Nick Ripatrazone '03
How has your passion for writing spilled over into teaching?
I hope to show students that writing can be a charged, daily ritual—something that becomes innate, natural and necessary. Students respond best to creative writing teachers who live what they preach, so while I don't stand in front of class and recite my publications, I do talk about process, how I discovered and submit to literary magazines and my participation in the literary community. I try to channel the competitive drive to create the best work possible, to get students to recognize the possibilities for their own creations.
Do you see the teaching styles of the faculty at SU in your classroom today?
Absolutely. I learned to refine my sense of workshop by reflecting on how they were run by Tom and Gary. Each professor has his own style, and each classroom has its own dynamic, but I've managed a synthesis of their approaches that has worked for my students. The focus at SU, and in my own classroom, is dual: becoming a better writer, but helping others achieve that end too. Any sense of competition was a healthy and organic one. I try to cultivate that sense of community in my own classroom.
What is one piece of advice you would give the students in the creative writing program that you wish you would have received/ did receive?
The single best piece of advice was from Tom, who said "worry isn't work." I'd written him a long email as a second-semester freshman, and his response was simple: I could worry my literary life away, but that wasn't going to accomplish anything. I just had to write. Tom was like a good coach, someone who knew when to push but also when to pull back and praise. He's helped me achieve a paradoxical moderation: I'm a very driven writer, but I also recognize that writing is only one facet of life. Some days it is more important to mow the lawn than write.
What does it mean to you to have been a part of Susquehanna’s Creative Writing program?
The SU program is a community of skilled writers and teachers, with a level equaling graduate programs. It's a unique place. We learned from working writers, editors, and scholars, so we had perfect models to emulate. Our teachers were well-known, but they were humble in the classroom, and worked hard for us. That's a difficult balance to strike. I became friends with students who are now experiencing wonderful success in writing and teaching, and met or have been in contact with more students who started the program after I'd left. I've taught students who attended and thrived in the SU program. It's more than just a program—it's a way of thinking about writing, art and life.