Faculty Spotlight: Lisa Knopp
Originally a student of music, Dr. Lisa Knopp jumped majors throughout college until she “found [her] people” in the Iowa-Wesleyan English department, graduating as both an English and Education major. Not only were there no courses in creative nonfiction, but the term hadn’t even been invented when she entered graduate school at Western Illinois University, so she studied rhetoric and composition, and poetry. While working on her Doctorate at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, she came across The Best American Essays of 1988, edited by Annie Dillard. This was a pivotal moment that Dr. Knopp describes as life-changing: “I knew what I wanted to write and what I wanted to teach other people to write.” She became the first person at UNL to write a Creative Nonfiction dissertation. Dr. Knopp says that when she joined the faculty in 2005, UNO had the best CNF program in the state and it continues to have the best.
As part of the Creative Nonfiction faculty, Dr. Knopp teaches a wide variety of classes but Food Writing is the “happiest” because “everyone loves food and everyone’s an expert because we’ve been eating all our lives.” In addition to being a CNF faculty member, she also chairs many graduate student thesis boards. This past spring, she chaired six different projects all at once. It is “hard work” but she really “loves working on these projects.” While Dr. Price is on sabbatical in Spring 2020, she will be directing the Creative Nonfiction and Advance Writing Certificate (ADWR) programs.
Outside of the university, Dr. Knopp is a highly accomplished writer. Her most recently published book Bread: A Memoir of Hunger won the Nebraska Book Award for memoir in 2017. Right now, she is working on smaller writing projects while the manuscript of her seventh book From Your Friend, Carey Dean: Letters from Nebraska’s Death Row “plays out” in the hands of publishers. This new book explores her 23-year friendship with Moore, who was executed by the state of Nebraska in 2018. She worked closely with him gathering information for the book before his death, discussing “titles and ethical concerns.” In the end, she created a beautiful book that investigates the complexity of their friendship from different religious beliefs to him refusing to appeal his sentence. She says this book was the “hardest one yet” to write and recommends all writers struggling with difficult content to write out multiple drafts as she did for this book. Sometimes you “just need to write it and examine the different options” to find the best way to tell the story.