Student writer pursues passion, fights illness

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HOUMA, La. (AP) — A Nicholls State senior who has fibromyalgia and Lyme disease uses her passions for writing and art to prevail over her illnesses.

English major Sarah Hamilton, also known by her pseudonym Sarah Panic, crafts plaques and prints by typing prose onto photos from old magazines and books.

Since the 25-year-old Houma resident and Montegut native began her work, she has created several hundred prints and more than 15 plaques.

Hamilton said she selects photos from magazines that stand out to her and uses her typewriter to add writing.

"I never know right then what I'm going to write," she said. "It speaks to me in the moment."

Hamilton said she finds most of the photos she uses in old books and 1970s issues of National Geographic magazine.

"I like to pick pictures that are wild and out there," she said.

Hamilton said much of her work is inspired by German-American writer Charles Bukowski.

Like Bukowski, Hamilton said her work is often "rough around the edges."

"I like writing simply and to the point, but you get a strong message with it," she said.

Hamilton's plans took a turn when she was diagnosed about 10 years ago with fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain, fatigue, sleep, memory and mood problems.

Hamilton said she eventually was able to deal with fibromyalgia. But about two years ago, while she was working as a receptionist at Copperhead Tattoo, her doctor called: she had Lyme disease, an infectious disease caused by the bite of a tick.

"I had been managing my fibromyalgia for almost eight years, and I could understand what my body was telling me a lot of times," she said. "So I knew something was wrong when I would get exhausted just going to check the mail."

Hamilton said she was diagnosed in the late stages of Lyme disease. Like most illnesses, the longer the disease goes untreated, the more damage it causes.

Shortly after her diagnosis, Hamilton was forced to quit her job and became homebound. She said she used writing and art as a creative outlet while stuck in her house.

Hamilton said she never considered herself an artist until she began working on the plaques.

However, she also does not consider herself the "typical writer" either.

"When you tell people that you're a writer, people assume that you're writing book or papers," she said. "I always liked writing. Ever since I was little, I would fill notebooks up. It started as short stories and later became free verse poetry."

Along with three fellow English students at Nicholls, Hamilton created PULP, a magazine which features student work that combines writing and art.

"We already have the (university) literary magazine, the Mosaic, but we felt like it wasn't our style," she said. "We wanted an outlet of our own."

The students met every Sunday for a few months, and published the first edition last year.

Hamilton said PULP is "writing that needs no explanation," but if she must describe it in words, she would call its contents "raw and minimalistic."

"Our little saying is that 'PULP is delicious,' " she said. "It looks like what a typical punk zine would look like. We're working on the third and trying to get something out for winter."

In the second edition of PULP, Hamilton created a montage print of a local man, Cornell Patrick Wilkerson.

"He made such an impression of me," she said. "He would come into the (Copperhead) shop every day that I worked and bring me flowers and tea and stuff like that. He would always talk about random things he would see around, and I would record him."

In her work, Hamilton included photos of Wilkerson and transcripts of parts of her recordings to document the "jumble of his stream of conscious," she said.

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Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com

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