Assistant Professor of English
BA, English, University of Missouri-Columbia
MA English, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro
What made you decide to specialize in writing?
I always wrote and loved doing it, but it was mostly a hobby. When it came time to go to college, I thought about what I enjoyed and liked, and because I had spent my last two years of high school working for my hometown newspaper and really enjoyed the work, I settled on journalism because I could make money writing. That’s also why I settled on the University of Missouri for my bachelor’s degree. During my second year in college, though, I took a creative writing elective, and I suddenly realized that was what I really wanted to do, money or not. When I began teaching, I found I didn’t particularly like teaching literature, but I really loved teaching writing, so I began to specialize more and more toward composition and rhetoric, then, eventually, technical/professional writing.
What was your favorite course in college and why?
As an undergraduate, my American history class, Themes in American History, taught by Jackson Lears. I minored in history because I’m endlessly fascinated by the story of humans interacting with their world and each other – both good and bad. It’s good training for a writer, after all, to know how we get to be who we are as a people and culture. I loved the class because it wasn’t the endless marching of names and dates that history courses can so easily become. Instead, we looked at major cultural movements in American history and their impact on Americans today. I learned a lot about how to connect dots and see bigger pictures, how to look deeper at material and ideas. I loved the class so much, I bought Dr. Lears’ book, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture 1880-1920 to learn more, and I still read him.
What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
I love seeing that moment when a student who didn’t realize they really could be good at writing sees that they really can.
What advice would you give current students or prospective students?
Choose your major and your path not because of what it will pay you but because you genuinely love it.
What would you say to a student interested in pursuing a career in writing?
Be well-rounded. While many who want to be writers gravitate to creative writing because it’s what they usually want to do, it’s always a good idea to think about how you’re going to pay the bills until you become the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, or whomever you wish to be. The ability to do even contract work in the technical writing field can keep the electricity on to run the computer you use to write. Mostly, though, just do it – every single day, even if what you produce turns out to not be what you want. The more you do it, the better you get. You also need to develop a thick skin. Readers don’t always like what you wrote, but you need to hear their responses to it and think about how you can better reach them next time.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Reading, writing, cooking, kayaking, sitting on my deck staring at the river.