Meet Our Instructors
When did you first feel like a writer?
I'd like to say that it was when I was 5 or 6 years old, and I accompanied my mother, who was a poet, to a radio station in Seattle, where she gave a poetry reading. But I was far too engaged in the fact she was a writer to even begin to think of myself as a future one, though I certainly did feel some sense of mental connection with her even at that young age. I'm pretty sure it was much, much later, when I was a freshman at Columbia University, and I would spend hours deep underground in the stacks of Butler Library reading sample after sample from the big contemporary American poetry section. It was so peaceful down there, and the slim books seemed to be fully lit with significance in the half-dark. I just wanted to try to belong to all that in some small way.
What's your philosophy about teaching a writing class?
As I suggest above, reading comes first, then writing, and so my philosophy is that I try to apply my love for reading and (hopefully) acumen as a reader to any work presented in a writing workshop. To me, love for reading means appreciating a wide range of styles and material, and acumen as a reader means having some insight into what a writer is sensitive to, and what he or she aims to accomplish. Putting all that together, I would say that as a teacher of writing, I see myself as part of a community of writers, rather than as a separate person who wishes to impose his individual sense of things on others.
If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I'd like to meet Mrs. Ramsay from Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." The reason is not so I could see and feel the actual person captured in unbelievably rich language (which implies that the actual is superior to the literary), but so I could somehow go through somewhat the same process Woolf did: see and feel the actual character (who was based on her mother) before reading the novel again and re-experiencing (in a new way, perhaps?) Mrs. Ramsay transformed into unbelievably rich language. Well, I'm not sure all this makes much sense, but I'm almost certain that lovers of literature will understand!