“Show, don’t tell.”
A tribute to Amanda Cockrell ’69, M.A. ’88, who is retiring at the end of this academic year.
By Sarah Jackson M.A. ’14
This is possibly the most frequently repeated advice given in creative writing classrooms. Telling readers what is happening in a story is useful, perhaps, but it is boring. Static. Flat. Showing, on the other hand, gives your characters and setting dimension. It brings your story to life.
In her position as the director of the graduate programs in children’s literature, Amanda Cockrell has had to do a lot of telling. There were all the orientations as we gathered excitedly in the Green Drawing Room at the beginning of the summer. There were the countless advising meetings as we stressed about everything from schedules to vocations. And, of course, there were so, so many emails.
As her graduate assistant for two summers, I got a taste of how much behind-the-scenes administrative work she did to keep the program not just running, but thriving. I asked her questions on a daily basis, and she responded to me as she does in all her telling: with characteristic patience, promptness, clarity, and charm.
But Amanda is a writer as well as an administrator, which is to say that she is first and foremost a show-er. So what has she been showing us all these years at Hollins?
She showed us her openhearted hospitality. Each year, she welcomed us not only to campus, but also to her beautiful home for the end-of-summer potlucks. As our advisor, she was always available to discuss whatever was on our minds, responding to our concerns and requests with equal grace and generosity.
She showed us her fierce loyalty. On one occasion, the other graduate assistants and I were explaining a misunderstanding we’d had with another office on campus. Amanda listened, stood up, and strode determinedly out of the building. As I watched her go, I thought to myself, “It’ll be fine. Amanda’s got us.” It was, and she did. She always has.
She also showed us her profound belief in us as creators and scholars. Once, after I presented at a conference, Amanda handed me her business card displaying her home, office, cell, and email contact information. “I’d love to have your paper for the [Children’s Literature] journal,” she said. Initially, I found the business card handover amusing. Didn’t she remember that, as her assistant, I had access to these various contact options? Later, though, I realized what she had done for me. Of course she was aware that I knew how to reach her. But she wanted to treat me the way she would anyone else at a conference. In speaking to me like a scholar, she helped me become one. I learned from other Hollins friends that this is a normal practice for her; Amanda consistently treats us as though we are who we want someday to be.
Having been away from Hollins for a few years now, I interact with Amanda mainly through Facebook, and I continue to marvel at the pride she has in us. She celebrates our publications and other joys whenever possible, and she mourns with us when we need to grieve. She encourages our ideas, like the development of the alumni reunion.
Occasionally, I’ll bump into Amanda at a conference and, after a hug and a chat, I’ll ask where she’s headed next. Her answer is always the same: “To the next session with a Hollins student!” Many conference-goers feel the tension between supporting colleagues and attending other sessions of interest. For Amanda, it isn’t that she is prioritizing us over her interests. Her interests are us.
Amanda has been foundational in writing the ever-developing story of the children’s literature programs at Hollins, and her contributions—as director, teacher, editor, advisor, mentor, writer—are immeasurable.
Despite all of the telling she has had to do in one form or another over the years, her primary work has always been showing us she loves us by providing opportunities to bring our stories—and ourselves—to life.
Sarah Jackson is pursuing her doctorate in literature for children and young adults at The Ohio State University, where she is researching preschoolers’ engagement with multicultural and diverse literature.
National Gallery showcases work of Sally Mann
A Thousand Crossings on view this spring
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., presented Sally Mann’s (’74, M.A. ’75) first major international exhibition of her photographs of the South. Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings brought together 115 photographs that offered insight into Mann’s connection with the literature, art, and history of her native region. Many of the photographs in the exhibition, on view in the gallery’s West Building from March 4 through May 28, were shown for the first time.
A Thousand Crossings is a five-part exhibition. Family features photographs that Mann took of her three children during the 1980s at their summer cabin on Virginia’s Maury River. Swamplands, fields, and decaying estates that Mann discovered during her travels across Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the 1990s highlight The Land. Civil War battlefields are the focus of Last Measure, and Abide with Me investigates the role of race and history in shaping Virginia’s landscape and Mann’s own childhood and adolescence. The exhibition’s final section, What Remains, touches on themes of time, transformation, and death through photographs of Mann and her family.
“The National Gallery is now one of the largest repositories of Mann’s photographs,” said director Earl A. Powell III. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work closely with the artist in presenting a wide selection of the work she has created over four decades.” Private lectures with curators are being planned as the exhibition travels throughout the United States and to Paris.
In 2015, Mann’s memoir, Hold Still, was shortlisted for the National Book Award.
Photo by Betsy Schneider
Dance alumna awarded $50,000 fellowship
Amara Tabor-Smith recognized by United States Artists
Dancer and choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith M.F.A. ’16 is one of 45 artists and collectives across nine creative disciplines announced as 2018 USA Fellows by United States Artists.
Recognized for their creative accomplishments, fellows receive an unrestricted $50,000 cash award to be used to support ongoing artistic and professional development.
Tabor-Smith lives in Oakland, California, and serves as the artistic director of Deep Waters Dance Theater. She describes her work as “Afro Futurist Conjure Art,” and her dance-making practice uses Yoruba spiritual ritual to address issues of social and environmental justice, race, gender identity, and belonging. Her current project, House/Full of Blackwomen, is a multisite-specific dance theatre work that addresses the displacement, well-being, and sex trafficking of black women and girls in Oakland.
USA Fellowships are awarded to artists at all stages of their careers, and from every corner of the United States, through a rigorous nomination and panel selection process. Spread across all creative disciplines, the fellows represent a broad cross section of the best of American arts and letters.
Playwright’s Lab director receives gold medallion
Todd Ristau singled out for innovative leadership
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) presented its highest award to the director of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University. Todd Ristau, who has guided the M.F.A. program in playwriting since its inception in 2007, received the KCACTF Gold Medallion, one of the most prestigious honors in theatre education.
The medallion recognizes “individuals or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry, and enthusiasm to the development of the KCACTF.”
The KCACTF praised Ristau for having “demonstrated innovative leadership in the field of new play development and [making] a tremendous impact in the vitally important area of nurturing playwrights and new plays.”
Myra Sims has been appointed director of athletics. She assumed full-time oversight of the athletic department’s day-to-day operations in late spring. Sims comes to Hollins from Emory & Henry College, where she has been director of athletics since 2010.
Lisa Rowe Fraustino, a critically acclaimed and award-winning author of young adult and children’s books, has been appointed director of the graduate programs in children’s literature. She succeeds Amanda Cockrell ’69, MA. ’88, who has led the program since 1992 and is retiring from the position this August.
Photo by Nick Lacy
Creative writing major and online graduate education degree
- The Jackson Center for Creative Writing, which offers both a concentration and a minor in creative writing in addition to an M.F.A. degree, is introducing an undergraduate major in creative writing, beginning this fall. “‘Where students mature into authors’ is one of the Jackson Center’s guiding principles and is even more relevant with the advent of this new opportunity for undergraduates,” said Cathryn Hankla ’80, M.A. ’82, professor of English and creative writing and chair of the English and creative writing department.
- Students seeking a graduate degree in education, one designed to expand expertise in the preK-12 levels, can begin earning it this summer through the new Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning, or M.A.T.L. “Men and women admitted to the program will have the opportunity to work with accomplished faculty in the areas essential in today’s continually changing landscape of preK-12 education: writing, inquiry, instructional design, assessment, leadership, technology, and contemporary issues in education,” said Lorraine Lange, director of the M.A.T.L. as well as the Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies graduate programs.