Writers Institute

Kim Tomaszewski '06

How did being a creative writing major lead you to being a minister?
Before attending Susquehanna I knew I wanted to be a minister, but I certainly wasn’t clear on what that meant or what skills I would need. The only certainty I put stock in was my love for writing, and I was lucky enough to have been accepted into the creative writing program at SU. Those four years proved to be as formational for ministry as my three years in seminary. As a creative writing major I learned three immeasurable skills. The first was how to be an honest and accessible story-teller. The second was how to receive criticism. I often speak of how important it was for me to sit in a room of my peers and hear how they read or heard what I offered. Criticism could be hard, but I learned how to receive it for growth in my writing and my character. And third is the discipline that has to come if one wants to be a writer. Writing is a practice just like meditation or running.

Was religion a big part of your writing at SU?
My final essay for my senior year included the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Hebrew Bible as an illustration of my grandmother’s relationship with a dear friend. However, no, I think religion was only a part of my writing at SU in that I had a non-fiction concentration and so I wrote and told stories about real life experiences that affected me, and I believe others, enough to matter.

Do you connect or reflect on Bible passages in a different way than other ministers having learned how to reflect on literature?
I am a Unitarian Universalist minister; which means that the Bible is not my only source for sacred writings or inspiration. We also look to poetry and books from different religious traditions or secular offerings and, of course, human experience. Learning how to read literature for four years not only helped me learn to read with a certain lens, it expanded the breadth of what I knew to be sacred. That said, when I did go to seminary, only months after graduating from Susquehanna, I had to step back and read the Hebrew and Christian scriptures as if they were any text that a professor at SU would have asked me to read and consider. Only then could I hear the different voices, the characters who were quieted, the narratives that were left perhaps intentionally untold and see the symbolism and metaphor that others often missed or came to later.

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?
I heard it countless times from the professors at Susquehanna, but I wish I crafted this skill much more then: no one is going to make you a writer other than you. Become disciplined in the act of writing or reading. until it is habitual. It’s been years since I graduated but I bet Dr. Fincke still wakes up at the crack of dawn, or before, and writes every day. I’m still working on this. College is one of the hardest times to be disciplined, and one of the last times when you can get away with not being as tied down to a time structure or different kinds of expectations that are right around the corner. Still, if you don’t get into the habit now, it’s going to be a steep learning curve after graduation. Now’s the time to become a writer so that whatever field you end up in, you know that it is still a part of who you are.

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