I spent my first year of college at SUNY Stony Brook studying archaeology, and it was a complete and utter failure. In a few short months I learned that my dream of becoming an archaeologist (or more accurately, becoming the next Indiana Jones), required a lot less punching and a lot more memorization of human bones.
I loved science in high school, but by the time I turned 18 my imagination had grown increasingly restless, likely due to the many years of comic book reading. Staring at femurs for three hours a day in a sterile lab just didn’t do much to satisfy my creative impulses. So, when an English professor at Stony Brook told me how much he enjoyed my essays and urged me to consider transferring to a school with a good writing program, I quickly packed my bags.
In order to become a writer, I felt I needed to be in a familiar place. I ended up choosing SUNY Oswego because the school meant something to me. My parents* met and fell in love while attending college here. During the summers they would often take my brother and me to the “Stands” to enjoy ice cream and watch the sunset drip ribbons of tangerine and red on the water, just like they had years before. When I thought of those moments, there didn’t seem to be a more romantic place to write stories than on the shores of Lake Ontario.
Soon after I started taking courses at Oswego I fell in love with writing. My affection was fueled by excellent classes, but none more so than the poetry sessions with [Professor Emeritus] Lewis Turco. He encouraged creativity but also showed me how to use structure to make stories more effective and powerful. At age 19 I had a fertile imagination and a talent for organization, but I didn’t know how to bring those two things together in writing. Today, I still think about Professor Turco’s guidance on form, rhythm and balance, whether I’m writing a metal album review, or an article about hospital evacuation plans, or a crazy story about a time-traveling chef who serves dinosaurs at a restaurant.
My education wasn’t the only Oswego experience that had a lasting effect on me and my writing. I adored campus life here. I made some great friends and enjoyed many adventures that we still talk about today. I remember listening to death metal every night with my buddies in an Onondaga Hall suite that we affectionately named the Death Star. I remember eating half a Monster 32 pizza and two dozen Sal’s Sassy Wings after a particularly festive night out, and then waking up the next morning with a drumstick lodged in my mouth. I remember being a nightshift DJ for the radio station, ignoring the rules and playing nothing but Slayer songs for four hours straight. I remember working as a tutor in the writing center and feeling my chest go tight with pride whenever a student stopped by to thank me for helping her with a paper. I remember falling in love with a girl for the first time, having my heart broken and trudging across campus through moonlit snowfall to try and win her back. And I remember all those blood-orange sunsets that painted the waves so beautifully.
Sometimes I think about making the choice to transfer to Oswego and how that decision impacted me. I may not have become an archaeologist like Indiana Jones, but I can definitely write a kick-ass adventure like the Indy stories that inspired me when I was growing up. That’s what my time at Oswego gave me. Making my way to Oz made all the difference in my life, and the ride turned out to be a hell of a lot more fun than trying to remember old bones.
Markisan Naso ’97 is a comic book writer and publishing expert in Chicago. His first comic book series, Voracious, is currently being published by Action Lab Entertainment. Markisan has 18 years of experience managing, editing and revitalizing publications, including Knowledge Quest and School Library Research for the American Library Association. He has authored hundreds of features in print and on the web. He served as co-arts and entertainment editor for The Oswegonian, spun records as a DJ for WYNO 88.9 and worked as a writing tutor in the Office of Learning and Support Services. Learn more about Markisan at www.markisan.com.
*Author’s Note: Markisan’s parents are Mark ’73 and Susan Torrelli Naso ’73.