Alumna returns to Binghamton to teach and complete a novel

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Jane Alberdeston Coralin first arrived at Binghamton University on a Greyhound bus, a long, cold ride from her native Puerto Rico.

That was in 2002. She had also lived in other places: Mexico City for five years, then seven years in Washington, DC, where she was employed by a Justice Department program for asylum seekers. But at 35, she takes an unexpected leap and focuses on another necessary component of her identity: poet, storyteller and weaver of literary community.

“I had a direction and I knew why I was here. I knew what I wanted,” said Alberdeston Coralin, who received her master’s degree in creative writing from Binghamton in 2004 and her doctorate in 2007.

Now she’s come full circle, returning this academic year as a guest lecturer in English, general literature and rhetoric, while also completing a speculative fiction assignment. It is an opportunity to give back to an institution that has fostered her own development as a writer; in fact, she co-wrote a novel for young adults, Sister Chicas, during his graduate years, while studying under Professor Emeritus Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Professor Emeritus Jaimee Wriston Colbert.

Since then, her writing has appeared in various anthologies and journals, and she has carried out her work in the continental United States and Puerto Rico. Alberdeston Coralin returned to Puerto Rico in 2008, where she is an assistant professor teaching creative writing and literature at the University of Puerto Rico – Arecibo.

This year in Binghamton, she is teaching fiction writing and a seminar called Writing Imagined Spaces. In the latter, inspired by the pandemic, she invites students to do just that: imagine a place in their minds and write from that setting.

“It’s thinking about who we are and who we were during lockdown, what we’ve become and what we haven’t done yet,” she said. “It’s also thinking about exile, imprisonment, loneliness – all of these themes that have come up over the past couple of years.”

“Don’t Settle”

While creative writing relies on internal vision and self-expression, it can also stem from a desire for community. Such was the case of Alberdeston Coralin, once a painfully shy child who had trouble making friends or even looking people in the eye; writing has proven to be a means of nurturing human connection.

“One day I woke up and said, ‘This won’t work for you. So I started writing, and then I met another girl in the library in eighth grade who was also a writer, and we wrote about horses,” she said. “Had I ever ridden? No, but I developed this friendship and a love for writing.

Her writing connected again in her twenties, when she moved to Washington, DC, a town of complete strangers. She started frequenting a dive bar that offered poetry readings to share her creative work.

“For me, communities are a source of inspiration. I have this thirst for telling different stories, whether through poetry or fiction, as a way to connect with people. I’m still a little shy,” she admitted.

While in DC, she received an unexpected letter from Gillan, then director of Binghamton’s creative writing program. Gillan was also the director of a poetry center in Passaic, NJ, and offered Alberdeston Coralin the chance to be part of his Poet in the Schools program. She has accepted.

She met Gillan through the program, which eventually led her to Binghamton. While in the graduate program, she received much needed financial support from the Clifford D. Clark Diversity Scholarship.

Gillan’s mentorship has been both inspiring and generous, qualities she has found in other instructors as well.

“Everything that you didn’t see in yourself, they saw in you and they let it be known that you still had that field of possibility,” recalls Alberdeston Coralin. “Now that I’m teaching, I always tell my students, ‘Yes, there’s anxiety and stress, but there’s so much waiting for you. Don’t settle.'”

She understands the temptation to settle down, and even did it herself for a while. From the forties, she begins to see her life resolve in a particular way, an inevitable course that she will follow until retirement.

After her mother died, she realized it was time to shake things up again. She began to seek out new experiences and seize every opportunity that came her way – including one that would send her back north for a while, to the upstate winters and her alma mater, three chihuahuas. chilly in tow.

Alberdeston Coralin’s journey has taken unexpected turns, but this wealth of experience benefits her as a writer and teacher.

” I am 53 years old ; I have no qualms saying it,” she said with a smile. “If there was a badge I could wear that said ’53’, I would wear it.”

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