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
Representative List of Recent Courses Taught: Distance-Learning Courses:· Creative Writing I-IV · Craft and Reflection I-III· Graduating Seminar Preparation· Creative ThesisResidency Seminars:· Making a Scene· Type “A” Revision, a Multi-Genre Workshop (Part I and II)
Education: B.A. in Political Science from Bard College; M.A. in Applied Statistics in the Social Science from the University of Chicago; Critical Studies & Writing, Independent Study Program at Whitney Museum of American Art; M.F.A. in Creative writing from Bard College
Representative List of Recent Publications / Exhibitions:
Novels:The Peter Cotton Tales (2012)The Good Negress (1996) Essays, forewords, and book chapters published in: The Colors of Nature, Addison Scurlock: 75 Years of Photographing the Nation’s Capital” (2009) The Colors of Nature, National Museum of African American History, Smithsonian Museum, Rise Up Singing: African American Women Speak About Motherhood, Village Voice, Common-place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Scarlet Sister Mary, The Nation, Picturing The South, Tracing Cultures: Art History, Criticism, Critical FictionShort Story: “Classified,” Conditions Literary Journal (v. 17), 1990.
Poem: “October, 1900.” Ploughshares, Spring, 2000.
Teaching Philosophy: My teaching passion involves revision. Period. When I first began to write, I was completely daunted by my heroically obtained but completely unsatisfactory drafts. I went, as I do always, in search of references to instruct me, and found nothing I could really use on revision. This challenged me. I have spent all my teaching energies of the last fifteen years coming up with a strategy for communicating revision. My work as a teacher is all about answering this critical question: What do you do now that you have a good draft? How do you move a draft from "done", to beautiful?
I teach a method of revision that has been page-tested by my students. Beginning with defining the hot center, or the passion source, of each manuscript, and radiating out, we refine everything down to where you place your commas and periods. I teach students to revise with acuity, and I teach students to consider and reconsider every word they choose to use. I encourage students to refresh their understanding of the narrative and poetic elements we employ to write fiction, and to make choices among those of which elements to scour, polish and/or re-envision.
Once you know what you're doing revision is the revelator. Watching a manuscript begin to glisten from the muck of an early draft is like finding an emerald in the mud.
Awards: Vursell Distinguished Fiction Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; Whiting Award in fiction; Bunting Fellowship; NEA Critical Studies Award; finalist for PEN/Faulkner Award; Los Angeles Times Book Prize; IMPAC/Dublin International Book Prize.
Past Affiliations: Princeton University, M.F.A. Program at Vermont College.
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