Readings from “Songs of my Selfie: An Anthology of Millennial Stories” were presented in the Manhattanville College Library News and Events Room on Oct. 26, 2016. The evening was hosted by the Manhattanville Undergraduate Writing Program, “Graffiti Magazine,” and “Three Rooms Press.” Editor Constance Renfrow, Manhattanville MFA graduate Tiffany Ferentini, Associate Editor Meagan Brothers, Promotional Review Editor Bristol Myers Squibb, Carolyn Drake, and LIU Brooklyn teaching fellow Angus McLinn, were all present to read excerpts of their writing published in the anthology.
These stories are the selfies, the “unique snapshots,” of the lives of millennials today, as Brothers described in her introduction. Millennials were invited to submit their stories and seventeen are recounted in this anthology.
Drake characterizes the hard- working medical school graduate who is treated with agitated disregard as she mans a pharmaceutical counter. It is surmised that she receives this treatment because, as quoted in her short story “Pill Pusher,” “everyone loves a goddamn train wreck,” who’s grasping at the last inch of rope in her day-to-day grind. When her composure snaps into an antagonistic remark that is certain to leave her unemployed, she decides to reemerge from vexation; her make up for a loss of patience bridges a connection that is more grand and full than if she had continued to frenetically staple together her fraying nerve endings. Motions of unwarranted kindness go unappreciated under the millennial stereotype.
A character coping with witnessing a death resists the criticisms of those who don’t understand in McKinn’s “Baby Teeth.” The story describes the inner thoughts of a boy working a summer job, having left behind drug abuse, a broken heart, and a strained father-son relationship. The trials of his youth are mocked by elders, cu ing deep emotional wounds after witnessing a tragic roller-coaster accident. The attempt to survive through pain in the search for solace is an unresolved strife to which readers of similar trials can relate.
In “Glittering Glue,” Ferentini writes of millennial hardships specific to those who identify as LGBTQ+. A boy, passionate about makeup, paints the faces of his peers in a school play to practice his artful handle on glitter. The dirty bricks of discrimination and brutal judgement build a grand fortress when the oppressed rises stronger than oppressors. Strength may be born out of “necessity,” but it sparkles with radiance.
“Three Rooms Press” lead editor Constance Renfrew, read an excerpt about the “Edge of Happiness” through the thoughts of an uninspired sketch artist in New York City. She is coaxed into a psychic Tarot reading in her search for edges, a liveliness that she lacks in her current place in the world. A desire to romanticize her general dissatisfaction has her questioning the value of passion for the mundane. Those who allow themselves to be satis ed in the present inspire the narrator, with the help of the wise and peculiar psychic, to turn to a new, blank page in her sketchbook, both the one to which her pen belongs, and the one that is her life.
The readings were followed by a Q&A where the writers gave insight on the editorial revision process and the character of a small, indie press. The focus was mostly on giving advice to aspiring writers.
The night was well-received with warm applause and enlivened, subsequent chatter. Writer Katherine Flannery Dering attended the event, articulating her view on millennials as experiencing similar trials as the previous generation, but in a different time. “I don’t feel they’re that different from me,” she commented with a smile.
English Professor and Director of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College, Jeffrey Bens, hosted the evening.
“This was a terrific event. Millenial writers, a millenial editor from an award-winning, NYC independent press, a visit from celebrated YA author (and our occasional creative writing professor) Meagan Brothers, and a packed house of bright, engaged students in our beautiful library. I loved it– and, with the opening of the Dowd-O’Gorman Center for Creative Writing, expect many more great events,” said Jeffrey Bens.
Millennials are facing a time of none other; the pains are unique, the journeys are new, and “Songs of My Selfie” has voiced each type of story through an illuminating collection of prose.