Sin Fronteras Creative Writing Project Allows Students to Hone Their Craft

© Western New Mexico University

Nine current and former WNMU students and a local community member participated in the Sin Fronteras Creative Writing Project on campus April 18-27. The project, organized by Assistant Professor of English Heather Frankland, included craft talks, writing sessions and readings of international and regional literature. It also addressed the idea of borders in multiple ways, pushing participants to stretch their writing in new directions. The project was a pilot program for what is expected to become an annual event.

Session topics ranged from magical realism to how a border identity affects style and voice in writing. The session leaders included novelist Fabienne Josaphat, winner of the 2023 PEN Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, borderlands poet Miguel De La Cruz, WNMU writer in residence JJ Amaworo Wilson, and poet and English Composition professor Frankland. The event was held with the support of the WNMU Foundation President’s Society Program Support Fund and the Humanities Department.

According to Frankland, the project was initially conceived during the height of the pandemic when students were isolated with the goal to create community. “The overall purpose of the project was for workshop attendees to create connections, to be exposed to international and regional literature and themes, and to generate new work,” she said.

Former WNMU non-degree-seeking student Elizabeth Carillo, who took part, said the project pushed her in new directions as a writer. “I wanted to participate in this seminar because I really wanted to learn different writing techniques,” she said, “and expand my mind in the different ways this class would cause me to think about books and the why and how and way authors write.”

Another participant, MSW student Jia Rowland, said that the Sin Fronteras Project gave her a chance to engage in writing that was not purely academic. “The experience helped me grow as a writer by giving me a place to engage in a creative passion I have had since childhood,” she said. “Scholarly writing for my career and as a student means that I haven’t explored and played in writing for quite some time, at least not without the looming fear of it being assessed.”

WNMU Writer in Residence JJ Amaworo Wilson, who facilitated a workshop on magical realism, also noted the playful dimension of the educational experience. “The atmosphere was informal and joyful; the students were clearly happy to be there, and they approached the workshops in a spirit of discovery,” he said. “The Sin Fronteras Writing Project was a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn about the craft of writing and to produce their own work. … I was thrilled to be a part of this project and I’m grateful to Heather Frankland for all her hard work in making it happen.”

Frankland said that she was very pleased with how the project turned out. “The logistics came together. The session leaders were great,” she said, “The workshop attendees approached each session with curiosity and excitement. It felt like they became a community. It was an altogether joyful experience.”

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