Liberal Arts guest speaker coming to Norwich campus

Elena Passarello is a writer, actress, essayist, voice-over performer, “plus-sized -foot model”, and the first female winner in 30 years of a Stella Shouting Contest. She’s visiting Vermont for the second time in her life on Feb. 25 to share her work and knowledge with Norwich University students.

 After an invite from former co-worker Prof. Sean Prentiss and the support of the college of liberal arts, Pasarello made plans to head up to the Green Mountains to work with a few writing classes as well as give a reading on campus, she said in an interview conducted via email.

Although originally from Charleston, S.C., Passarello currently teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in writing and reading nonfiction at Oregon State. As a professor, she said that “It’s beyond a privilege to spend every day talking with smart people about the genre of writing that I love the most.” She cherished her undergraduate days studying non-fiction at the University of Pittsburgh and decided then that she wanted to continue staying active and inspired on college campuses. “I love to be a part of any process that nourishes lifelong readers, thinkers, and literary citizens,” she said.

Elena Passarello lecturing at Oregon State University. (Jeffrey Basing Photo)

Elena Passarello lecturing at Oregon State University. (Jeffrey Basing Photo)

This semester Norwich’s creative writing class is studying her text, “Let Me Clear My Throat,” a collection of essays that works with the history of the human voice. The front cover of this work helps to explains that Stella Shouting Contest. It shows a newspaper photo of her in the 2011 Stella Shouting Contest, “which is this crazy competition in which contestants stand under a balcony and yell “STELLAAAAA” in the style of Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Passarello said. Many of her other essays have appeared in journals and reviews all over the nation.

“I find writing to be a very solitary act, one that requires a lot of self-motivation,” she said. Although writing is a challenging process, Passarello finds it rewarding. “I can’t think of a single thing about writing that is easy,” she said.

Although for many writing does not come easily, Passarello accepts her challenging field of work.  “I really believe that, in order to be fulfilled, everyone needs a daily occupation that challenges them. When the challenges are ones that you meet with gusto each day (or at least most days), you know you’ve picked the right line of work,” she said.

When writing, Passarello jumps between using her laptop, where she pursues the multiple documents of research required for writing, to the classic pen and paper when she’s stumped on a transition or a paragraph.

When not writing, Passarello is often found pursuing another one of her passions: acting. She views the collaboration required in acting to be a great contrast from the solitude of writing. “The fact that the team relies on me is my main impetus to work hard in rehearsals and performances. But while an actor is just one component of that world of the play, a writer makes the world all by herself,” she explained.

Passarello has also worked as a voice-over performer, which is the voice that is heard for things like television commercials, audio books, and cartoons. “I only did voiceover work on a local level—radio commercials and Car Dealership spots—but it was pretty nice work when I could get it,” she said.

Although Passarello may not be a real plus-sized foot model, she advertises so on the banner of her website. When asked about it, she admits that she put it there because she “felt like I needed to include something silly to match my very non-highfalutin’ personality.” She did, however, confirm that she wears a size 10 shoe.

“It’s beyond a privilege to spend every day talking with smart people about the genre of writing that I love the most,” Passarello said, and she will be sharing this experience with Norwich shortly. For information on the event, contact the college of liberal arts.

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