Gary Fincke, Ph.D.
Charles B. Degenstein Professor of English and Creative Writing |
Director, The Writers Institute
I’ve been called “prolific” because I’ve published 25 books, but none of them appeared until I was nearly 40 years old, something I sometimes say to remind students when they seem impatient about getting their work into the world outside of Susquehanna. Much more often, I tell my students they need to read. Most often, I tell them they need to live their lives, that everything matters, that with enough attention, they’ll discover significance in even the smallest details.
A great story is not about earth-shattering events, it’s about digging deep enough into what may seem ordinary to find the small events and moments that lead to choices that ultimately threaten to shatter lives and relationships from within. Whether or not these lives and relationships can be healed or at least be improved rather than permanently scarred is the sort of tension that makes characters and situations unforgettable. If I can convince students to have the patience to “look again,” I trust that they’ll value the complexity of their own lives even as they attempt to create complexity within their characters.
The important thing is that everyone knows there is a point to what we do. There is a successful life after studying something like poetry or fiction or creative nonfiction for four years.”
Upon graduation, our students have developed in a way that’s remarkable. Thirty-five to 40 percent of them will go on to grad school for writing, almost all of them earning assistantships and fellowships that pay them to attend school. Other students might go on to attend grad school for something else, and about half will go into the work world. Some seek a few years of experience before going on to grad school.
What we do at Susquehanna is simple: we teach writing. Young writers face challenges, most of all not really believing in their own ability. When we receive portfolios for review in the admissions process, we’re looking for raw talent, for the promise of a writer. Someone who can use language that jumps off the page and speaks to you as a reader. We mentor individuals who are ready to learn.
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