Division of Interdisciplinary Inquiry: Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
Professional Title: M.F.A. Creative Writing Faculty
Areas of Academic Focus and Expertise: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry
Representative List of Recent Courses Taught: Distance-Learning Courses:• Creative Writing I-IV • Craft and Reflection I-III• Graduating Seminar Preparation• Creative ThesisResidency Seminars:• The Self as Persona in Nonfiction• Shaping a Story
Education: B.A., Rockford College; M.A, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Representative List of Recent Publications / Exhibitions:
Memoirs:Yarn: Remembering the Way Home (2009)Polite Lies: On Being a Woman Trapped Between Two Cultures (1999)The Dream of Water (1996)Novels: Stone Field, True Arrow (2001)One Bird (1996)Shizuko’s Daughter (1994)Book of Poetry: Fallout (1994)
Essays:“Between the Forest and the Well: Notes on Death”“The Purple Coat and the Pink Dress”“The Pleasure of Letting Go”
Teaching Philosophy: In the early drafts, I'm mostly interested in helping you see what is at the heart of the story. Who is this character, what does he or she want, and why do you, the writer, see him or her in that particular place doing that particular thing? I try to get you to understand the elements of the story that interest you the most - the characters, the place and the time setting, the images that started you thinking about the story in the first place, the one sentence that seemed right and important from the beginning - in order to sort out what is essential and what is not. My job is to help you figure out which things you started out with are worth keeping and developing, and (just as importantly) to encourage you to be utterly ruthless about throwing out the rest.
In the middle stages, I try to help you with the overall structure of the narrative: where to begin, what to explain right away, what to reveal more gradually along the way, how much to leave open-ended. This is a good time to consider and reconsider what is plausible and what is not, what is confusing to the reader and what is so clear that it doesn't need to be explained, where the story happens too fast and where it bogs down. With every subsequent draft, more attention can be paid to each paragraph, each sentence, each word. The final revision in which we get to scrutinize every word is a real pleasure and reward. I enjoy teaching because I like to see the story come into focus over time; it's both a pleasure and an honor to be part of that process.
Awards: PEN's Martha Albrand Award nomination; The Best Novel of the Year from the Council of Wisconsin Writers; Published in Best American Essays 2004.
Current Affiliations: Harvard University; George Mason University.Past Affiliations: St. Norbert College; the Stonecoast low-residency M.F.A. program
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