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Welcome to Our Community and Faculty Page: ENGAGE! 

Meet the Winners of the Novus First Annual High School Creative Writing Contest

Recently the First, Second, and Third Place Winners of the Novus High School Creative Writing Contest visited our Cumberland Campus and spoke to our editors about the experience of entering and placing in the contest — as well as being published for the first time! This first annual competition was made possible by the Bill McKee Academic and Creative Activities grants and will continue to engage with high school students around the region. 

Pictured left to right in front of Memorial Hall are: Sandee Gertz, Managing Editor, Summer Doris, Second Place Winner, Shelby Rogers, First Place Winner, Lynn Marie Moody, Third Place Winner, Abby Scoggins, Novus Editor, and Libby Knight, Novus Editor. (Not pictured are Elizabeth “Blu” Cartwright, Honorable Mention, and Novus Editors: Kaylee Lowe, Alexis Vanatta, Korrine Key, and Jake Harzbecker.) 

Read the Student Winners’ Work in the Nonfiction and Fiction Tabs at the Top of the Home Page…

As part of our Cumberland/Novus Outreach to ENGAGE with the community, Professor Sandee Gertz, Managing Editor of Novus Literary Arts Journal, visited with the Creative Writing Class of Ms. Meghan Smith at Wilson County High School to explore Poetry and Memoir/Creative Nonfiction over two visits. 

Then, the entire class was able to join us on Cumberland’s campus for the Anders Carlson-Wee Readings and Workshops, held October 18 and 19 of 2023. Pictured are W.W. Norton Poet, Anders Carlson-Wee and Ms. Smith’s class members. Anders is a friend of our Creative and Professional Writing Program and we are happy to have the archived poems of his out of print work from The Low Passions, W.W. Norton (see home page slider to view.) 

CPW majors also read from their own original works in this unique partnership that brought Cumberland and the community closer together. 

Meet the Youngest Ever Poet to Be Published by Novus: Aina Stodberg – and enjoy photos taken at the Young Authors & Illustrators Night, sponsored by the Rising Readers Program of the Lebanon Special School District Family Resource Center —  hosted at Cumberland University by the Philomathean Society and Creative and Professional Writing professors and students.


Aina Stodberg, pictured in above photos (Left and Middle) is a 10 year old living in Lebanon who attended the fair with her father, Johan. She immediately sat down, and when given prompts to write, stated that she had her own poem she’d written earlier memorized and that she’d like to write that. We said “of course!” and were sincerely awed by her talent at such a young age. See her poem below. We wish nothing but the best to her and her family and expect amazing things for this young writer and poet! 

Her bio: Aina McKenna Stödberg, age 10, lives in Lebanon, TN with her parents, Johan and Angell, and her little sister, Ella. Her older sister, Lauren, attends college at Cumberland University. Aina is a 5th grader at Sam Houston Elementary, and she is active in the Girl Scouts of America. In her spare time she loves to read everything, draw, and write short stories, and she is an avid gamer, adores cats, wants a snake, and loves to go fishing with her dad.

Creative and Professional Writing Major, Ebony Carey, pictured above left, worked with children at the Author Fair to learn about books and publishing, and shared a story of her very own she had written at their ages. The children loved her tale of never giving up when she was new to swimming competitively! She assisted Associate Professor and Published Author, Sandee Gertz, pictured below, with the literary activities which included Professor Gertz’s popular pink typewriter and prompts for writing a poem. Pictured below (far right) is Professor Kerry Moore with CPW student, Cristian Dunn as they show their spirit and love for children’s books! 

We hope to continue this great tradition of bringing a love of reading and writing to young students.

Longtime Pastor and Chaplain for Cumberland University, Dr. Mike Ripski, Retires and Shares Some of His “Monday Musings” from the Archives.

From Our University President, Dr. Paul Stumb:

All of us at CU, and especially I, will miss many things about Chaplain Mike Ripski after he retires at the end of this semester, but one of the things that many will likely miss the most is his weekly epistle entitled “Mike’s Monday Musings.” It’s truly not an exaggeration to say that I wake up each Monday morning, open my eMail on my phone before I even get out of bed, and quickly sift through a plethora of meaningless spam in anxious anticipation of finding and reading these always motivational, and thought provoking messages. I’m glad that I didn’t have the editor’s task of selecting only a few for inclusion in this publication, for they have truly all been wonderfully inspiring to me!

Our Novus staff echoes the words of our President in expressing how much these weekly reflections will be missed, as will Mike, our spiritual leader. Godspeed, Dr. Ripski. 

Below are two “Monday Musings,” including his final meditation, and one full essay from the retiring pastor and faculty member can be found in our Nonfiction tab on the Home Page. 

Grace and Peace to You


Dr. Mike Ripski


   This is my final Monday Musing. 


   I will soon retire again. The first time in 2015 was after 40 years as a United Methodist pastor of churches in West and Middle Tennessee. 


   For the past 8 years I’ve been permitted to compose and share these “love letters.” I’ve been allowed the joy that I receive from “thinking out loud” with you. 


   I leave you with an excerpt from an essay by Adam M. Sowards, “When You Know the Price of a Huckleberry” (“Weber–The Contemporary West, Fall 2021). Sowards ends his essay articulating his view of education. It’s my view as well.

*   *   *   *

As a college professor, I aspire to teach in a way that prompts students to see the world anew, just as my college education changed how I saw the world’s contours. And just as my continued teaching here in the wilderness transforms how I understand teaching and learning, nature and culture, relationships and citizenship.


When we hike up the endless mountains, I wonder about students’ wonder. When we circle the campfire, I am curious about their curiosity. We all now teach in the era of standardized testing, in the age of metrics and rubrics meant to measure student learning, intended to hold teachers accountable to accrediting bodies, policymakers, and an often hostile public.


 But how do you count curiosity? How do you weigh wonder?


Things are easily counted when we commodify them, including a bachelor’s degree. Many of my students count the dollars they pay for a single class session on campus. We know how much, on average, a college education pays off, a fact routinely paraded out to parents and 17-year-olds who are on the fence about whether college is worth it….


But counting it like this reduces and miscalculates education.


When you know the price of the huckleberry, you lose the sweetness.

*   *   *   *

   “Education” comes from the Latin words educare and educere. While the former means to “bring up” or “to nourish,” the latter means “to bring forth” or “to drag out.” Thus, I view education as the miracle of birthing our full humanity.


   Those of us who teach are midwives of an awe-ful and awe-some mystery. 


    At times bitter. 


    As we drag students from the womb of naivete and ignorance.


    At times sweet. 


   As we participate in life-giving revelation and enlightenment. 


   Grace and Peace to You,





Memory Work


   In the epistle of James in the Christian scriptures, there’s a simile that captures a truth that I want to elaborate upon for our graduates.


   And everyone else.


   “…for if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at yourself in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like” (James 1:22-24).


   In other words, how quickly we forget.


   We cram for the exam. Take the exam. Then slowly–or quickly–what we crammed oozes out into forgetfulness. 


   Now I’m not referring to what we are taught and then forget after we take the test.


   I’m referring to the seeds that are planted in our soul and take root–often in ways in which we aren’t aware until they grow and bear fruit.


   In our decisions and actions. In who we are and what we do.


   I’m urging us not to forget what we look like–who we are–when life occupies and preoccupies us. 


   I’m urging us not to forget…

      — the teacher who saw in us more than we had let ourselves acknowledge and claim

      — the professor who asked how we were doing and she meant more than our grades

      — the teammate who refused to let us down after we’d let the team down

      — the staff person in the financial office who found money when we didn’t have any

      — the coach who cared more about our character than our athletic skills

      — the friend who listened to our tears when our words were inadequate

      — the companion who said to us, “I’m sorry.” 

      — and the one who said, “You matter more to me than your offense. I forgive you.”

      — the grace we were shown when our life got in the way of the paper deadline

      — the international student who patiently told us her story to penetrate our prejudice and expand our empathy

      — the family member who told us his love for us isn’t dependent upon our grades or graduating

      — the Cafe worker who called us by name and gave us a hug when we needed it


   The Golden Rule is usually stated in the future tense: Do to others as you want them to do to you.


   The truth is that it’s not only the future tense. It is also the past tense: Grace others as they’ve already graced you.


   Listen to those experiences. Don’t forget them. 


   It’s the most important memory work we ever do.


   Listen and obey. The Latin derivative of obey, obedire, means “pay attention to.” 


   Listen to your experiences of grace, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, love. Don’t forget them. 


   Pay attention to them. 


   Then pay them forward.


   A world awaits. 



Mike Ripski served as United Methodist pastor for forty years. He served churches in West and Middle Tennessee. Since 2015 he’s been on the faculty of Cumberland University. He’ll retire again after spring semester 2024. He has published articles in several church publications, has written week devotionals in the Upper Room Disciplines, an introduction to an adult Sunday School study on Romans, a Lenten devotional book (“This Side of Easter”), and a book on prayer (“Conversing with God”). While serving as University Chaplain at CU, he has written a weekly essay for the campus community, “Mike’s Monday Musings.”

“Creative Writing Club is a place I can come to and feel free about sharing my writing and never feel judged…I’ve made a lot of friends from all majors through club and our shared love of writing…”  

Creative Writing Club had a big Fall with the debut of the Seasons’ Statue Project for Memorial Hall’s vestibule — see below for more information — and a blooming Spring as they celebrated National Poetry Month with the creation of a Poetry Celebration Tree, a brainchild of club member, Erin Bostwick. With the help of other members, and in partnership with the Vise Library staff, a tree was created and featured favorite lines from well loved poems. A reading was also held where several English Professors shared poems, along with club members. 

Many thanks to our Club Officers for the Fall 2023, Spring 2024 calendar year: Alivia Majors, Ava Loth, and Leonydes Matis — all pictured in the photos.

Today, we celebrate with the publishing of two poems that resulted directly from prompts from club events: a poem by Erin Bostwick and Logan Sims who just completed Creative Writing 101! Nice job both of you! 

You can only go places you allow yourself to go. Where are you not allowing yourself to go? 

Love Me Love My Crow 

by Erin Bostwick

Merriment evades as my young friend, shrouded in darkness, cheeps. 

The fractured webs spinning suffocates cherished memories

obsession, denial, pain has a feast for weeks and weeks.

Elanguesence born through minor irregularities, with a Pitch-black Ocean of tears tasting nearly bittersweet.

I feel the same feeling as my heart cracks, such a sad porcelain doll,

looking at the discarded fragments where the rivers meet. 

Am I a puppet on strings stuck in a porcelain box, can we be forestalled?

I am taking back my destiny, watch me cut my strings,

we are not made to mask in a dollhouse formed for us, we are what we reap.

Young crow you may be dark but, in the light, you are colorful, listen to your hymns

for the big blue sky will show you all the things that make you unique. 

Let us fly towards the sun and away from the world so small and cruel

For it is long past time for us to make our rules. 

Bio: Erin Bostwick is a sophomore at Cumberland University.  She will graduate this year with an associates of arts degree and transfer to MTSU to further her education. Within her time at Cumberland, she has grown more appreciation towards the arts and the creative side of writing.  Some hobbies of hers include different strokes of writing, drawing/painting, acting, and being a full time student. Oh, the joys of life.  


by Logan Sims

“I understand don’t. This how does work? Communication.
Instilled to is modus it adapt operandi to humans.          

I correctly that did pronounce? Operandi modus.
How? You how with communicate best I can? Mad are you?

You’re pissed off. Sorry. Silent I stayed should’ve I knew.
Cursed be must I.

Please leave a review to improve your next experience.
This out to been years figure for trying I have.

Functions knew unachievable who so one most the of basic be human could?
Or absurd forgive speech unclear if is my me.

Please leave a review to improve your next experience.

Am though dealing it with I. Adaptation. Tell people even convinced I have them, can’t.
Shit, what were we talking about? Shit.

Please leave a review to improve your next experience.”

Bio: Logan Sims is a student from Detroit studying at Cumberland University. 

Members of the Creative Writing Club pose next to the poems written for the Memorial Hall vestibule statues representing each season. Students worked many months to craft short poems that would be etched in bronze and strove to create timeless pieces that could stand the test of time — since they will be on the walls for a very long time, indeed! This project was commissioned by the Cumberland University Faculty Senate and President Stumb. Members were honored to take part in this collaborative process, with members participating from many majors of study. Check them out the next time you are in Memorial Hall visiting Cumberland.


And lastly, many hearty congrats to our longtime Novus Student Editor, Molly Smith, as she graduates with a double major in English and Creative Writing. Molly recently received the Novus Inaugural Outstanding Editor Award, created to recognize her hard work over the past four years, as well as that of future editors who follow in her path. Congratulations Molly! We will miss you!