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Hard Work, Persistence Results in Publication for Holy Cross English Major

Cotrone ’13 credits professors for early success
November 8th, 2010 by 

David Cotrone ’13 could write a great “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essay — and not just because he’s a talented wordsmith.

A writer of both fiction and non-fiction, Cotrone spent his summer sending his stories to a wide variety of literary magazines for publication. And how’s this for an ending: twelve of his stories were published, including a chapbook currently on sale through the Harvard University Bookstore.

An English major with a creative writing concentration from Plymouth, Mass., Cotrone was always interested in literature. As a child, he was a prolific reader. At Boston College High School, Cotrone’s interest in writing was heightened, and he sought to pursue further knowledge of the craft in college.

Cotrone looked at Holy Cross because of its Jesuit identity and its English and creative writing programs.

“I am still in awe of the strength of the creative writing program,” he says. “The classes and teachers are phenomenal, and my fellow students are all knowledgeable and generous.”

After two semesters in Holy Cross’ creative writing program, Cotrone began to look into getting his writing published. He began by talking to English professor Leah Hager Cohen, William H.P. Jenks Chair in Contemporary American Letters, who has been a mentor to him since his first year, about the process: “She encouraged me to start small and look on the Internet for new opportunities.”

He listened to the advice of Cohen, a critically acclaimed author of four non-fiction books and three novels, and success followed. Cotrone sent his stories to small literary magazines and was published in several, including a University of Central Oklahoma publication, New Plains Review, which has previously published distinguished Holy Cross alumnus and former Poet Laureate, Billy Collins ’63.

Acceptance letters didn’t exactly come pouring in, though.

“I got plenty of rejection letters along the way, which was expected,” he says. “But I just kept sending my writing out. One story that was published by Fifty-Two Stories, a Harper Perennial publication, was actually rejected by several smaller magazines. People are just looking for different things.”

Despite the challenges he knew he’d face, Cotrone began the publishing process now because he hopes “it serves as momentum for my career.” Eventually, Cotrone hopes to become a writer or a writing teacher. For the time being, he is continuing to submit stories for publication while balancing his writing with his other schoolwork.

“I’d love to do anything [if it means I can] keep writing,” he says. “Writing is infectious; once I started writing, I just had to keep going.”

His most significant publication to date is a chapbook titled “Reasons Why I Let a Killer Into the Building.” The self-published and self-designed book, which is being sold for $6.60 at the Harvard University Bookstore, features four fiction and three non-fiction stories. The title highlights the stories’ connecting theme of anxiety and serves as an apt metaphor for his writing process: “I have to let fear in to write about it.”

Cotrone credits his success to the professors in the Holy Cross creative writing program.

“I don’t think I could have gone to a better undergraduate school for creative writing. If it weren’t for the professors here like Professor Cohen, my current professor, Steven Wingate and my advisor, Professor Stephanie Reents, I would not have gotten anything published. There is so much generosity in them.”

By Rachel Salemme ’12

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