WriterHouse

Meet Our Instructors

Deborah PrumWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I began my writing career at seven, pecking out stories on my mom's Royal typewriter.  All my plots were the same: Some disaster (plane crash, rampant disease, ravaging insects) took the lives of parents and other authority figures.  Consequently, the kids had to collect wild berries and skin rabbits to make clothing.  Without exception, by the end of each tale, the sturdy little survivors had created a utopia and lived blissfully ever after.  Unfortunately, it never occurred to my parents to call a child therapist.  

 

What's your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

Regardless the subject matter of any class I teach, my hope is to help you identify your writing goals and help you figure out how to implement them. That process includes learning how to generate, recognize, respect and nurture your ideas, as well as spending the time and effort to hone your craft.

 

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?

Owen Meany.  He is short and blessed with a raspy voice, just like me.

Rafael RichardsonWhen did you first feel like a writer?

1) The idea of "feeling like a writer" is, to me, entirely contingent on having written for a considerable duration of time on any given day. I don't think I could ever imagine it as being the same as holding certificates for scuba diving or flying Cessnas. 

What is your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

2) I hate the knee-jerk "writing can't be taught" adage. It can be learned, so why not taught? I'll concede that no single instructor holds every last necessary lesson for any single student, but if you put yourself in environments where writing is being discussed thoughtfully, you're sure to pick up some useful knowledge from people with experience. I've always thought of my responsibility as being to highlight good habits and point out bad ones.

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?

3) There's this character named Bill Houston who is at the center of one of Denis Johnson's novels (Angels) and at the periphery of another (Tree of Smoke). His life is one I couldn't lead, a real shoot-from-the-hip kind of existence. Drugs, alcohol, adventure, war. I'm too neurotic to just act and accept whatever happens next. His way results in a lot more tragedy ultimately, but it makes someone like me question whether I'm living enough.

Jeff KleinmanWhen did you first feel like a writer?

 

What is your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?

 

Jeanne Siler.jpgWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I first felt like a writer when my byline hit the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch; I was working as a stringer for the paper while in college in Williamsburg.

What's your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

Teachers of writing can only be guides and cheerleaders—writers teach themselves to write by writing.

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?

I would be delighted to meet Pippi Longstocking. Her zest for life, her curiosity and her energy inspired me years ago to become a “thing-finder.”

Amie WhittemoreWhen did you first feel like a writer?

Though I loved books from an early age, it wasn't until high school that my love of reading expanded to writing. Unpoetic but true, I began writing poems as part of a ninth grade English assignment and found I couldn't stop. However, it wasn't until graduate school that I felt like a writer—or a poet, more specifically. Being immersed in MFA culture was the first time that "being a poet" became part of who I was publicly. And, though it felt like a too-large dress the first few times I tried on the phrase, "I'm a poet," the more I did so, the more "being a poet" became my favorite outfit. In fact, I don't think I ever take it off.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Amie Whittemore

Joan MazzaWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I first felt like a writer as a young person, keeping a journal and writing out my feelings starting when I was twelve. Writing has been a source of self-understanding and exploration my whole life. I really felt like a writer when my first book was published in 1998.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Joan Mazza

Kyle DarganWhen did you first feel like a writer?

Well, being a writer is more of an approach to living than an identity for me. I actually don't like being introduced as a writer because it is often done in a manner that suggests I am different—significantly different—than other people because I write. Now, when did I first feel like I was beginning to live in the manner of one who writes? High school. That is when I first realized there was—to use a Thundercats reference—"sight beyond sight." Looking out on my environment of Newark, New Jersey, I saw what it expected of kids like me and I found myself contrasting that with how I felt and foresaw we could realize ourselves. Writing, at first, was an attempt to enter and articulate that strange interstitial space between those differing visions. Actually, that is what so much of my writing still obsesses over—the space between the assumed apparent and the relatively absurd, the tragic and the ironic, et cetera.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Kyle Dargan

doug nordfors newWhen 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.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Douglas Nordfors

Andrew MartinWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I started writing soon after I learned to read, and starting worrying about what I wrote not long after that. For me, that's what feeling like a writer is about—knowing that the choices you make on the page are going to have consequences for someone reading your work. Once I realized I could make my third grade class laugh, or, more importantly, make my younger sister cry, I felt like a writer.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Andrew Martin

Anne Marie PaceWhen did you first feel like a writer?

When I was in first grade, I wrote and illustrated a story about a boy on a sled, and I realized how much fun writing could be. That story, extensively revised, is actually coming out as a picture book from Henry Holt in 2016—without my illustrations. I am definitely a writer, NOT an illustrator.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Anne Marie Pace

Edward MWhen did you first feel like a writer?

Approaching the completion of my first novel. I couldn't bear to wait any longer to see how the book would turn out. I burned a week of (very precious) vacation time from the day job to speed the novel to its end. Every night that week I stayed up—however late it took—to finish a chapter. Every morning that week—often only a few hours after I'd turned in—I woke to the clatter of the dot-matrix printer, as my wife wouldn't wait to read what I'd just finished.

And then there was the day an editor called to make an offer on that book...

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Edward M. Lerner

Jay Varner SQ When did you first feel like a writer?

It was the first time I was published.  In college, I had taped all the rejection slips--dozens of them--to the wall by my computer.  And then a letter arrived that said the editors liked my little essay.  I'd always thought of myself as a writer, but this was the first time someone else agreed.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Jay Varner

When did you first feel like a writer?

Sharron Singleton SQI don't remember when I DIDN'T feel like a writer. That doesn't mean I've always written. It was not particularly acceptable when I was growing up in a small farming community in Michigan. It wasn't a sensible life plan, women especially didn't do it and one surely couldn't make a living at it. Nevertheless it was what I wanted to do. After many years of doing other things I came back to poetry later in life and finally feel like I found my vocation.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Sharron Singleton

Carl Rollyson SQWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I first felt like a writer when I began interviewing people for my first biography and realized it was the process of writing itself and of understanding other lives that I found more fascinating than any other work I had attempted.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Carl Rollyson

Michelle BrafmanWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I experienced my first inkling that I was a writer when I was working as a documentary producer. After an interview, I'd muse about what my subjects had repeated too often or what their silences revealed, and then I'd come home and write what I imagined to be their truths. It took me years to write a full story, though.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Michelle Brafman

Clifford Garstang SQWhen did you first feel like a writer?

For the longest time after I quit my job in order to write fiction full time, I still introduced myself by my former profession (I practiced law). But after I’d published a few stories in magazines I was finally able to say, “I’m a writer,” although I almost always included a verbal footnote (“but I used to practice law”). It was only when my first book was published that I was able to drop the footnote and really feel like a writer.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Clifford Garstang

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