On the first day of kindergarten, I walked shyly into the vast, sunny classroom with its black and white checkboard floor and I discovered a fantastic, unexpected holding space for creativity, kindness, and learning. Immediately, I knew I’d be a teacher. At home in the afternoons, I spent my time inventing rigorous courses of study and a firm but loving persona, revered by the full array of stuffed animals.
I began my real-world teaching career as a day camp counselor, where we created our own board games (great training for plotting stories). I worked as a swimming instructor, teaching infants through elders how to safely and happily engage with water. When I started out as a major in Elementary Education in college, I dreamed of opening an alternative school with a mission for serving over-looked and misunderstood learners (see also: save yourself).
With a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, Fiction, from Florida State University, where I won a teaching award, I’ve been leading creative writing workshops—short story, linked stories, poetry, flash fiction, micro-memoir, hybrid and experimental writing, children’s books, the middle grade novel, poetry, prosody, memoir, and the researched long-form essay—for thirty years.
At the University of South Florida, I teach a wide range of courses in the undergraduate creative writing program, including poetry, micro-memoir, and writing for middle grade readers. I mentor Honors students and serve on numerous Honors thesis committees. I teach an online course, the Form and Technique of Poetry, which opens with rap and spoken word, and introduces students to sonnets, pantoums, ghazals and free verse. The techniques presented in this course—close observation, concision, and powerful language choices—transfer extremely well to other genres and real-world writing situations.
In the MFA program at the University of South Florida, I lead workshops in memoir, the essay, poetry and prosody. We also offer a creative writing pedagogy practicum in our department and in this course, I guide students through the process of designing a course, assembling a meaningful syllabus, and creating a professional digital teaching portfolio. Three of these students have been nominated for University of South Florida graduate student teaching awards.
Throughout the year, I teach creativity workshops for writers at any stage in their process at Kripalu, Esalen, and The Sun. In these courses, we focus on developing a healthy, productive writing practice and how to create work that attracts readers (rather than scaring them away.)