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    Faculty Mentors

    Faculty Mentors                     Visiting Residency Faculty                      Recent Faculty


    (Fiction/CNF) PATRICIA LEAR was born in Memphis, Tennessee and lives in Evanston, Illinois. Three of the stories from her collection Stardust, 7-Eleven, Route 57, A&W and So Forth (Alfred A. Knopf) have been anthologized in Prize Stories 1991, The O’Henry Awards; New Stories From The South, The Year’s Best (1992); In A Country of Her Own (1993); Best of the South, From Ten Years of New Stories From The South, Selected and Introduced by Anne Tyler (1996); and The Antioch Review 2002 60th Anniversary Issue, The Best of the Decade. The New York Times Book Review included Stardust on their 1992 Summer Reading List, The Editor’s Choice, and also named Stardust as one of their Notable Books of the Year. Her stories have also been published in TriQuarterly, and Chicago Works: a Collection of Chicago Authors' Best Works. “The Bridge Playing Ladies” was published in The Antioch Review, Winter 2003 as their lead story with the cover art illustrating the story. She was their featured writer at a fundraiser in Chicago 2003. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, Chicago Magazine, Allure, New City, and the Chicago Tribune Book Review. She is at work on a novel. Lear has been awarded an Illinois Arts Council Finalist Award and received fellowships to Yaddo, Breadloaf, Virginia Center For The Creative Arts, Ucross foundation, and The MacDowell Colony. She was awarded a Tennessee Williams Fellowship at The University of The South and taught there with Tim O’Brien. Recently, she was awarded an Evanston Arts Council Grant to support the completion of her current novel, as well as an Illinois Arts Council Award for Literature 2003 for her story “Nirvana,” originally published in StoryQuarterly. “Nirvana” was included in 2003 New Stories From the South: The Year’s Best.

    “I am ambitious for my students. The mark of a good teacher is how her students do, and I take that personally.  I was a student of Gordon Lish in New York, and he remains my editor and mentor. I seek to develop a strong relationship with my students, and from a place of mutual trust, I push, well, kind of hard. But harsh as that might sound, you will have no greater cheerleader in your corner and no one singing your praises higher than I will be when there comes the breakthrough we are both working for. 

    “I am also very interested in language, beats, rhythms on a sentence level, and especially in finding the thing that only YOU could have written, not writing that ANYBODY could have written. I am interested in bringing out your voice, the voice that really goes on in your head uncensored, in the language that is most natural to you. If you are grounded with that, you will be unassailable by others.  Often I will ask what story a student would have died happy to have written, and to me, it’s a quick way to get my head around what it is that you love in literature, and usually what direction you want to take your own work in. It’s also a great reference point to use when explaining some aspect of craft.  A short story (or novel, or CNF) should be like a good rock song that picks you up, carries you along and drops you off at the end—with an uppercut. And its effects should linger.”


    (Playwriting) MICHAEL OATMAN is the Playwright-In-Residence at Karamu Theater, the oldest African American theater in the country.  He is only the second person to hold this honor in the storied history of Karamu; the first being Langston Hughes.  In 2011, Michael won the CPAC Workforce Fellowship and the Cleveland Art Prize in 2010 for Best Emerging Artist and the 2010 Lantern Award for Best Play.  A number of his plays have been produced in various venues in Cleveland, where he is also frequently called on to direct both new and classic plays by other playwrights. The Cleveland-born playwright and director has made his mark in his hometown and across the nation and his poetic, yet provocative work has been featured locally at The Cleveland Play House FusionFest, Cleveland Public Theatre, Karamu House, Cleveland State University, and the Ingenuity Festival. Nationally, Michael has had productions and readings at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York City, the African American Playwright Exchange in Washington D.C., the Shelterbelt Theatre in Omaha, Nebraska and The ETA Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. In 2008 his play Let It Bleed premiered at The New Work, New Ways Festival hosted by the University of Nebraska at Omaha and The African American Playwright Exchange named his play The Chittlin’ Thief as Best Comedy of 2008. Michael's play Warpaint was a 2009 Finalist for the John Cauble Short Play Award. In 2010, seven of his plays were produced in various venues:  Black Nativity (Adaption), War paint, Eclipse: The War Between Pac and B.I.G., Course of Action, My Africa, A Solitary Voice, Not a Uterus in Sight, Hitler and Gandhi. In 2011, three of his full length plays where produced: Breaking the Chains, You Got Nerve and Sometime Hope Is Enough. He earned an English Degree from Cleveland State University in 2004 and completed his MFA in Theater from the Northeastern Ohio Master of Fine Arts Consortium (Cleveland State, Akron University, Youngstown University and Kent State) in 2008.  Before becoming involved in theater, Michael was a journalist and spent several months in Africa, writing about the AIDS epidemic for The Botswana Gazette. He teaches playwriting and other aspects of theater at high schools and colleges in Cleveland. In 2008 Michael's essay This I Believe was featured on NPR's Radio Essays and he was named one of Cleveland’s Most Interesting People 2010 by Cleveland Magazine. Michael and his playwriting have been featured in both The New York Times and American Theatre Magazine.

    “I make use of my experience as an actor and director in teaching students how to write plays that not only exist on the page but work on the stage. Where appropriate, I draw from own my work to teach students the use of spare language and a mix of heightened language and rough, street language. Fundamentally, my teaching method emerges and is inseparable from my love of theater. For me the beauty of theater is that it lives.  It is not an artifact.  It wrestles with us and forces us to wrestle with it.  Plays live in real time; actors can reach out and touch you.  Good drama is not a spectator sport.  It’s a subtle give and take, a delicate dance between actor and audience, playwright and the world.  I have often mused that playwrights are the special forces of the creative writing world.  They parachute us in; we give truth and watch as the walls tumble. If I can infuse a student with the magic of playwriting, teaching the nuts and bolts becomes a unique and rewarding experience for both of us.”



    (Poetry/Fiction/Playwriting) JIM PETERSON was born in Augusta, Georgia; grew up in South Carolina; and has lived in Montana and Virginia.  He received his BA, MA, and PhD from the University of South Carolina.  He is currently Coordinator of Creative Writing and Writer in Residence at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia.  He has published four full-length poetry collections: The Man Who Grew Silent (The Bench Press), An Afternoon with K (Holocene Press), The Owning Stone (Red Hen Press), and the Bob and Weave (Red Hen Press).  Also, three chapbooks have been published: Carvings on a Prayer Tree (Holocene), Jim Peterson’s Greatest Hits 1984-2000 (Pudding House), and The Resolution of Eve (Finishing Line Press).  His poems have appeared widely in literary publications including Poetry, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, Connecticut Review, Texas Review, Chariton Review, Greensboro Review, Laurel Review and numerous others.  His manuscript The Owning Stone won The Benjamin Saltman Award, and his poetry was awarded a Poetry Fellowship by the Virginia Commission on the Arts.  He also writes fiction, plays, and nonfiction.  His novel Paper Crown was published by Red Hen Press.  His play The Shadow Adjuster was first produced by the theater department at Montana State University-Billings and was later produced by Straw Dog Theatre in Chicago.  Other plays that have been produced include Ruby Cat and Mister Dog, Beholder, The Falling Man, and Seeing Purple.  His plays have been selected for the New American Plays Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina and The Missoula Colony sponsored by The Montana Repertory Theatre of the University of Montana.  He has been married for many years to the amazing Harriet, and the two of them live in service to their two Welsh Corgis, Dylan Thomas and Mama Kilya.

    “Everything I do as a teacher is oriented toward helping the student reach a better relationship with her or his own purpose as a writer.  It’s important that a student understand the positive side of all of the work she does.  If she writes a poem or story that misses its mark, she needs to understand the benefits of that effort as it applies to revisions and to her future work on other pieces.  I believe that writing should be the kind of work that’s fun.  I accept that I have to write badly at times in order to get to the writing that’s good.  I accept that everything I write is an important step in the journey I’m on as a writer and a person.  If we can build that realization into the process, then we can take a deep breath, get on with the work, and enjoy every minute of it because we know it’s taking us where we ultimately want to go.  This approach includes every thematic interest and every stylistic direction, as long as they serve the writer’s purpose.  Inclusiveness and connection are the central ideals of all of my work.  The more perspectives the writer can include in her repertoire, the more range and depth she will bring into her work.  The more skills the writer develops, the better she will connect to her reader.  A lot of reading and a lot of writing are probably the most important teachers.  And the occasional guidance of someone a little farther along on the path can make an important difference.  I very much like what Candace Black says about staying ‘out of my students’ way.’  I always feel privileged to work with any student.  I always want to honor the student’s vision for her own work as primary.  Whether it’s working on poems, stories, a novel, or a play, this adventure the student and teacher embark on together is an opportunity for both to learn and grow.”



    (Poetry) ELIZABETH POWELL’s book "The Republic of Self" won the New Issues First Book Prize. Her work has won a Pushcart prize as well as other awards. Her poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, the Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Ploughshares, Post Road, Slope, and many others.  She is the Editor of the prestigious Green Mountains Review and is Assistant Professor of Writing and Literature at Johnson State College in Johnson, Vermont.  She has also taught at the University of Vermont, Saint Michael’s College, Champlain College, Burlington College, Goddard College, and the New England Young Writers’ conference at Middlebury College, and she has received fellowships and grants from Yaddo, Hall Farm Center for Arts and Education, Vermont Council on the Arts, and the Arts Vermont Endowment. Powell earned her BA from the University of Wisconsin and her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.  She grew up in New York and currently lives with her children in Vermont.

    “Theodore Roethke’s keen observation in his poem, ‘The Waking,’ underlies my teaching philosophy: ‘I learn by going where I need to go.’ I believe in kinesthetic learning, hands-on, experiential learning. Part of my teaching philosophy reflects an interest in how an individual’s vision can change, strengthen, alter, and interact with the world, beginning in community. I seek to promote creativity through finding an honest voice. My teaching endeavors to encourage students to see and understand how the creative process, critical reading, and discussion can help one make sense of and think critically about their work and its relationship to our larger community and environment. Within this context, my pedagogy aims to increase knowledge of craft, develop vision, and clarify values and voice, as well as personal and professional goals. Writing is a process, as is living, and for the moments our lives intersect, I want the most genuine interaction I can have with my students, where they learn from me, and I in turn, learn from them. Above all, I endeavor to maintain a teaching style that is respectful, engaging, creative, intelligent, inspiring, friendly, serious, dignified, self-affirming.”



    (Poetry/Fiction) LEE ANN RORIPAUGH’s second volume of poetry, Year of the Snake, was published by Southern Illinois University Press as part of the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry, and was named winner of the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry and Prose.  Her first volume of poetry, Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books, 1999), was a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series, and was selected as a finalist for the 2000 Asian American Literary Awards.  The recipient of a 2003 Archibald Bush Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship, she was also named the 2004 winner of the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, the 2001 winner of the Frederick Manfred Award for Best Creative Writing awarded by the Western Literature Association, the 1995 winner of the Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize, as well as the winner of an AWP Intro Award and an Academy of American Poets Prize.  Roripaugh’s poetry and fiction have appeared or will be forthcoming in journals such as Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Michigan Quarterly Review, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, New England Review, North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, River Styx, and Crab Orchard Review, among others.  Her poetry has also been selected for inclusion in the following anthologies:  Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation (University of Illinois Press), Poets of the New Century (Godine) American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Woven on the Wind (Houghton Mifflin), American Identities: Contemporary Multicultural Voices (University of New England Press), and Waltzing on Water: Poetry by Women (Dell).  A native of Laramie, Wyoming, she received an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University.  Other degrees include an MM in music history from Indiana University and a BM in piano performance from Indiana University.  Roripaugh is currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of South Dakota.

    “The creative writing teacher cannot ‘teach’ her students to be writers.  Rather, I attempt to aid and abet my students in thinking about, exploring, experimenting with, and working through the creative process.  In doing so, I assume the multiple guises of mentor, guide, professional advisor, sympathetic reader, audience at large, critic and collaborator.  My goal is for students to become better writers, and it is ostensibly this same goal that leads student writers, either intuitively or deliberately, into the creative writing classroom—to seek out audience, guidance, and feedback.  Along these lines, I strive to be generous with my own creative energy—offering students serious and careful consideration of their work, administering professional/career advice and encouragement, and taking the time to enter into a process of artistic collaboration with each individual student. Ultimately, it is never my goal to impose my own aesthetic sensibilities and tastes upon the student, but rather to be flexible and versatile enough to approach each piece of work on its own terms. 

    “Another important goal is for students become better readers—engaged, diverse and sensitive readers who read not only for pleasure and scholarship, but are capable of reading with a ‘writerly’ eye.  I want students to constantly explore a wide panoply of creative possibilities found within diverse literary models.  I feel it is important to break down preconceived notions or prohibitions about what constitutes ‘literature,’ as well as develop the necessary critical tools to consider the concepts of craft, style and technique. In the same way that visual artists or musicians refine and hone their technical skills in their respective mediums, so, too, must writers learn to refine and hone their technical skills through experimentation, practice and revision.  The application of these reading skills not only develops the students’ ability to provide constructive criticism within the workshop environment, but also allows students to become increasingly independent in the critical process of assessing and revising their own work.  In addition to literary models, I also believe students should be encouraged to explore the other arts as sources of creative stimuli and inspiration, so that they may be open to the wealth of possibilities for trans-disciplinary modeling or multi-disciplinary collaboration.