Writing Remix: with SJU alums Dan Dissinger, Danielle Lee, & others

Original artwork by Jack Lenihan

One of the bright spots in this quarantine spring has been discovering new work by SJU PhDs. A particular favorite has been the podcasting of Dr. Dan Dissinger, who teaches in the Writing Program at USC and has been co-hosting with his USC college Katie Robison the amazing podcast Writing Remix.

Danielle (podcasting Episode 3)

Since I don’t drive much these days, I’ve been getting my podcast fix talking the dog on long walks. I’ve been listening to Dan and Katie for a little while, enjoying the star turns of a several brilliant ex-SJU-ers — Danielle Lee in Episode 3, Laura Lisbeth in Episode 9, Erik Fuhrer in Episode 7. Dan and Katie have a lively banter going, and they do a great job thinking about the complexities of the classroom, the acts of writing and teaching, and the additional challenges of our Covid-filled environment.

But I will admit I was not fully prepared for the power and wisdom of Episode 13, which brought Danielle back with two other former guests, Stephanie Renee Payne and O. Tomas Bell, to talk about
“Using our Voice and our Heart” in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the national protests.

Danielle opened the pod by sharing an original artwork by her son Jack, who I’ve been known a little bit since Danielle first starting in the SJU program many years ago. (All of us were younger then, and I can’t believe Jack has graduated from college already.) The image shows the outline of a white figure strangling a black boy with a brightly colored American flag. Danielle took the painful insight of her son’s creativity and opened up maybe the best conversation I’ve heard in recent days about teaching, protesting, and being an American in these tumultuous times.

I had high expectations going in to this podcast, but this one blew me away. I felt so proud of my one-time student, and also so deeply humbled and in need of the wisdom that she, her co-panelists, and Dan and Katie presented. There’s so much to learn, to feel, and to communicate in their words, and in the deft connections between erudition, precise language, and human emotions they make. Listen to it all, from Toni Morrison to RuPaul to Tielhard de Chardin, and be sure to stick around to the end for the Danielle Lee¬†‘s awesome utopian vision of dialogue, teaching, and the widest possible ideas of¬†protest.

At the end Danielle was picking up, I think, on co-host Daniel Dissinger¬†‘s emotional moment earlier in the conversation, in which he expressed his hopes for an expansive view of learning and understanding during these turbulent times.

The hits keep coming, with the next episode being another amazing discussion from members of the USC Writing Program about how to enact Anti-Racist Pedagogy. We at SJU have been grappling with that project too, as recent blog posts show. Maybe the two coasts can join forces?

I’m not a big rubric guy, but I was fascinated by the Truth, Voice, and Beauty rubric elaborated and co-constructed in this discussion. The whole conversation reminds me that the work we all need to do is going to be hard, it’s absolutely necessary — and (which is the good news) we don’t need to do it alone.

Do yourselves a favor and listen to Dan and Katie’s podcast! I think they mostly come out once / week on Fridays, but the back-catalog lies open for you now.

About Steve Mentz 1264 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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