This article was written by one of the writers featured in our column, “The Writer’s Edge,” Alex Lotorto. In Alex’s article, he writes about the interview he had with our talented columnist for the “The Writer’s Edge,” Marcie Riebe. Alex writes:
Classical writers used inkwells to replenish their quills, but in our area, many writers turn to Marcie Riebe to refresh and refine their craft.
A local university professor, poet, caseworker, union maid, and actress, Riebe is a well of inspiration for Northeast Pennsylvanians making the most of our transitioning region. During the school year, Riebe is an adjunct writing professor at Wilkes University.
When asked to list the three most important lessons of her Academic Writing class this semester, Marcie replied, “First, writing is an ongoing process and it doesn’t stop. Second, some international students come from countries that don’t value writing as intellectual property. In some Arabic speaking countries, it can be an homage to a person to use their words. So, I emphasize the importance of research and sources. “For the third lesson, she paused then added, “The more you read, the better you can write.”
Riebe shares her talents of writing and critique at local writers groups. You can find her at Northeast Pennsylvania Creative Writers every other Wednesday night at the Taylor Community Library. Once a month on Saturday afternoons, catch her at The Game Chateau’s writers group in Wilkes-Barre.
“I love it at The Game Chateau. It’s an oasis of creativity in NEPA. They offer writing workshops, art, writers’ groups…you should check them out!” she said.
Riebe will feature her poetry at In Concert With the Arts on Sunday, October 1st at 2 p.m. at Kiss Theatre in Wilkes-Barre, a benefit for the Luzerne Foundation’s arts funding. She will also be reading at The Writers Showcase at the Olde Brick Theater in Scranton on December 16th at 7 p.m.
Her work can also be found on topic-focused blogs including Project Wednesday (a positivity blog), here at the Thirty-Third Wheel (local arts and culture), and The Game Chateau’s upcoming feature blog, Rolling the Dice.
As a young person, Riebe started writing as a hobby while working as a tutor in the writing center at Wilkes.
“I realized I was talented and tried to help other people,” she said.
Riebe pursued genres of writing including dramatic writing, short stories, screenwriting, poetry, and essays. Some of Riebe’s early works included a one act called Have that was published in the Wilkes Manuscript literary magazine.
When asked to describe the plot, Riebe blushed, as every writer does when asked about their early work.
“A guy and a girl who knew each other in high school were the ones that got away from each other. The play was set up as a confession of how they felt later, divulging feelings. Like a confession booth. It was never performed.”
Riebe said she enjoys writing poetry the most.
“I can get something out and see a result, something that feels finished, in a relatively short amount of time. It is gratification for me. Lately, I have been writing a lot about women as subjects and their experiences,” she explained.
About a year and a half ago, Riebe brought a friend along to see a show at the Scranton Cultural Center. While waiting on line for a while, Riebe observed her friend’s fragrance, which inspired her poem “No Scents.”
A woman at work
Wears the perfume
I avoid her.
If I smell it–
For the rest of the day.
I’ll only think of your
Roan, curly hair–
Flitting in a July breeze
Getting caught in your sunglasses
With the tortoiseshell pattern
That almost matches them–
And the hem of your
Evergreen, gauzy dress
Tipped up, a moment,
In the same balmy breeze
With the sun on your side
My eyes squint to keep it out
But they lose for longing to look
One morning in June, Riebe woke up to the grueling heat. Tangled in her sheets and sweaty, she remembered the biweekly prompt of her Northeast Pennsylvania Writers’ group, “sleep”. She went downstairs to her notebook and penned:
I wake long before I should have to see you
The heat alerts me with a start
Caught and tied in my damp nightshirt
Restrained in moist bedsheets
The pillow I hug wetter than me.
Riebe’s favorite poem in that little notebook makes her hungry. She smiled and said, “It’s about spaghetti that I had at my friend Bernie’s house.”
Crimson sauce disperses
Forming a fiery tomato nebula
A significant galaxy within
Of beef, egg, breadcrumbs
Sausage asteroids, slippery, in transit
Past meridians of a universal plate
Studded with white dwarfs of garlic
And distant yellow suns of onion
A black hole’s gravitational pull begins
Fork spinning slowly on an axis
Guided by a spoon, a fleeting meteor
Together sounding the serenade or remote
A Parmesan supernova in perigee
The vastness smells of
When asked to name writers that inspire her, Riebe rattled off, “Locally, my favorite poet is Daryl Sznyter because she reveals raw emotion that I feel a connection to.”
“Of all time, Tennyson inspires me the most. My favorite of his is ‘In Memorium’ because I associate it with my grandfather. I read it at his funeral,” she recalled. “In the poem, Tennyson had a special connection with his friend and I’d like to write a poem that can show my connection to someone like that someday.”
Riebe added, “Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are melancholy like I am and realistic. I find things in their characters that I can relate to, at least in part.”
Riebe has spent the last eight years as a caseworker, working with the Spanish-speaking population in Northeast Pennsylvania.
“I was a sociology major at Wilkes as an undergrad. When I worked at the writing center I got interested in English as a second language (ESL) classes and veered off the sociology track. I couldn’t find a job doing that in public schools, so I went back to school for my secondary education degree. I was teaching Composition 101 at Wilkes and I ended up working at the International Student Services office while I was teaching.”
A family connection pointed her to her current career.
“My father in law worked in social services and while he knew that I loved my job at Wilkes, he knew that my husband and I just bought a house and he encouraged me to take the civil service exam. I didn’t hear anything for almost two years and then I got a call from human resources, took the Spanish test, and started my current job,” she continued.
Riebe quickly got involved with her union.
“I grew up in a family of teachers and unions were part of my upbringing. I started getting involved in our union, taking note of workplace issues and going to our chapter meetings. Then in 2015, I ran for union shop steward on a ticket with two other women for our union election and we won,” she said.
When asked about her role as a shop steward, Riebe explained, “I believe in equity for members, which means being treated fairly according to our contract. I try to help people see how the union works for them and how, if they are involved in it, they can feel ownership.”
A woman of many parts, Riebe participates in local community theatre as well.
“Early on, I did community theater and little kid plays at day camp. I didn’t get back to it until I was in high school at Danville Area.”
In May, Riebe performed in Diva Productions’ The Smell of the Kill (Molly) at the Olde Brick Theater in North Scranton.
“I like to do comedy because I competed in speech in high school in humorous interpretation,” she explained.
In the dark comedy, Riebe played one of three wives cleaning up after a dinner party and discussing their husbands’ abuse, stalking, and microaggressions. Their husbands are playing golf in the next room shouting expletives until they suddenly go missing. The wives discover the men have locked themselves in the host husband’s meat locker downstairs and wonder aloud, would the men rescue their wives from the freezer if the tables were turned?
Riebe analyzed, “From a feminist theory perspective, the play depicted women working as a team instead of working against each other. In the beginning of the play, every time one woman leaves, the other two are talking about her, but by the end, they come together to share how they would all like to kill their awful husbands.”
Riebe combined her passion for labor unions and theatre in her most recent performance in After the Shots Were Fired as Mrs. Stephen Philips, the wife of a coal miner shot dead by William Walker Scranton’s coal company militia during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. The play, performed at the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum’s Labor Heritage Day and Pittston Riverfest, was written by local historians Margo Azzarelli, Marnie Azzarelli, and myself.
Riebe’s character bemoans her husband’s death, “I have no money for us this week and hardly any food left. Our debt to the company is high, and if I don’t start to pay it, they will take our home from us. I must send the children to work. I could lie about young Stephen’s age so maybe he could be a laborer. I could send the three oldest girls to the mills and the youngest boy to the breaker. I could take in miners that need boarding, or I could marry again. If that’s what I need to do to keep my family alive, I will do it for us. I will do it for Stephen.”
Riebe, originally from Danville, asserts that she is native to central Pennsylvania, not northeastern. I argued that Danville is within the WNEP viewing area and therefore, she is from Northeast Pennsylvania, but she was adamant. Either way, she’s firmly rooted herself here in NEPA with many contributions made and many still yet to come. We should all be proud to have her to replenish our pens.