings for starters.

Northerns characterizes her poetry as a lot of narrative stories.

“It’s usually telling a story, and some of it is actually about my personal experiences, but not all of it may be that way. I also like to write about things that havent happened to me yet but i’ll write about certain things that interest me,” Northerns said.

Right now, a current project she is working on is a memoir about her life and past experiences. She plans to make a collection of several poems and hopes to be done with it in about a year or so.

To find out more about Janice Northerns and her journey as a poet, visit her website:, where she shares many of her pieces.

About the Contributor
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Annette Meza, Managing Editor

Annette Meza is a sophomore journalism major. She is 19 years old and was born and raised in Liberal. In her free time, she...

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