The Creative Writing Program are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their existence at the college. Associate Professor of English Nick Regiacorte gives credit for the success and development of the program to Robin Metz, who is a Philip Sidney Post Professor of English as well as the Director of the Creative Writing Program.
Regiacorte, who came to Knox in 2001 and later returned full time, described that the program’s success comes from its emphasis on the individual creative process as well as the workshop model that Metz brought in 1967.
Before Metz came to Knox, there had been a few courses in Creative Writing, but the college called upon him to develop a Creative Writing program that included a major, and significantly more courses. Metz became the Director of the Creative Writing Program after then Director Sam Moon retired.
Metz described that the program’s design was the largest contributor to its success. Knox goes beyond offering basic courses in fiction, nonfiction and poetry; it also offers courses in playwriting, journalism and world literature. He also mentioned that students who major in Creative Writing are required to take an Allied Arts Course, such as acting, painting or dance.
“We’re persuaded that the underlying dynamic is not just teaching people to be storytellers and poets, but to learn about and create and to nurture the dynamics of the creative process,” Metz said.
In 1967 Visiting Instructor in English & Theatre Sherwood Kiraly also came to Knox as a student. In 2010, Kiraly returned to Knox after being invited to teach workshops.
Kiraly noted that he tried several teaching jobs in California, but was unable to find a place that was comparable to what he experienced at Knox. Upon returning to Knox as an alumnus, he was impressed with the progression of the Creative Writing program that had already been so influential to him as a student.
“I don’t think there are unlimited place where students can go to get this kind of immersion into the different forms that creative writing entails, and to get this rich of a workshop experience,” he said.
Kiraly emphasized that creative writing allows students to develop empathy for people they have yet to meet and also provides a sense of community. He believes that writing not only strengthens our ability to empathize with others, it also helps us understand ourselves.
Regiacorte mentioned that the workshop process demands incredible effort as well as one on one time with students, ensuring that each writer is able to grow in a way that is unique.
“One of the best ways to get a writer to sound more and more like herself and to grow confident in herself is to get to know the person’s work individually.” he said.
Regiacorte said that the workshop process not only builds confidence, but it also exposes writers to different writing styles. He considers the experience to give students a sense of empathy while also creating art.
“It amounts to not authoring someone, but instead trying to meet them where they are in their piece of writing,” Regiacorte said.
Associate Professor of English Chad Simpson considers the program to be successful because of the tremendous amount of energy and the visions that come from the Knox faculty. Simpson considers the skills learned while studying creative writing to be applicable to a variety of aspects in one’s life.
“A discipline like creative writing which allows students to creatively problem solve and to hone their language and critical thinking skills also forces them to look at what the world is and how they think about how the world works,” he said.
Simpson said that he prefers teaching undergraduate students as opposed to graduate students on the grounds that undergraduates aren’t necessarily studying creative writing to become freelance writers.
“There are ways in which the time people spend as undergraduates reading closely and writing things that are meaningful to them are carried out into the world,” Simpson said. “Maybe that makes them that much better as a parent, or that much better of a child to their parents”
He mentioned that although students may not make a career directly out of their Creative Writing degree from Knox, he feels that there is still value in what students take away. Not only does he consider the skills obtained to be valuable in a variety of careers, he also considers creative writing to be beneficial to help students cope with social change.
“In times especially with what’s going on politically right now, art is a great way to resist the kind of forces we feel acting upon us,” Simpson said.
While Simpson feels that other fields of study at Knox are able to offer similar skills, he believes that the Creative Writing Program exemplifies the best and most valuable aspects of a Knox College education.