Writer in Residence position fills long-held creative writing void

Despite substantial student interest in creative writing there is no full time, tenure-track professor in that field at New College. The Writer in Residence program has been the sole academic creative writing opportunity at the school. The program hires a published writer to teach creative writing classes and hold workshops on campus each spring semester. Now in its 14th year, it has welcomed 12 writers ranging from poets to novelists.

Established in 2001, the program was deemed a good first step in the direction of a full-fledged creative writing program. Like many others, Professor of Art History Malena Carrasco and Provost Stephen Miles, who were among the first to suggest the Writer in Residence program, hoped that before long the school would provide full time creative writing faculty.

The search for a Writer in Residence begins in late fall with a committee usually comprised of three professors from the Division of Humanities. In addition to submitting usual application materials such as a writing sample and curriculum vitae, applicants must submit a course proposal for an introductory multi-genre course as well as an advanced course in their area of specialty. The Writer in Residence is offered a salary totaling $22,750 before taxes for the semester. Lodging and benefits are not included.

This academic year there were 23 applicants. The committee tries to alternate between poetry and fiction every few years to accommodate varying student interest. Current Writer-in-Residence Michael Tod Edgerton marks the third consecutive year a poet has been selected for the position.

Professor of English Andrea Dimino, chair of the most recent search committee, explained that in addition to the strength of applicants’ course proposals, experience is also taken into consideration.

“The Writer in Residence should have extensive knowledge of the practical aspects of being a writer – how you deal with literary magazines, agents, editors and publishers,” Dimino said. “New College students need to know what a writer’s life is like.”

Preferred applicants would have an MFA, MA or equivalent degree and at least two years experience teaching creative writing at the college level.

“[We look for] exciting writing, exciting teaching and a personality that will go well with the people here,” Professor of English Margaret Konkol said. Konkol, although not an official committee member for the most recent search, served as an invaluable poetry consultant.

The Writer in Residence position has historically only been open in the Spring semester, however, moving forward, there has been talk of offering a yearlong position.

“It was an excellent thing for us to allocate money for the Writer in Residence program,” Dimino said. “Every good school in the country has creative writing. Now it’s time for us to expand the position to the usual length, a full year. If we had a yearlong position our applicant pool would be, without question, substantially bigger than it is now.”

Dimino envisions two tenure-track creative writing professors in addition to a rotating visiting writer each year.

“There is so much interest in creative writing at New College […] Our students deserve a first-rate program,” Dimino added. “Student demand is absolutely enormous, and it’s not just because people like to write. They know that they’ll learn to think in new ways and that all the skills they gain will be valuable for their education as a whole.”

The committee would eventually like to bring in a playwright to satisfy student demand for theater. Lodging for the Writer in Residence is also up for discussion; given the slim time frame between the hiring process and the start of the Spring semester, finding housing is often a struggle and may even make the position less appealing to potential applicants since many other schools provide lodging for a similar position.

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