I am most interested in helping emerging writers make sense of being alive. That involves so much of course – being a human being, at this time, in this cultural environment, with these challenges and privileges and existential struggles. In my mind, a studio graduate program in writing must teach craft not as something formulaic, but as crafting inside the larger narratives of society.
Learning to write means also learning to be a writer. You must read like a writer. You must feel compelled, often, to annotate and learn from everything you read, because everything you read teaches you how to write. My teaching always includes some combination of studying a text, having vibrant discussion, and writing prompts based on what was learned. During the semester, when working remotely with students, I like to have an ongoing dialogue with students about their work, about writing in general, and the writing life, with the intention of building a genuine mentoring connection. I remember those teachers who mentored me in this way, some whom I still know, and how valuable they were to me as an emerging writer.
I value immensely the intellectual and creative energy that comes alive when writers gather. That is so much of the joy of teaching creative writing and being a writer. We so often think of writing as a solitary act, and of course there are lots of times when it is, but writing also needs engagement, discussion, and connection. It is hard to be a writer! It is both a great privilege and a tremendous challenge. Who said, ‘Being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life’? It’s so true. We are continually engaged in the process – thinking, researching, taking notes, writing, rewriting, rewriting some more. We spend years (usually) working toward finishing a project, and then as soon as it’s done, the euphoria lasts for about three days. The dissatisfaction creeps in, and we need something new to work on and obsess about. This is not a life we can do by ourselves. Writers need each other.