I think creative writing programs can play a pivotal role in sustaining our literary culture in the 21st century and beyond. In their current manifestation, they are conceived of as laboratories in which new writers are cultivated. “Success” is defined as becoming a writer, someone who publishes books, but I think the time has come to broaden that definition of what constitutes accomplishment to include what I call literary citizenship. I first heard the term here, and since then, I’ve tried to promote and reinforce it in my teaching. Ultimately, this is why I teach creative writing: not just to create more writers, per se, but to create a populace that values reading and writing, whatever form it takes.
Over the years, I’ve developed a pedagogical and philosophical approach to teaching both workshop and literature courses that’s somewhat akin to the medical maxim to “First Do No Harm.” I practice what you might call “artistic non-malfeasance.” I privilege diversity, but of a different sort: aesthetic diversity. This approach is grounded in my belief that every apprentice writer is innately, congenitally, and cognitively who she is. My job as a teacher and a creator of curriculum is to facilitate, to help my students discover and determine their own predilections and preferences in terms of aesthetic, form, and even genre.
Cathy has held teaching positions at the University of Alabama, Minnesota State University-Mankato, The College of New Jersey, and the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, she lives in Indiana and teaches at Ball State University. She’s taught many students over the years, and she supports their continued efforts to create literary lives by maintaining a list of their blogs and websites. Find out more about Cathy’s teaching by following the links below.