Yeshiva College Writing Faculty Publish Books, Plays

Several professors who teach writing courses in Yeshiva College’s English department are also award-winning authors, playwrights and poets whose works have been published on a national scale or soon will be.

Hugh Sheehy

Hugh Sheehy, a second-year faculty member at Yeshiva College, recently won the Flannery O’Connor Prize, a prestigious annual competition that grants aspiring writers the opportunity to have their work published. Sheehy’s “The Invisibles” is a collection of short fictional stories that includes “literary mysteries, thrillers, coming-of-age stories, recognition narratives and other kinds of genre stories intended to be page-turners,” according to Sheehy. The book—Sheehy’s first—will be published by the University of Georgia Press and will be coming out in October 2012.

Sheehy’s fiction has already been published in several literary journals, including Crazyhorse, Glimmer Train, The Kenyon Review, The Antioch Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, The New Orleans Review, Southwest Review, Redivider and in the anthology The Best American Mystery Stories 2008. He is now working on a second novel.

Barbara Blatner, who has been teaching at Yeshiva College for close to a decade, is an established poet. At the end of March, a book of her poetry called “Living With You” was published. The book is a collection of lyrical, abstract poems centering on her marriage to her husband of over 20 years. In September 2010, her first book of poetry, “The Still Position,” came out, a memoir written in verse about the last five days of her mother’s life.

Barbara Blatner

Blatner is also an accomplished playwright. Her short play, “Guernica 2003,” will be performed at the American Globe Theater in Manhattan on April 25. She described it as “a surreal play about Colin Powell making his speech at the United Nations about going to war in Iraq, and Picasso painting Guernica and undermining Powell’s confidence because Guernica is an anti-war masterpiece.”

Next winter, another one of Blatner’s plays, “Years of Sky,” is slated to be produced by the Scripts Up company and performed off Broadway at the 59E59 Theater. Blatner wrote a version of the play in the 1990s, when it was performed in Boston, and later did a reading of it several years ago for YU students and faculty. “It’s about a bi-racial couple who witnessed John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and then they meet again in 1968 after Robert Kennedy’s assassination and once again in Dallas in 1992 to try to figure out what happened in their relationship,” said Blatner.

Several of her other works were aired on National Public Radio, performed in workshops and theaters in Boston and New York and published in various acclaimed literary journals and anthologies.

Blatner’s talents extend beyond the literary realm. In addition to teaching English composition, poetry and script-writing courses, she is a musician, having worked as a cocktail pianist, performing in lounges and bands early in her career. At YU, she has been involved in several productions of the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society (YCDS)—writing songs, playing piano and acting as the musical director for “1776,” which was performed this past fall and for the 2007 production of “Newsies,” among others YCDS plays.

Johanna Lane, who’s been teaching full-time at Yeshiva College for the past five years, was recently awarded a contract with Little Brown for international rights to her novel. Though she and her editors have not yet settled on a title for the book, it is a work of literary fiction set in the late 1990s in Ireland—Lane’s native country.

“The novel is about a family who has had an ancestral home for hundreds and hundreds of years and can’t afford to take care of it anymore, and so it gets turned into a tourist attraction and the family has to cope with all these tourists coming through their space,” said Lane.

The novel—Lane’s first—is based on her thesis project from Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in fiction writing. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I never actually thought it would happen, so this is a dream,” she said.

After the final rounds of editing are complete, her book will be published in fall 2013, in English-speaking countries around the world. She hopes to continue writing, in addition to teaching at Yeshiva College, where she enjoys the “nice, very supportive English department that lets me pursue interesting courses in creative writing,” said Lane.