Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Greetings! The fall semester is underway and MFA classes are in full swing. This semester, I’m running the “Learning to Teach” course with students in their final year, many of whom will go on to lead their own creative classes and workshops. One of the big questions we’re exploring is what, exactly, makes a good creative writing teacher. Expert editing advice? Creative inspiration? Personal support? I’ll be addressing that question, among others, when I give a public talk in early October for the Bay Path community as part of the annual “Got a Minute?” lecture series.

Named in honor of late professor Dick Briotta, whose eponymous signature phrase became legendary (the “minute” usually became an hour or so), the lectures celebrate the intellectual diversity and range of Bay Path faculty. The title of my talk? “Why Creative Writing Makes You a Better Person.”

Yes, I’m putting it right out there. The art of creative writing, when practiced properly, not only leads to better prose but also to heightened empathy, compassion, and awareness on the part of the writer. This is not just my own conviction; scientific studies prove it. Stay tuned – the lecture will be taped and made available as a podcast. Next time, when a well-meaning relative at a holiday party wants to know why on earth you’re writing a memoir instead of, say, a TV pilot about zombies on spring break (all respect to zombies), you’ll have your answer ready.

In addition to the podcast, I’ll be hosting a lunchtime webinar interview with MFA faculty member and Ireland seminar co-leader Tommy Shea on Tuesday October 3, from noon – 1 p.m. Free and open to the public, “Hot Topics in Creative Nonfiction: How to Make Real People Real on the Page,” will draw on Tommy’s 35+ year career as a reporter and columnist for Springfield newspapers and as a book author researching the real people behind baseball legends. Tommy will be taking your questions during the last 20 minutes; bring yours and join us!

I’m also looking forward to our 16th Writers’ Day on October 15. A lively afternoon of talks, panels, and interactive workshops, this Writers’ Day features memoirist Patricia Reis in a talk about mining the personal in nonfiction; poet and performer Charles Coe, who will share tips on reading in public; and writers Elizabeth Searle, Ellen Meeropol, and MFA grad Meredith O’Brien ’17, discussing how they drew from current events to write their most recent books.

And please join me in welcoming the newest addition to our MFA faculty, prolific author Sophfronia Scott, whose work and teaching was featured in our August 23 blog post. Read more about Sophfronia here.

Speaking of reading, what’s on your fall book list? I’ve been dazzled by Roxane Gay’s Hunger, Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, and Paul Lisicky’s The Narrow Door. Next up: The Mother of All Questions, an essay collection coming in October by the brilliant Rebecca Solnit. Let me know what’s in your book queue! Drop me a line at