Although I’d been teaching just a few years, there was something familiar from the start about my work as an APU writing program faculty member.
At the end of a long day, I agreed to meet with a student after class to brainstorm the ending of the novel he was hard at work on. He was stumped, sending his characters in 10 different directions and weighing what worked.
I asked a few questions, listened, and asked another question or two. Suddenly he sat back in his chair, a stunned look and a lopsided grin on his face. Everything about the ending had come into focus. He hurried off, excited to get back to the writing. I grabbed my coat and looked out my office window at the spindly woods, colored pink and orange in the sunset, and thought: I have an amazing job.
That moment took me back to 2005, when I was the student seeking advice from a faculty mentor.
I was in my last semester at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., gathering together my writing portfolio for an application to the creative writing master’s program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
My adviser not only helped refine my work but took time to guide me through the application process. I was accepted, earned a teaching assistantship and completed my MFA in 2007.
Today I strive to work as closely with my own students. Whether editing their drafts, talking them through rough spots in emerging novels, or discussing how to query agents, I’m always inspired by the joy that our Liberal Studies students bring to their writing.
My hope for our department is that we continue to help students focus on seeing their work published. While drafting a piece of fiction or nonfiction isn’t easy, harder still is navigating the next step, where rejection is an inevitable part of the process. It may seem easier to keep the novel tucked away in a drawer.
But I know from experience that testing a manuscript’s worthiness by submitting it to the marketplace is an important learning tool. Searching for the right publisher teaches writers a lot about themselves and their work – things that can’t be taught in the classroom.
I always tell my students that we writers don’t write for our satisfaction alone; to be fulfilled as a professional, we need to know that our work is being read and appreciated by strangers because they like it, not because they’re relatives who have to like it.
What I want for my Liberal Studies students is coursework that gives them knowledge, skill and confidence to submit their writing for publication. I want them to know that as Liberal Studies majors, they never have to take that step alone.
BA, English, Writing Concentration, University of St. Thomas, 2005
MFA, Creative Writing, Fiction, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2007