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Wednesday, Feb 1, 2023

Mercer Artist: Sammi Godwin creates her own representation

Sammi Godwin flips through the pages of Miss Dalloway, written by one of her main influences, Virginia Wolf.
Sammi Godwin flips through the pages of Miss Dalloway, written by one of her main influences, Virginia Wolf.

"Performance Art"

Pain is performance art

For women who crack open

Their ribs, letting their hearts breathe

And strumming their entrails.


When Mercer junior Sammi Godwin wrote that poem last January, she did so after dwelling on how much art is born from pain and the voyeuristic relationship women have to that pain.

Godwin’s literary exploration began in elementary school, when she wrote her first story at the age of 8.

“Growing up, my mother taught English, first at a college and then at a high school level, so I was always surrounded by Shakespeare and Jane Austen and books of that nature even before I really understood what the words meant,” Godwin said. “I was just always raised around books.”

Godwin continued writing under the tutelage of gifted program teachers in middle school, where she was encouraged to practice constantly. However, her writing stagnated at a STEM magnet high school.  

“I did almost no writing whatsoever outside of my AP practice, so it was kind of refreshing to come to college and get back in the groove again,” Godwin said.

Since coming to Mercer, she has completed an anthology of 40 poems, a 40,000-word novella and is currently working on a full-length novel.

“In the case of my novel, it was the plot that came first, and the characters are filling in by inches,” Godwin said. “The things I consider most important are the characters and the conclusion; strong characters can make a weak plot forgivable, and a strong conclusion keeps readers from feeling cheated.”

While she has a flair for crossing genres, Godwin’s favorite is urban fantasy. Unfortunately, she hasn’t had much luck in finding inspiration from preexisting works.  

“Despite (urban fantasy’s) tendency to focus on women, these books also have a tendency to focus on heterosexual romances,” Godwin said. “As a lesbian, (I find it) frustrating and somewhat alienating.”

When completing her novella, Godwin’s driving inspiration for writing was to create representation when she wasn’t able to find it elsewhere.

“Urban fantasy, especially queer urban fantasy, affords you a chance to create entire new societies and belief systems without sacrificing some of the practicality that comes from the real world,” Godwin said. “When I wrote my novella, it was definitely with the intention of including strong queer themes and a mostly-female cast, and the plot came in inches.”   

Gordon Johnston, the department head of the creative writing program at Mercer, said that Godwin has a “naturally tight writing style that doesn't waste words.”

“Her characters are emotionally complex and they have clear, credible motivations that cause interesting plots to unfold,” Johnston said. “Maybe best of all from a teacher's perspective, she puts critiques of her drafts to good use in her revisions -- and she is completely committed to revising until the story or the scene works.”

Godwin’s current novel-length project is being workshopped by the Ferol Sam’s Senior Seminar class and guest instructor, Melanie Sumner.  

“Writing strikes a careful balance between an art form, which necessitates playing coy to a certain degree, and the ability to relate to one's audience,” Godwin said. “Writing is good for its own sake, but it doesn't mean anything without an audience.”

Godwin is a psychology major, but has taken several creative writing courses out of love of the craft. She’s considering pursuing an MFA in creative writing, but mostly writes for fun with the hope of being published someday.


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