Frankenstein’s typewriter: A new collaborative writing project

A portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein at the age of 21.


A portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein at the age of 21.

Meghan Schmitt, Culture Editor

How many people does it take to tell a story? The Saint Anselm Conversatio and Writing Program are exploring that question with the Franken-story event occurring in Dana.

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein (1818), the Conversation and Writing Program have organized a collaborating writing project called. ““Franken-story: Bringing Collaborative Writing to Life.”  The project was created by English professor Meg Cronin.

The project kicked off on October 11 at 4pm in the Dana Center lobby.  Two typewriters were set up in the alcoves of the lobby, accompanied with prompts based on quotes from Frankenstein. Live readings from Frankenstein were given by students Haley Lyons, Jenna Lyons, Meaghan McCabe, and Mike Botsch, according to Cronin.

The premise behind Frankenstory is simple; everyone is welcome to sit at the typewriter and add to the story.  

Whether it be a line, a page, or a paragraph, that person’s contribution is a permanent part of the story.  The next person who sits at the typewriter will continue from the most recent addition.

When asked about the opening event, Cronin replied, “The reception was great. About 30 people attended–students and faculty. Students associated with the Quatrain and Lucubrations came, as well as other students from various majors.“

Mary Shelley is considered by many to be the mother of science fiction. Frankenstein was monumental to that genre as well as to horror and suspense.

A woman centuries ahead of her time, Shelley crafted a Gothic masterpiece which explored the limits of science and the horrifying consequences of one man attempting to play God. An iconic novel hailing from the Romantic era, Frankenstein is a staple on the Conversation curriculum for freshmen.

When asked for the motivation behind the event, Cronin replied, “I wanted to think of events that the campus community could experience together to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of the 1818 novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I had seen this sort of “contributory display” before at least twice: once at the Smith College Museum of Art at an exhibit of the work of Honoré Sharrer.”

“Exhibit guests were invited to write about the images in some of Sharrer’s paintings, which are surreal, colorful, and fantastical, but also realistic in some ways,” Cronin continud.

“The other exhibit had heard about was focused on Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and pages were displayed from his letters and journals, and museum-goers could add to the notes mounted on the wall,” Cronin said.

“I thought that such a ‘crowd-sourced’ story made of many multiple parts would be a great way to recognize the enduring interest we have in Victor Frankenstein’s Creature–himself an assemblage of parts and brought to life by a creative force.”

Cronin made sure to thank several people for their assistance in creating the event: Professors Josh Dannin and Kimberly Kersey-Asbury in Fine Arts (for help with the exhibit layout and installation), Professors Dave Banach and Micky New (for promoting and supporting the event), the members of the Quatrain and Lucubrations (for supporting the event and participating), Professors Bindu Malieckal and Ann-Maria Contarino (donation of typewriters), Professor Josh Tepley (for making the Frankenstein 200 poster), and the English department and the Conversatio program/Prof. Wierda for supporting the project.  

Franken-story’s crafting materials will be featured in the alcoves of the Dana Lobby until November 1.  

All the type-written pages will be collected by Professor Cronin and compiled into one story.  Snippets of that story may be appearing soon in the Crier.