As you may know, I am on the faculty at Western Colorado University, in the Graduate Creative Writing Program. For the last four years I have coached grad student creative writers (poets, genre novelists, and now screenwriters) on Public Performance presentation skills during the department’s summer intensive in beautiful Gunnison, CO.
Each year I have been impressed with the quality of the writing across the genres, and also with the willingness of each student to open up to my coaching, which I’ve designed to help typically introverted writers to embrace public performance of their own works. After all, a good reading can help sell books! And it’s very important to all of us on the faculty that we are preparing our writers to succeed in the real world.
My group of students for 2019 was terrific–and more diverse than ever. In addition to coaching the third year MFA students extensively (all of whom must give a public reading of 15-20 minutes from their work), I also held a session with the second year genre fiction class, and conducted a number of sessions with the first year poetry group. The improvements in each case were palpable to all in the room. As is typical, some students took small but tangible steps toward comfort in public performance, and others seized the opportunity full on and ended up delivering truly exciting readings.
My congratulations to all my students. Well done! Here’s a picture of me with the 2019 MFA/MA graduating class. I can’t wait to hear more from all of you. If you’re a writer looking to hone your skills, you should check out the excellent program we have at WCU and join us. It’s a low-residency program with a great in-person summer residency each year. I’d love to see you there!
This was my second year as a member of the graduate creative writing faculty at Western State Colorado University, in Gunnison, Colorado. I was first hired in 2016 by my Harvard classmate David Rothman, head of the program and of the poetry concentration, to teach a summer intensive on presentation skills to second-year grad student poets. Once I got there and the genre novelists heard about the work I was doing, they asked me for some sessions, as well. This year, we baked that into my teaching schedule. So I had a handful of morning sessions with five delightful and talented genre fiction writers, all of whom were seeking coaching for their final pre-graduation presentations. And in the afternoons, I taught my 8-session summer intensive “Poetry in Performance,” coaching three extremely talented poets.
This photo is of me with the 2017 graduating genre fiction novelists after their final presentations: from left, Kaleb Erickson, their wonderful writing instructor for this year, Candace Nadon, and Carla Mercado on my left. In the back: Vincent Harper, Marissa Harwood, and Ketura Barchers.
And in this picture, talented composer Justus (Jay) Perrotta (L) joins me in congratulating my three poets Ellen Metrick, Brian Calvert, and Brian Palmer, after their final 25-minute presentations. Jay has interest in setting some of the poems he heard to music. All three poets knocked it out of the park, and brought tears to many audience members’ eyes–including mine.
Well done, all! You did me proud, and I look forward to seeing and hearing more of your work.