1) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I know exactly when. On Saturday, June 16, 2007, as an airport shuttle delivered me from Columbus, Ohio, to Kenyon College in Gambier. Until then, I’d written well and a lot, in school and as a teacher. But I’d resisted “being a writer.” The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop greeted my shuttle with a banner: “Welcome, Writers!” It caused a resounding ping of recognition. I already was a writer, and I wanted to become a stronger one.
2) What do you love most about the writing process?
I love how a complete work hides everything that went into it: thoughts knocking around my head, early words scribbled on paper or caught by a voice memo, multiple drafts, new shapes and tones, innumerable revisions, read-aloud sessions, feedback from trusted readers, relentless editing. When a complete piece is online or in print, I love how it rests atop an invisible heap of ideas, choices, and discoveries.
3) What do you love most about teaching writing?
I have been teaching, tutoring, and editing for 20 years. Most of my interactions have been with students and clients for whom writing is not the number-one goal, but rather a means to an end. I’ve enjoyed it all, because I believe so fiercely in the transformative power of writing. But what I love most is teaching those who experience writing as an inescapable part of life. John Updike said, “Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.” I care about writing better, and when my students care about writing better, we elevate our activity to something that has both high stakes and high enjoyment.
4) What are you reading right now?
I’m re-reading Wreckage: My Father’s Legacy of Art & Junk, by Sascha Feinstein, who was one of my MFA mentors at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
5) What’s your favorite writing quote?
“It’s a privilege to muck about in sentences all morning.” —Annie Dillard