Q: How long have you worked at Millersville University?
A: I’ve been here since 1998.
Q: What other schools have you taught at, and what did you teach there?
A: As a graduate teaching assistant, I taught at Binghamton University (creative writing) and the University of Rhode Island (composition, technical writing, British Literature 1798 – present and American Literature 1865 – present). As an adjunct professor, I taught at Kean University in New Jersey (composition, creative writing and World Literature) and Berkeley College of Business (composition and business writing).
Q: What was/is the most challenging course for you to teach?
A: Creative writing, without a doubt! Students’ interests and levels of experience are wildly variable, and it’s always a challenge to keep the whole class interested and provide helpful feedback to everyone.
Q: Who is your favorite music group?
A: Rush. They were my favorite when I was in high school, and they’re my favorite now. In between, I’ve had a bunch of other favorites. But Rush has managed to stay in the business for more than 30 years, always to strive to be better than they were before and to learn how to make fun of themselves. That’s a rare combination.
Q: How do you generally spend your summers?
A: I spend time with my children and I write. I write as much as I can. This summer I’ll be working on the first draft of a new novel. I’ll set a goal of at least 2,000 words a day until the draft is done.
Q: Describe a college experience that is most memorable to you.
A: It’s hard to pick just one. I do recall being completely blown away during my first couple of months in college by the fact that people took books and ideas so seriously that they might devote their lives to such things. I decided then and there that I had to try to become a college professor myself.
Q: Students sometimes feel forced to like particular authors because they are so well-known, such as Shakespeare. Are there any writers that you just never got into in college, but picked up later in life and enjoyed?
A: That’s a great question! In college I never liked Emily Dickinson or Ralph Waldo Emerson, but later I came to appreciate how original and influential they both are. In my philosophy classes, I never liked Hegel, but I’ve lately come to appreciate the magnitude of what he tried to do.
Q: What is some advice you give to your creative writing students who are caught up in the standards they were given in school, such the idea that all poetry does not have to rhyme, and all essays do not have to be five paragraphs?
A: Rules and standards are not helpful if you can’t understand the logic behind them. If you’re simply following a rule without asking or understanding why it exists, perhaps you should do some deeper thinking—or some research—that might just lead you to abandon the rule or to decide that it’s only useful in certain limited circumstances.
Q: How many states have you been to in the US?
A; 34, I haven’t been to Alaska or Hawaii, and I’ve missed most of the midwestern plains states and the Pacific northwest.