Creative writing group sitting around a table to discuss Rooney and Scanlon's works.

The Creative Writing program at Roosevelt University was delighted to welcome esteemed writers Kathleen Rooney and Suzanne Scanlon for an intimate reading of their latest works. Students and faculty from the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences took part in a salon-style reading and conversation. Both authors are prolific, with numerous celebrated publications between them that encompass multiple genres and themes. The event was also a homecoming, as both Rooney and Scanlon previously served as Roosevelt professors. The event was organized by Jessica Anne Chiang, a Roosevelt graduate who studied under Rooney and Scanlon. Today, Jessica is a professor and director of the Creative Writing program. According to Chiang, each professor provided mentorship and guidance that indelibly affected her career as a writer and educator. 

Kathleen Rooney is an author, professor and founding editor of Rose Metal Press. She is the author of numerous books of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. For her reading, Rooney selected an excerpt from her 2023 novel From Dust to Stardust, a work of historical fiction based on the life and work of the silent movie star Colleen Moore. She provided context of the actress’s biography, including Moore’s connection to Chicago. Rooney offered advice to the students and used her own writing as an example. This novel is about Moore’s life, career and creative endeavor to build a miniature Fairy Castle. The book’s chapters are named after each elaborate level of the castle, while delving into Moore’s personal and professional journey. With this example, Rooney encouraged the Roosevelt students to similarly explore the ways they can use content and structure to aid in their storytelling.

Suzanne Scanlon is an author, professor and current artist-in-residence at Northwestern University. Her works of fiction and nonfiction have been published as books as well as in numerous literary magazines. For her Roosevelt reading, Scanlon shared multiple selections from her most recent publication, a memoir entitled Committed: On Meaning and Madwomen (2024). This work is a transporting “story of discovery and recovery, reclaiming the idea of the madwoman as a template for insight and transcendence.” Scanlon was heavily influenced by and builds upon the works of acclaimed authors such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Audre Lorde. Scanlon’s work retraces her time in the New York State Psychiatric Institute as she grieves the loss of her mother. The excerpts she shared were poignantly vulnerable and impactful to the audience. 

The discussion that followed included questions from students about the readings, as well as about the publishing industry. The event was a resounding success and a testament to the impact of nurturing educators like Kathleen Rooney and Suzanne Scanlon. 

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