Teaching

Teaching

Since 1986, I’ve taught a variety of courses and workshops in a variety of places.

Currently, at Converse College, I teach

  • Creative Nonfiction. Responsibilities include:
    • teaching and facilitating daily workshops during residencies,
    • delivering a Craft Lecture,
    • giving a reading,
    • and working individually with students to improve their writing and create semester plans.
    • I also serve on Selection Committee for C. Michael Curtis Editing Internship.

At Radford University, I taught  the following:

  • Core 103—A comprehensive Freshmen Honors course that focused on developing students’ skills in writing, researching, and public speaking.
  • American Literature—A survey of classics and contemporary works by American authors, all tied to a course theme of “Liberty, Community, and the American Dream.”
  • Creative Nonfiction—A writing course focusing on the diverse forms of this genre and how to make art from our lives and the world around us.
  • The Study of Fiction—A course exploring what makes a good story, by analyzing the many elements of fiction while reading a diversity of examples.
  • Freshmen Composition and Research Writing—The “standards” where students build on previous knowledge to write both personal and academic/researched essays.

What Others Say about a School Visit:

Kathy Mangan, McDaniel College: “I wish every academic week had an inspiring poet plugged into the middle of it! You were wonderful and giving with both the audience at the poetry reading and the students in the class. Your visit to McDaniel was—on all fronts—a rousing success.”

Workshops

Topics that I’ve taught in writing workshops or craft lectures include the following:

  • Playing with Words: How to create fresh metaphors to improve writing. (All genres).
  • Finding Authentic Voices for Characters (fiction, primarily, but other genres, too).
  • Playing with Time: How prose writers manipulate time at all levels.
  • Truth, Lies and Form, or How Creative is CNF?
  • How to Respond to Other’s Writing
  • Op-Eds: How-to and Why

Places where I’ve taught workshops:

  • University of Virginia’s Central Virginia Writing Project (Visiting Writer)
  • West Virginia Writers Conference
  • Hindman Settlement School’s Appalachian Writers Workshop
  • Virginia’s Governor’s School for the Arts
  • Table Rock Writers Retreat
  • Tennessee Mountain Writers
  • Virginia Highlands Festival
  • Blacksburg Home-School Association
  • Radford University’s Highland Summer Conference
  • Mt. Rogers Naturalist Rally
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Alabama’s Writers Conclave
  • Lincoln Memorial University
  • Appalachian State University
  • WriterHouse, Charlottesville, VA
  • Southwest Virginia Community College
  • Roanoke Regional Writers at Hollins University
  • Appalachian Writing Project, UVA-Wise
  • Pearl Buck Homestead Museum
  • Tennessee Humanities Council’s Appalachian Young Writers Workshop at Lincoln Memorial University (7-day workshop)
  • Writing in Place Conference, Wofford University
  • Christopher Newport University
  • Thomas More College
  • High Country Literary Festival, Boone, NC

In addition, I’ve taught or lectured on many other topics related to the craft of writing, sustainable food and forestry, blueberries, and Appalachian Literature.

Recent Posts

Next Big Thing Blog Hop

“The Next Big Thing” is a blog hop where writers around the world share what they’re working on by responding to ten questions. Thanks to Denton Loving who invited me to the game. You can read his post at http://www.facebook.com/notes/denton-loving/my-next-big-thing-interview/ I’m tagging Frank X Walker, Abigail DeWitt, Dana Wildsmith, Neil Sagebiel, and Jane Sasser. We’ll see their answers next week.

What is your working title of your book?
Fire Is Your Water, which is a line from a Rumi poem. The full line and epigraph of this novel is “If you are a friend of God, fire is your water.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My great-grandmother, Ida Franklin Minick, was a healer. When the family barn burned in the early 1950s, she, her daughter-in-law (my grandmother Sarah), and my uncle were the only ones home. The three of them ran into the blazing building and saved all of the animals. In the process, my grandmother severely burned her hands. Afterward, though, Ida did not heal Sarah’s hands; another relative was called in to do that. The why behind this has fascinated me for much of my life. Was Ida too shocked by the fire? What happened to her in the burning building that she could not heal? Or put another way, who heals the healer?
And then later, this question emerged: What happens when the healer, a devotedly religious person, falls in love with a non-religious person? These two questions drive this novel.

What genre does your book fall under?
Novel/Literary Fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Since this takes place in the early 1950s, let’s just make this Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. They always had some amazing sparks in the movies they made together.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
How fire transforms people.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I plan to send it to my agent, Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Services. Hopefully she’ll find it a home.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first complete draft took roughly 1-2 years; I’m working on the eighth draft right now. I’ve been working on this book (interspersed w/ other books) for over a dozen years. First, I thought it would be nonfiction, but eventually I saw the need to combine several family stories that cover four generations and thirty years. To do so required the use of fiction. Since this is my first foray into this genre, I had a lot to learn in the process. But that’s the whole point, the process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It’s easier to call up writers who have influenced me. These include Cormac McCarthy, Ron Rash, Jeannette Walls, and John Casey, along with Darnell Arnoult, Fred Chappell, and James Galvin. Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible has also been a touchstone.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It’s impossible to really answer this question—do you start w/ all of the teachers who nurtured you along the way, including your parents and sis who taught you to read, your grandparents who gave you room to roam—or your wife who has read every page with a sharper eye than many editors? And don’t forget about the giant oak you touch every morning or the hoarse crow you listen for every afternoon. Or do you count up all of the many books and writers who have shaped you over the years, from Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, and Jim Wayne Miller to Thoreau, Abbey, Dickinson, to my favorite contemporary poets, Thorpe Moeckel and Maurice Manning. And I’m sure I’ve missed many others here. Or really, do you focus inward and realize that you can’t not write? To do so is insanity, and so the inspiration comes from a deep need to every day touch a little of that universal peace that resides in all of us.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Cicero, the talking raven, will bite you if you don’t watch out. Because the verb to raven means to hunger.

Coming up next week, five writers (Frank X Walker, Dana Wildsmith, Neil Sagebiel, Abigail DeWitt, and Jane Sasser) will share their projects. They’ll post their responses next Wednesday and tag some new people.

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