Personal stories of growth at Eckerd College

Angela Masterson Jones

Butterflies and blossoms go together like students and campuses, so it seems unremarkable that, as September approaches, sand-colored butterflies cavort and swarm through the flowers outside the Upham Building. Yet their jumbled flight delights me.

I first landed on the Eckerd College campus myself in the nineties, as a visitor to one of the annual St. Petersburg Times Reading Festivals. Numerous workshops, led by Professor Emeritus Peter Meinke and other benevolent authors, inspired me to freelance write and edit part time. A dream took root.

In 2004, I sold copies of my own first poetry collection at the Festival, where I learned that the inaugural Writers in Paradise conference would soon dock along this shore of Boca Ciega Bay. I considered applying to the conference but waited a year to polish my novel manuscript. When, in 2005, my application got lost in the Christmas mail, I talked my way into the Short Story I Workshop and sharpened my craft with tips from Thisbe Nissen, Dennis Lehane and Sterling Watson. My short story was selected Best Of my workshop and appeared in the first Sabal, the conference's literary journal. A dream blossomed.

My husband and I closed our twenty-year contracting business to follow our bliss. I applied for any Eckerd staff position that fit my field, but no one answered my letters.

Months passed. Then a director rang my house one day to request an interview, and hope took wing. While I hadn't applied for or even known about this particular opening, after meeting the Advancement Staff, I never wanted any job more. In February 2007, I became the new Advancement Communications Assistant, a position that fulfills, challenges and enlightens me every day. I will start my first PEL class in October, majoring in Creative Writing to seek the degree I should have pursued twenty-eight years ago.

Butterflies are sipping nectar today from purple blooms outside the President's Office … and my daughter applied last week to Eckerd College. She will join me here on campus next summer.

A dream takes seed.