A Tale of Two Writers, Stony Brook Style

Carrie Miller award

Carrie Miller with her Rookie Reporter of the Year Award (photo by Barbara Ellen Koch)

They are both wordsmiths, but that is where the similarity ends. Carrie Miller ’12, embodies the future of journalism, having already shown proficiency in news and feature writing, blogging, as well as tackling photography and video assignments for newspapers and television. Steven Licardi ’13, on the other hand, is a published poet whose readings find him performing at a slam in Greenwich Village one week and doing a more conventional reading from his first book of verse, “Death By Active Movement, The Certainty of Life Through Poetry” (Local Gems Press) the next.

This spring Miller was named the New York Press Association Rookie Reporter of the Year, at the East End weekly Riverhead News Review (Mattituck, New York) although one look at her résumé might make the judges want to rethink the word rookie — her background — a BS in television/video production/broadcast journalism at SUNY Plattsburgh — has a decidedly veteran feel to it. Miller also netted six other awards for coverage of local government, spot news, the environment, crime/police/courts and agriculture.

Before going to work for the News-Review and sister paper Suffolk Times, Miller was the executive producer of a studio game show on Plattsburgh (New York) State Television (2008-2010) and produced promotional videos about the Town of Saranac, New York, in 2010. She also belongs to the National Broadcasting Society Lambda Pi Eta.

Following Plattsburgh, Miller enrolled in the 40-credit Master of Science in journalism program that launched at Stony Brook in 2011.

Licardi, from West Islip, New York, is also wise well beyond his years, or how could he tackle a subject like mortality with any kind of authority? The lyric in one of his most heralded poems, “Early Girl,” illustrates a unique ability to visit subject matter that few of his peers would address.

Steven-Licardi-book

Steven Licardi at a reading for his first book of poetry.

“The car was just a heap of scrap, lying in a fetal pose.

An abstract morsel of coiled metal at the side of the road

Baptized in broken glass and spilled antifreeze.

A gaping hole where the Jaws of Life had pried her free…

…The doctors sat us down and told us there was nothing they could do,

But when we finally decided to pull the plug, we lost the baby too.”

Licardi has garnered the praise of none other than the 2013 Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, Ed Stever, who said, “Steven Licardi, a relative newcomer to the poetry scene, writes with a sure-footed cadence that results in uniquely rhythmical patterns, as well as unexpected surprises blooming with each new page, a fresh voice that challenges and catalyzes the old guard.”

Miller does not write fluff either. Even her “lighter” features have a hard edge, taking on the subjects of the dying lobster trade on the East End of Long Island and the decline of the honey bee. She glides easily into hard news when the need arises — taking on the hot-button topic of shootings and gun control.

Carrie-Miller

Carrie Miller doing an interview while at Stony Brook.

“At the School of Journalism, we were delighted when we heard that Carrie had won so many awards but we weren’t surprised,” said Elizabeth Bass, director, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. “Carrie was in Stony Brook’s first class of journalism master’s students and she came to us with video production experience but very little background in (print) journalism. From the moment she arrived, it was clear Carrie was eager to learn and grow. She worked hard, was a great colleague, embraced challenges and took reporting seriously. We were thrilled at the way Carrie seemed to find her calling in our master’s program.”

To a poet, success is defined differently. “There isn’t any money in poetry,” said Licardi. “Even the most accomplished poets such as Buddy Wakefield and Saul Williams, who tour and do performances regularly, have to supplement their poetry with other career paths, such as acting, teaching or public speaking, all of which I have done and enjoy. Winning national and international poetry slams is currently how one builds a reputation in the field of poetry and those are highly competitive.”

Licardi’s advice to aspiring poets is to “write, read, publish, repeat.” He counsels young scribes to look for “an in,” which for him came from his friend James Wagner, who owns Local Gems Press, a small local business. And Licardi doesn’t restrict his creativity to poetry — he is currently putting the finishing touches on his first novel.

To get anywhere, a writer needs an agent, but the Catch 22 is that to acquire an agent you have to establish yourself first. But many would-be poets don’t realize that it is considered bad form to ask to do a poetry reading. “There is a whole etiquette to poetry,” Licardi said. “You’re more often invited. I am blessed to have a lot of people coming to me asking for my participation.”

Given the reality Licardi accurately depicts, although he plans to keep writing and performing, he will be pursuing his master’s degree in social work back on campus this fall. Diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder as a child led to a fascination with mental health issues for Licardi, who hopes to become a clinical psychologist. A condition that often involves communication, social interaction and imagination deficiencies seems to have bypassed this brilliant bard.

Steven-Licardi-Chancellors-Award

Licardi received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Charlie Robbins, dean of undergraduate colleges at Stony Brook.

Licardi often uses his poems to raise awareness of social issues, such as the release of his video on self-injury for the poem, “We Often Cross the Lines We Draw,” which can be viewed on his website, TheSvenBo.com.

Miller’s childhood also played a significant role in the niche she has carved for herself, reporting on Long Island’s natural resources. “Growing up in the tiny, bayside community of Hampton Bays, I fell in love with the water and the way of life it provided me. I find it troubling that the place that gives me such comfort is at risk. I think that is what moved me to focus on it.”

Her final project at the School of Journalism exists as testimony to that love. “Our advisors recommended that we do our final project the same semester that we took the advanced web design course,” said Miller. Wasim Ahmad, my professor, was a huge help with coding it and helping me troubleshoot errors. Dean (Howie) Schneider helped me come up with a vision of how to shape the site’s content in an interesting way. Since I was thinking of going the broadcast route at the time, I focused on video.” The result is “Saving Shinnecock,” at www.carriemillermedia.com.

Even with the digital revolution making the future of journalism an unpredictable if exciting ride, Miller has confidence that she has the skills to make herself indispensable.

“From the day I walked into class at Stony Brook, the professors made it known that the more versatile we are, the more vital a role we could play in any newsroom. Even in this digital age, editors need journalists who can work a scene — capturing photos and videos, and writing compelling content true to the event. I think doing all of these gives the reporter a deeper understanding of the story. In a breaking news situation you can’t wait for the web editor to meander back from a coffee break to inform the community about what’s going on. By then, the competition will have stolen all your clicks and we like clicks.”

Glenn Jochum

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2 Responses to “A Tale of Two Writers, Stony Brook Style”

  1. Thank you so much Glenn for this incredible honor, and thank you Stony Brook University for continuing to enrich my life. Forever a Seawolf.

    • Glenn Jochum says:

      Thanks so much, Steve. It was my honor to share your incredible talent with our Stony Brook community. You are clearly destined for continued greatness!

      Glenn

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