I came to the study of English in a roundabout way. My undergraduate degree from Northwestern is in economics. I attended law school for a year before going to Boston University for an M.A. in creative writing. I then earned a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Washington University in St. Louis before coming to "K" in 1999.
I think of teaching as providing useful structures in which students can do their own thinking and writing. These structures vary from class to class. When I'm teaching creative writing, these structures can be the model stories and poems we analyze which will suggest ways of approaching our own writing. I also like to highlight the various apparently contradictory aspects of the writing process: how a writer must work from her conscious mind as well as her unconscious mind; how a writer must be both meticulous and freewheeling, a diamond-cutter and a tornado, etc. By highlighting these and other aspects of the process, I hope I get students to see a context for their own creative struggles. Finally, in classroom discussion I try to provide a framework of issues within which the class can have a conversation. I think this approach works best when students leave the classroom not with a set of rules for writing but with a set of things to consider as they construct a text. Providing a framework of issues also guides the way I teach literature. The difference is in the type of issues we look at. In a literature course, we will often look at the social, historical and literary contexts of a work. Class discussions are designed to be a conversation within these parameters.
Though I have published critical work on Joseph Conrad, my research focus is on writing fiction. I have published short stories in literary magazines including Tin House, Fence, Alaska Quarterly Review, Mississippi Review, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. I have written Joseph Conrad and the Art of Sacrifice (Routledge, 2001) and The Women Were Leaving the Men (Wayne State UP, 2007), a collection of short stories.