Colleagues and other friends are mourning the loss of April Selley, a devoted teacher and writer who instilled in students her joy of literature and the craft of creative writing. She passed away on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 after a long illness.
A specialist in American literature, creative writing and poetry, she joined the College in 2001 as a visiting assistant professor. She became a lecturer in 2006, and a senior lecturer in 2009.
She held a bachelor’s degree from Providence College, and master’s and Ph.D. from Brown University.
Before joining Union, she taught at the College of Saint Rose and was a Fulbright lecturer in Portugal and Japan. A freelance writer, she also led a number of workshops in the region. She received the Russel B. Nye Award from the Popular Culture Association for best article published in the Journal of Popular Culture.
Her teaching and research covered all periods of American literature, especially the Romantic Period and the 20th and 21st centuries; the relationships between literature and religion, and literature and popular culture; and creative writing, including poetry, fiction and nonfiction.
Her publications included articles on Poe, Dickinson, Fitzgerald, Lovecraft, The Deerslayer, Transcendentalism and Star Trek: The Next Generation. She also wrote short stories, travel essays and poetry. She published seven works of fiction and over 40 poems in literary magazines. Her poetry chapbook In and Out of Eden won the 2001 Permafrost Competition. She was working on a memoir about living in Japan and a novel about living in Schenectady.
Prof. Patricia Wareh, recalled that, during her illness, Prof. Selley had received a number of letters and cards from students. “She was very gratified to hear from them, and said that it made her feel that she had done something worthwhile with her life,” Wareh said.
Throughout her illness, she offered detailed comments on students’ work in fiction, and sent messages to students from the hospital, according to Wareh. She attended the last Prize Day even though she was very ill, Wareh added.
“She took her teaching seriously and she took her students seriously, urging them to take responsibility for their educations,” said Harry Marten, the Edward E. Hale Jr. Professor of English Emeritus. “With quick insight and a lovely, very funny ironic sense of humor – both sweet and sharp – she helped her students to think analytically and write with clarity.”
Prof. Claire Bracken said, “Her infectious sense of fun and energetic spirit imbued everything she turned her eye to. We were so lucky to have known and worked with her and are so very, very heartbroken about her passing.”
Prof. Bunkong Tuon recalled a recent conversation he had with Prof. Selley. “It’s all about relationships,” she said. “Being kind, compassionate and generous, doing good work. I feel lucky to have known many good people in my life. I’m forever grateful.”
“Her last word to my family and me was ‘love.’” Prof. Tuon said. “I have been loved in her grace, as we all have been.”
Calling hours are Monday, July 18, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Sansone Funeral Home, 192 Wood St., Bristol, R.I. 02809. Funeral services will be Tuesday, July 19, at 10 a.m. at the funeral home followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Church, 577 Wood Street. Bristol, Rhode Island 02809. Interment will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Bristol, R.I.