George Mason University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences Creates New Center Devoted to Literary Presentation and Innovation

George Mason University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences Creates New Center Devoted to Literary Presentation and Innovation

George Mason University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences Creates New Center Devoted to Literary Presentation and Innovation

Dr. Ann Ardis, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr. Debra Lattanzi Shutika, Chair of the English Department, announce the chartering of a new center to complement the Creative Writing Program at George Mason University.

Watershed Lit: Center for Literary Engagement and Publishing Practice brings under one umbrella the robust and diverse initiatives that have flowed from the Creative Writing Program since its launch in 1980. The center, which provides an efficient and effective way to describe the community that these initiatives help cultivate, includes Fall for the Book, Stillhouse Press, the Cheuse Center for International Writers, Poetry Daily, and the Northern Virginia Writing Project, as well as literary journals phoebe and So to Speak. Each entity maintains its own focused mission, governance structure, and budget, but will benefit individually and collectively through more strategic collaboration. Watershed Lit will also foster research by faculty and the professional development of students, serving as a catalyst for transformational experiences.

“Watershed Lit will provide an overarching support structure for the Mason creative writing community’s many and varied public engagement initiatives,” said Dean Ardis. “It will be a hub of opportunity for Mason’s writers—both undergraduate and graduate—to explore the scholarship, the craft, and the business of the literary world. The establishment of this new CHSS center is an exciting new development in Mason’s distinguished history of accomplishments in this arena”

“Watershed Lit provides a distinct opportunity for literary innovation,” said Dr. Lattanzi Shutika. “It will provide outstanding professional opportunities for students, but Watershed’s work also represents a major public humanities project, featuring prominent literary figures and events for the D.C. region.”

The center’s name emerged from an engaged discussion with leadership and Mason creative writing students who kept returning to the importance of place and a connection to geography. The landscape in Northern Virginia is shaped by watersheds that direct water to various rivers and streams. A watershed also marks a pivotal event or moment. Watershed Lit reflects both senses of the word, as well as a sense of Mason’s creative writing community being on the forefront of trends in presenting and disseminating literature.

By more strategically uniting a premiere book festival, a literary imprint, a center with global perspectives, a digital anthology of contemporary poetry, a project that espouses a “teach the teachers of writing” philosophy and a Writers in the Schools program, and two highly regarded literary journals, this new center is abundant with real-world opportunities and collaborative possibilities that will prepare students for a variety of creative and professional futures. It will also be able to respond to the changes and challenges those students will encounter in the field. Finally, it will help all partners broaden their public reach.

Watershed Lit’s leadership team consists of representatives of the English Department and the partner enterprises: Dr. Lattanzi Shutika, who will serve as the center’s first director; Gregg Wilhelm, Director, Mason Creative Writing; Art Taylor, Assistant Director, Mason Creative Writing; Holly Mason, Graduate Admissions Coordinator; Jay Patel, Graduate Academic Coordinator; Mary Baldwin, Grants and Programs Coordinator; Kara Oakleaf, Director, Fall for the Book; Suzy Rigdon, Manager, Fall for the Book; Kate Lewis, Marketing Director, Fall for the Book; Scott Berg, Publisher, Stillhouse Press; Matt Davis, Director, Cheuse Center for International Writers; Sally Keith and Peter Streckfus, Co-Editorial Directors, Poetry Daily; Leslie Goetsch, Director, Northern Virginia Writing Project; and students representing the literary journals, currently third-year MFA students Melissa Wade, Editor-in-Chief, phoebe, and Kyra Kondis, Editor-in-Chief, So to Speak

“Watershed Lit will distinguish Mason Creative Writing from all other programs, on both the graduate and undergraduate level,” said Wilhelm. “Artists will want to join this community to improve their craft, to study with our excellent faculty, and to be part of this unique scene.” 

The center will be located in Horizon Hall on the Fairfax campus.