Meet Our Instructors

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

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

Don Fry newWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I became a writer at 8, when my 2nd grade teacher read my first poem to her class.

What's your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

I collect writing techniques from participants, and recycle them for other participants.

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

I would like to talk with perhaps-fictional Caedmon, the first English poet, about inspiration in dreams.

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

Deborah Prum SQWhen 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.  

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Deborah Prum

John Most colorWhen did you first feel like a writer?

When I was a little boy, my mom bought me a journal. That was the first time that I felt like a writer.

What's your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

First, I always adjust the class based upon the students in the class. Second, I always create a relaxed environment. Third, together, we, as poets, try to help each other improve.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: John Most

Jane FriedmanWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I shall immediately become too philosophical about this question (so forgive me), but as children, I think we're very ready to think of  ourselves as writers (or artists or creative beings), but as we get older, we acquire some real angst and status anxiety about it. I am grateful to have never dealt with such challenges, and perhaps I have my parents to thank for that. That aside, though: faking it is a pretty good way of making it at any endeavor.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Jane Friedman

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

Erika MeitnerWhen did you first feel like a writer?

Is it wrong to say that I often still feel like an imposter-writer, except for the days when I'm sitting in my car in the Food Lion parking lot and suddenly have the urge to start madly jotting down an idea from two days before that I thought had vanished or an observation about the wind chimes on sale outside the store hanging next to wilted baskets of trailing pansies and the way they sound like ethereal martians or cliché versions of heaven (at the Food Lion!) or something from the radio that seems suddenly critical and un-ignorable so I whip out my very, very small notebook or the back of a receipt and dig around for a nearly dead ballpoint? Which is to say that I first feel like a writer each and every time I actually find myself writing.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Erika Meitner

Chloe BenjaminWhen did you first feel like a writer?

I've felt like a writer since I was a kid, but only recently, with the publication of my novel, did I begin to feel like a professional, capital-w Writer—though that label still seems ambitious! Like most writers (and a lot of Writers), I have a day job, and when people ask me what I do, career-wise, I have a brief moment of uncertainty: what do I do? Hopefully, I'll always be a Writer, but whether I feel like one is probably something that will fluctuate throughout the course of my career.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Chloe Benjamin

Bella Stander SQWhat do you like most about helping authors promote their books?

Authors are so close to their work that often they can't step back and look at the big picture: what they're trying to accomplish with their book and how it fits into their writing career. I like to help them figure that out, define what makes their books special and devise creative ways to connect with their readers.


Read more: Meet the Instructor: Bella Stander

Michael Cordell SQ

When did you first feel like a writer?

In fourth grade when my teacher read a poem I had written about pollution (I’m fairly sure I came out against it) and she said I should submit it to “Weekly Reader”. From time to time ever since, I’ve had bits of encouraging things said about my writing.

What's your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

I simply share my thoughts, experiences and philosophy about writing for Hollywood, and students can pick out those things that ring true to them. I’ve had a modicum of success writing screenplays (my goal is to one day have two modicum) and so I think some of the things I say should at least be considered. I also believe, though, that there is no one right way to write, so at no time do I try to say “this is how you have to do it.”

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

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Michael Cordell

Sharon HarriganWhen did you first feel like a writer?

When I was fourteen I took my first writing class, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I befriended a seventy-something woman who knew Gertrude Stein in Paris in the twenties, a graduate student who later became an editor at The New Yorker, a carpenter-poet, a nurse-poet, and a smattering of teacher-writers. I'd finally found my tribe.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Sharon Harrigan

Brendan Wolfe NewWhen did you first feel like a writer?

November 12, 1999, at 4:45 p.m. More or less. I was sprawled out on the couch in my friend-slash-landlord's basement, mowing on Doritos (we said that then) and self-importantly shouting out questions to Jeopardy! answers, when the phone rang. It was the editor Lee Gutkind, and he wanted to accept for publication an essay I had submitted to his magazine at least a year previously and which, in a fit of pique, I had since deleted from my computer. Just a simple click of the mouse: Writing is for losers! He now needed me to send him a digital copy. And the confusion I felt in that moment—panic, self-loathing, pride—I have come to understand is what it means to be a writer.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Brendan Wolfe

Alison PenningWhen did you first feel like a writer?

When I was in third grade, there was a girl named Whitney in my ballet class. She had blonde hair, a big smile, and great rhythm. Her mom was one of those studio moms—the ones whose kids have perfect makeup and hair on ballet picture day. Probably Whitney was lovely; but for some reason, I hated her. I remember writing a story in which a little blonde girl bikes down a hill, hits a rock, and flies over the handlebars. She knocks out her two front teeth and, even though she puts them in milk, the teeth can't be repaired. The girl's smile is ruined. I called the story "Pitiful Whitney." It was my first taste of writing as power, and writing as catharsis. It's probably not a great idea to write revenge stories; but my jealousy got the pencil in my hand, and I'm grateful for that.

Read more: Meet the Instructor: Alison Penning

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

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