- Ph.D., Creative Writing and Literature, University of Houston
- MFA, Creative Writing, Texas State University
History of the novel, narrative theory, and the craft of fiction.
I enjoy teaching writing courses because they allow me to help foster community, a much-needed resource for writers. Writing is a solitary act, so being able to gather students who want to discuss their work and study the craft of fiction feels fulfilling in many ways. It inspires my own creative work, for one thing. For another, the process of writing fiction is a mysterious, highly complex act and I enjoy observing this complexity alongside students and discovering new craft insights together through discussion of each other’s work.
I am drawn to the creative writing itself for many reasons. One that I cite often comes in the form of a quote from Walter Wangerin, Jr.: “Story is experience communicated.” While other types of writing and communication have unique abilities of their own, story-writing and story-telling have the remarkable ability to communicate not only knowledge of a concept, but an experience of one. An experience of repentance, for instance, or of friendship and human need for connection. Best of all, it can offer us the experience of another person in a way that helps us understand and have compassion for that person.
In your opinion, what is the most important piece of advice you give your students to help them succeed?
For creative writing, I’d say my most important piece of advice is to investigate your own motivations. Try to avoid writing out of egotistical motivations and instead learn to be inspired by both the beauty of narrative and the beauty of the back-and-forth process we all go through in order to create narrative. If you’re writing because you like the romantic notions our culture sometimes attaches to writers – for instance, the notion that writers are unusually gifted people who toss exciting narratives onto a page every day – you will likely run out of steam at some point. You’ll better enjoy the fun parts of the process, have strength to endure the challenging parts of the process, and probably write better stories if you can somehow plug in to more eternal motivations: the beauty of a complex idea thoughtfully articulated, for instance, or the way that stories can connect us with other people.
Discussing a wide variety of fiction in class and attending readings and other cultural events are two of the ways I hope to encourage students to find specific aspects of fiction and the creative process that get them excited to write. If we can find and drink from our natural interests, we will probably worry less about whether or not we are succeeding at the craft and instead become engrossed in whatever story we are trying to tell.
- “A Fire to Make Things Right.” North American Review: Vol. 302.2, spring 2017
- “Vic’s Grocery Store.” The Greensboro Review: No. 100, fall 2016
- “Life Outside the Straw.” North Dakota Quarterly: Vol. 80.3, spring 2015
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When I’m not writing and teaching, I enjoy hiking, biking, attending live music and sports events, spending time with my nieces and nephews, and playing with my cat, Scout.