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Rivulet Interviews: Caneel Cheskin!

Hello There!

As many students at the University of Maine at Farmington, I chose Creative Writing as a major to follow my passions and turn them into a career. But I’ve discovered in my four years that the writing community goes far beyond the boundaries of the department and there are different avenues of writing out there that are fantastic, engaging and growing!

This has prompted several questions: 

  • What are the boundaries of the UMF creative writing community? 
  • Does an author’s major or career goals have any influence over their style or chosen topics? 
  • What draws a person to the craft?
  • What does writing mean when it connects large groups of diverse people around a similar age?

Here on Rivulet Interviews, I intend to find out! Every week, the summary of an interview with a fellow UMF student (both inside and outside the department!) will be posted here, covering their writing style, thoughts or opinions on how writers connect across campus, and most excitingly… previews of work they’re itching to share!

Looking forward to going around the riverbend with you all!

  • Amy,
  • Fall 2021 Co-Editor of The River (Online)

Our first “Rivulet” is Caneel, a Senior Creative Writing major (and fellow co-editor)! Graduating at the end of this year, she is a beloved member of the Creative Community with tons of writing experience in different mediums. Here is a brief transcript of her interview below:

  • Amy: “How long have you been writing? How’d you get started?”
  • Caneel: “I’ve been writing since fourth grade. I started with little books my teacher would spiral-bind for me in a machine—do you remember those? I also dabbled in poetry starting in sixth grade, and it’s become a huge creative and emotional outlet since. I’m not really sure how I got started. It just sort of happened one day.” 
  • Amy: “What is your preferred genre/style of writing? And why?”
  • Caneel: “I really don’t think I have a strong style or voice yet, but hopefully that comes later. As for genre, I love fantasy first, realistic fiction and science fiction second. Why? I’ve always been a fantasy nerd. Fablehaven and Harry Potter and Percy Jackson jumped into my hands at some point and I was obsessed.” 
  • Amy: “How often do you find time to write in between classes and other responsibilities/hobbies?”
  • Caneel: “Writing prose? Basically never.” 

I feel as though a lot of us can relate to this one. Caneel also provides some wonderful examples of conditions where time to create is prioritized:

  • Caneel (Continued): 
  1. “It’s Nanowrimo. 
  2. I have a giant passion project I can’t get away from. 

“I’ve had only one big passion project recently—over 150 pages total scattered around. It’s mostly done, though, so I don’t write much prose these days.”

“Poetry? Before this April, I wrote maybe a poem a week sporadically. Now, if I don’t write at least two poems per day, I think my head would explode. It’s a significant emotional tool. Not for anyone else, just for me. (And maybe a writer’s workshop.)”

  •  Amy: “Have you connected with other writers on and off campus? How so?”
  • Caneel: “Not a ton, to be honest. Writers are usually hermits, which I say as a writer and a hermit. We come together and bond over our shared interests and each other’s writing in a class setting, but outside of that, the majority of us keep to ourselves. I don’t think it’s bad, but I would like more writer friends. Off-campus, no. I rarely run into other writers organically. I have rubbed elbows with some older writers in our community here in Farmington, though.”

If there are ever follow-up interviews, I think I will ask more about these “older writers” in the Farmington community!

  • Amy: “What has been your experience with the Creative Writing Department on campus?”
  • Caneel: “Wonderful! I love our department. Even though we live in a writing dungeon now, I love our lounge. I miss our house, but it had to come down eventually. As for the classes, I haven’t taken a single writing course I haven’t immensely enjoyed. The professors are all awesome and very cool.” 
  • Amy: “Are there magazines, newspapers/journals, online or otherwise, that you read regularly? Which ones?”
  • Caneel: “Honestly? Not really. I read the local newspaper when it winds up in my mailbox, and I read the Quora Digest emails I get every once in a while. (Quora is great, though. I love learning the most random stuff there.)” 
  • Amy: “What is Writing Creatively to you, and do you think UMF supports your vision?”
  • Caneel: “I guess I’d say it’s just the act of writing, whether I ever share it, edit it, or publish it. I just need it down on paper and out of my head. UMF is great for this, because when I take Creative Writing classes, I get really inspired by what we read and workshop. It’s also a pretty campus, which helps when I want a good place to get into the groove of writing. It usually ends up happening in my apartment or my car, but still. If I wanted to go to the library to get a better atmosphere, I could.” 
  • Amy: “Is there anything you’re working on that you’d like to preview for our readers?”

For this question, Caneel provided a short excerpt from her Dungeons & Dragons campaign, a passion project long in the making! In a brief summary, she stated:

Caneel:  It’s a possible future where she’s (her character named Rue) psychically overtaken by an evil version of herself, “Shadow Rue,” and trapped in her own mind. This is unofficial content and very spoilery for the game, but I don’t think anyone from my D&D group will read this anyways. And if you are—beware!”

Below is said excerpt provided. She and I hope you all enjoy!


Caneel’s Lore

“The girls sat facing one another. This wasn’t a common occurrence. Usually the other Rue didn’t move about Rue’s mind physically, but today she’d appeared and sat down. 

“What do you want?” Rue asked. 

“Why do you keep fighting?”

Rue glared at her.

“I’m curious,” said Shadow Rue. “And bored. Just tell me, will you?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know.”

“That’s what I said.”

A needle of psychic energy lanced into her brain stem. Rue flinched. 

“Stop being cheeky,” said Shadow Rue. “You really don’t know, do you?”

Rue bit her tongue. 

“You’re the same as me, then,” said Shadow Rue. “Stubbornness. Stubborn pride.”

“No… That’s not it.”

“Then why?”

The blank void around them, the place Rue was imprisoned in her own mind, filled with gentle light in shifting colors. 

“Just say it,” Shadow Rue said. “Why the theatrics?”

“Because I can’t explain it,” said Rue. 

Yura walked out of the fog. It wasn’t like watching a movie, or like looking out of her eyes—it was like they were really there. They flashed her that beautiful, tragic smile. 

Rue’s mother appeared behind Shadow Rue, who hissed like an angry cat. 

“Stop it,” she barked. 

“You asked,” said Rue. 

A sunset faded into view; the first sunset Rue had seen leaving the Ferry, gold and purple and brilliant. River water sprayed into the cool air. The two girls watched. 

“These are stupid things,” said Shadow Rue. “This is it? Meaningless people and pretty paintings? That’s why you struggle to stay alive in here?”

“Not just that,” said Rue. 

“Tell me!”

Looking at her shadow, Rue felt pity. 

“I can’t explain it,” she said. 

“Try,” said Shadow Rue. “Or I’ll kill you.”

This was an empty threat before, but Rue wasn’t eager to test her. She sighed. 

“It’s…” She shook her head. “It’s just this… hope. And remembering the good memories and beautiful things.” She looked at her shadow, right in the eyes. Lots of anger there. Lots of pain. “Maybe you don’t have those.”

A loud laugh rang out. Rue didn’t recognize it, but it sounded familiar. A man…

“I keep forgetting how nosy you are,” Shadow Rue said. Another small bite of pain. Like electroshock therapy, except Rue didn’t feel particularly trained out of anything. 

“It’s not my fault we’re linked,” said Rue. “But you do have good memories, I guess. Color me shocked.”

“Cute.” Shadow Rue wouldn’t meet her eyes. “You still haven’t explained it at all.”

“It’s hope,” Rue said again, “and a little stubbornness. That no matter how bad I feel or what bad things happen… good things will happen again.”

“Even with no evidence?”

“Especially then.”

“That’s stupid.”

“Maybe you’re just jealous.”

“One of us has control of this body, and it’s not you.” Shadow Rue stood. “Be good and pipe down. Your answers are terrible. Thanks for nothing.”

Rue could feel she’d learned something, but said nothing when her shadow faded away.”



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