Writers tend to work with one specific style or genre, yet study many different kinds. Students in the Creative Writing program are required to take a variety of literature classes and workshops to broaden their skills and deepen their understanding of writing. At a faculty reading event this past March, each Creative Writing professor read an excerpted or short work and represented all varieties of fiction, including poetry and prose, as well as memoirs and essays of nonfiction. These forms of creative writing let the audience of mostly students listen to examples of genres with which they may or may not be familiar.
Associate Professor of English (Creative Writing), Sarah Braunstein, said it’s best to work with professors of all different kinds of writing. During the event, she read a passage from early in her new book that comes out next fall. After the reading, she explained the plot after this portion. “Like any good book, it all has to fall apart.”
Braunstein said that her new book was a challenge to write, but she is excited for its release this coming year. Her writing process involves the same cycles of drafts she assigns her students in class. The reading showed an inspiring culmination of countless drafts and revisions, which all workshop students experience in camaraderie.
Students have ample opportunities to learn from their professors’ expertise, but it is less common to encounter their work. Even more powerful was the fact that the authors read their own work.
A member of Mira Ptacin’s memoir writing class, Jade Ma `23, said she appreciated the variety showcased during the event: “I’m not an English major, but I loved diving into a new side of Colby and hearing so many different genres of storytelling.”
Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing, Adrian Blevins, suggested that maybe professors should read something from a different genre than what they teach and practice. There is a learning opportunity in every piece of writing, especially when a project lies outside the scope of a writer’s typical focus.
Creative Writing student Emma West said, “It was an incredibly full-circle moment to hear my W1 professor (who I have since taken three workshops with) read a piece of his. We are both reflecting on the end of our Colby careers and in the moment, it felt like we were taking that end on together.” At every point in a student’s writing career, these readings are a reminder that professors are practicing writers too.
Hearing from the many professors I’ve learned from in the widely talented department, I related to their brief introductions about process or intent. The comparison stops there, as I was purely impressed by their finished works.
There is only so much we can learn from our own writing and our limited life experience, but we can learn much more from the accomplished and approachable experts around us. There was an insane amount of knowledge in the room as teachers of craft and creativity read their work.
The value of creative writing is its emphasis on widely and wonderfully varied perspectives, which only stand to be enhanced by collaborative events.
~ Molly George `23