Max Whitwell: The Tale of a Student-Writer

An adventurer, a troll and a few drinks are just some of the aspects in Max Whitwell’s short story Tavern Tales to be featured in Manhattan Magazine this spring. Whitwell, currently a freshman at Manhattan College, is no stranger to putting pen to paper with several comic strips, short stories and screenplays in the works. But Whitwell does not like to consider himself a writer.

“As soon as you start quantifying it like this I become no better than the jerk in Starbucks taking up four seats and two outlets, only drinking one cheap coffee despite using their Wi-Fi for four hours, and making a point to have everybody in the store aware that he is a ‘writer,’” said Whitwell, “I just like to write things.”

The interest was sparked back in kindergarten, when Whitwell discovered that he not only liked writing, but he was also good at it. “Granted, I liked math for a while too,” Whitwell added, “but then I took calculus. Writing it was.”

Inspired by author Neil Gaiman and mused by good stories, Whitwell began writing anywhere and at any time of the day. Unlike most people of our generation, he enjoys writing longhand with pencil and loose leaf.

While Whitwell likes to read any genre, he prefers to write high fantasy. “Anything too realistic is boring,” he said. Good science fiction, explains Whitwell, also has to follow the rules of proven science, which is not an easy task. Another challenging aspect of writing is coming up with names. “They’re a bitch and a half,” he commented.

Enticed by the thought of being in New York City, Whitwell first visited the school as a senior in high school. Impressed by what he saw, he decided to come to Manhattan College to be an English major. His ideal minor would be creative writing, but unfortunately it is not being offered at this time.

Max Whitwell

The English department offers three courses centered upon creative writing, but is not currently staffed to support a creative writing minor explains Dr. Dominika Wrozynski. Wrozynski is currently an assistant professor of English and teaches the introduction to creative writing courses.

Not having an established minor, however, does not mean that students will not study writers’ craft and how to create one themselves.

“Though we might not have as many creative writing courses as we do literature courses, the faculty feel that the study and mastery of a variety of specializations within the broad study of English is necessary for someone to be a well-rounded Liberal Arts student—not just a well-rounded English Major,” Wrozynski said.

For other areas of creative opportunity, Wrozynski points students towards the Major Authors Reading Series (MARS) and Manhattan Magazine.

MARS allows students to hear professional writers in a uniquely warm and approachable setting. Bringing in at least three acclaimed writers to campus each semester, MARS has delivered talent such as Junot Díaz, Jennifer Egan and Erica Dawson to an eager community of students and professors.

For more hands-on experience, students can submit their own pieces to the college’s student-run literary journal Manhattan Magazine. With an issue coming out every spring, this year will mark the 25th edition of the magazine. The magazine is headed by an executive board, which has two submission editors that select works they feel represent the best achievements of each genre.

Alexandra Revans, the current editor-in-chief of the journal, explains that even though pieces are rejected, submission editors also have the responsibility of critiquing works and helping submitters perfect their pieces. The goal of the magazine is not to intimidate writers, but to guide them and give them an outlet to showcase their talents.

But are these outlets enough to curb the creative craving of student writers?

During her time leading the magazine, Revans would love to see Manhattan Magazine published twice a year: once in the fall and once in the spring. “I’m a huge advocate for the arts and creative people in general, and I definitely feel like there could be more creative outlets on campus,” she added.

Whitwell is another advocate for more publications on campus catered for writers and poets, who wishes that there were more fiction publications available for students.

Whitwell, whose work will be published in the edition coming out on May 1st, wants readers to have the same reaction he does when he encounters great pieces of writing. “It’s sort of a ‘I want to make that’ reaction,” he explained.

When asked about where he plans to take his writing in the future, Whitwell simply responded “to the people that will pay me for it.”