Division of HumanitiesMFA in Creative Writing - Low Residency

Rainier Writing Workshop

"I am impressed with the caliber, commitment, and generosity of the faculty. Their willingness to engage with us in and out of our classroom made this experience unlike any other I've had."

Stan Sanvel Rubin

Director

Office 253-535-7221
Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in poetry. Oversight of program.

Statement: "This is a small, very selective program for motivated and experienced adults. There are high standards, but no condescension. No enforcing an aesthetic as if it were the aesthetic. Instead, individual choices, individual challenges, individual achievement-all of which it's our job to support.  As a writer, I know writing is a way of being. There's a time for community, and a time for solitude. When we're together, sparks will fly, and there will be high spirits as well as intelligent conversation with people who care about writing. (Bring your passion to residency.) When you're working at home, you will have new voices, new skills, and a new vision working for you. The process matters as much as a credential. The purpose? What you make it."

Suzanne Berne

Fiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction.

Statement: "In my view, the best thing a workshop can provide is excitement. By focusing on where a story is most original, most engaging – where it 'burns the brightest,' as I heard someone say last summer – the workshop can locate ideas and scenes a writer may not have realized had so much potential. It's easy to lose faith in something you're working on; in fact, losing faith in your own work may well be an essential part of writing well. So part of the workshop's job is to help you locate that spark, where your work is most alive, original, memorable.   And then send you on your way again."

Linda Bierds

Poetry

Responsibilities

Master Classes in Poetry.

David Biespiel

Poetry

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in poetry.

Statement: "One of poetry's capacities is to reveal a process of thinking. The imprint of a poet's mind in his or her poems is one distinguishing factor, and that imprint is relayed through form and revealed through content. My understanding of poetry is that we make these kinds of formal decisions both consciously and unconsciously. If one decides to write a poem in free verse, that's a catalyzing formal decision. The more you understand what those decisions are, how you arrived at your assumptions about them, and what their consequences are beforehand, then the more you will be able to master the formal demands that arise in your poems. Every time I teach a graduate course, the students begin wanting to focus on content. So fine, we focus on content. By the end, they're dying to know more about form. They come to realize that focusing on form strengthens their capacities to reinvent their imaginative representations of experience."

Mary Clearman Blew

Fiction, Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction and nonfiction.

Statement: "To write well is an elusive goal that requires a lifetime commitment. I see my students as fellow lifers working toward our common goal. I can show some shortcuts in craft to students in fiction and nonfiction; I can encourage them in readings that show how other writers have dealt well with problems in character development, for example, or dialogue or creation of scene or reflection; and I can be a sounding board and advisor for students’ questions about focus. Perhaps most important, I point out to students where their writing is coming alive, where the energy of the words is lifting them off the page, where their readers’ attention is caught and wants to continue."

Fleda Brown

Poetry, Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in poetry and nonfiction.

Statement: "I've taught many kinds of workshops – one-shot 3-hour sessions, weekend retreats, and semester-long creative writing classes. Sometimes students come into a workshop simply wanting a push, sometimes they need help finding their voices.Everyone talks about 'finding a voice,' as if we all knew what this means. We don’t. I don’t. What I can do in a workshop is to help students allow themselves to be clumsy, foolish, and sometimes nuts in their writing, while loosely hanging onto the reins. What are the reins? I don't know that, either, but we can figure it out by looking closely at the best work we can get our hands on. No one ever had a 'voice' that came from nowhere. It develops partly from bouncing off other voices—the ones in the workshop, and the ones on the page. I dearly love being around when the bounce lands in new territory."

David Allan Cates

Fiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction.

Statement: "My success in the publishing world is limited, but my success as a writer has been boundless.  Every book I have written has taken me on an adventure I would have thought impossible beforehand. I am a middle-aged man, and there are fewer and fewer things I know. But I know what it takes to write. I know the fear; I know the dangers and demons; and I know the joy. As a teacher, I try to help students understand this journey, and I try to help them live it as the adventure of their lifetime." http://www.missoulamedicalaid.net/

Kevin Clark

Poetry

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in poetry.

Statement: “One of my goals in the writing workshop is to help students enhance what is idiosyncratically best in their writing while they simultaneously try other directions. There’s a context for this kind of teaching. The short story writer Al Landwehr once told me that the act of writing well is like the act of reading the best book you’ve ever read. You are utterly transported, ecstatic. But, as Al noted, the next day you come back to your work and you realize that what you have written is not the best thing in literary history. In fact, it can’t walk; it has warts; it hacks like a consumptive. As a writing teacher, I hope to help you readily achieve the first ascendant state of creativity and quickly overcome the second deflating state of starting over. The whole enterprise need not be a jaw-clenching struggle; it should be a habitual, quotidian pleasure.”

Stephen Corey

Editor in Residence

Responsibilities

Editor in Residence. Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction and poetry.

Statement: "I am an editor because I am a writer; I am a writer because at some point – I believe I was in my mid-twenties – simply taking in the world no longer seemed enough, and because I have crazy but loving dreams of whacking a few readers in the gut the way my favorite writers have whacked me. I try to edit via compassionate insinuation [from the Latin "insinuare": to introduce by windings and turnings], doing my best to enter the intention and spirit of a piece to determine how it might be finished more completely and accurately. But I also edit via compassionate fiat, because some things just don't work if you fail to handle them thoughtfully enough. In one sense, I suppose, there's what a good editor must strive to be: thoughtful enough. And, I would argue, good writers must be so as well. Once I sat at a dinner gathering of writers and said, 'For a piece of writing to be genuinely great, someone has to want to kill you for having written it.' This isn't true, of course, but I think it's next door to something that needs to be true."

Gary Ferguson

Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction.

Statement: "Whether for an hour or for an entire semester, much of my writing instruction is centered on the experience-based, creative nonfiction essay. In addition to covering the mechanics of transition, character, dialogue, and setting, the personal nonfiction essay allows writers to readily identify who they are in a given work - to forge, in other words, the beginnings of authentic voice. I also spend a fair amount of time talking to students about dramatic device, uncovering the essentials of sound storytelling through an exploration of traditional legend and myth. Lectures, exercises, and student 'workshopping' are supplemented by various texts, including The Best American Essays 1999 (Houghton Mifflin) and In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction (W.W. Norton). Finally, we also discuss so-called 'writer's life' topics—issues of creative block, the nuts and bolts of selling one's work, and current trends in the publishing industry."

Greg Glazner

Poetry, Mixed-Genre, Criticism

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in poetry, mixed-genre, and criticism.

Statement: "I love the reciprocal relationship between technical matters on the one hand, and subject matter on the other. I've been focused for years on how the explosiveness of just being alive can call into question the aptness of one’s acquired technique. Equally, I've been fascinated with how a technical revision—cutting a weak stanza, say, or letting the sound of a word dictate a next phrase that unmoors some of a poem’s original intended meaning—can sometimes result in vastly livlier subject matter. I think that the most difficult and rewarding thing about being a writer is that we are forced to honor two opposite and essential necessities at once: the necessity to learn and master craft, and the necessity to be given over to a process that takes us beyond our conscious intentions into something more akin to dreaming. I go to lengths to make sure that my workshops and mentor relationships honor this rich doubleness."

Kevin Goodan

Poetry

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in poetry.

Adrianne Harun

Fiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction.

Statement: "I don't believe there's any one route to writing good fiction and, sorrowfully, I also have come to believe that the magic book or teacher possessing the secret of fiction writing does not actually exist. I do, however, believe in the value of the twined practices of revision and obsessively close reading, as well as the great promise of intuitive leaps, emotional honesty and constant exploration. As a mentor, I ask a lot of questions, and I tend to prod my students also into asking questions of their own work. I'll also point writers toward other arts—music, architecture, visual arts—and other literary genres—mysteries, poetry, plays—when I feel a structural connection is in the offing or needs to be considered. My goal as a teacher is to act as an informed yet curious companion, sometimes guiding, always listening, as my students find their own paths."

Lola Haskins

Poetry

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in poetry.

Statement: "Our students make this program what it is. They're smart, interesting people, and they support rather than undercut each other. Partly because of that, and partly because they're so open to their mentors, they tend to flower here and I love getting to watch. I have a   supremely lucky job. Working with writers to help them say as beautifully as possible what they came to say, rewards me well beyond what anyone could write on a check."

Jim Heynen

Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction nonfiction, and poetry.

Statement: "For me, the greatest pleasure in teaching is spotting what is most promising in a poem, story, novel, or essay—and going from there.  Finding the possibilities in a piece of writing requires generous and attentive reading. It is hard, empathic work but can be far more rewarding than starting with the critical scalpel and going flaw-hunting. The flaws tend to dry up and flake off the page without much messy coercion if the reader and writer agree on what and where the real promise is.  One of my favorite metaphors I draw from the sport of curling: when teaching, I like to think of myself as the person with the broom clearing the way for another’s earnest intentions."

John Holman

Fiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction.

Statement: "In workshop, I hope to help writers bring forward the value of their vision. To that end, I'm particular about clarity of language, and I encourage experimentation with form and technique. I hope to coach writers to discover ever new pleasures in the effort to communicate and create."

David Huddle

Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Statement: "Listening has become a philosophy for me as both a teacher and a writer. I've become a better writer by way of paying more attention to  what my writing is trying to convey to me as I'm working on it. I've become a better teacher by way of giving my students more 'say' in the classroom. As a reader, I'm often trying to help other writers discover their work's 'truest' impulses. And though I've been teaching for thirty-two years now, I still get chills when I read a terrific passage in a manuscript or when a member of a workshop speaks with illuminating generosity. It's not that I don't have opinions that I'm eager to share – in recent years, I've even found myself pounding the table and surprising myself with the passion of my words, something I was far too cool to do in my first twenty-five years of teaching."

Judith Kitchen

Nonfiction, Poetry, Criticism, Fiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction, poetry, criticism, and fiction.

Statement: "I believe in passionate memory, remembered passion, and the long, slow, often lonely, labors of the writer. That said, I also believe in the joint effort that can result in inspired revision. My deepest interest is in how to shape material, how to discover the underlying issues and then find a structure to enhance them. In both fiction and nonfiction, I like to see where personal experience intersects with the imaginary (or the critical) way of thinking. I look forward to a freewheeling discussion where questions count more than answers."

Dinah Lenney

Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction.

Statement: "'Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life… Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still.' So wrote Thoreau, and the words comfort and inspire, as they apply to craft, and to our personal themes whatever they are. Having trained as an actor, I'm interested in voice, and in strategies for mining memory and imagination to cultivate authentic performance on the page."

Rebecca McClanahan

Nonfiction, Poetry

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction and poetry.

Statement: "In my workshops, I am not interested in 'fixing' so-called flawed texts; fixing is the work of morticians. I am interested in helping writers discover what their drafts want to be when they grow up. How do we locate the essay hiding within the messay, the memoir stalled on a ME-more track, the poem trying to sing its way out of the journal’s pages? Our task as writers is not only to pay attention to our world but also to use the materials of the world in extraordinary ways. To do this, we must uncover the subtle design, the 'figure in the carpet' that is woven into even the most everyday events. Often we must proceed without knowing what form the work will finally take. We write our way into the question, into the mystery. Writing begets more writing; meaning grows on the page."

Kent Meyers

Fiction, Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction and nonfiction.

Statement: "I’ve heard writers say that, to avoid influence, they never read fiction when they're writing it. I, on the other hand, want to be influenced—by everything: the shadows on the sidewalk, the expression on a stranger's passing face, the music from an open window and, yes, other writers. I want to borrow power and style and voice, use them to challenge and stretch me. If that influence is too strong in the first draft, by the time the novel or story has gone through several revisions, it will have subsumed all those influences, taken them in and become its own thing. The same ought to be true for a writing workshop. We should be influenced and challenged by all those other minds—and yet in the end, emerge with our own, unique voice, an amalgamation that isn't an amalgamation at all."

Brenda Miller

Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction.

Statement: "As both a writer and a teacher, I'm so interested in how we make authentic connections, especially in a world that has grown so busy and ‘digitized’ that such connections can be rare, fleeting, and absolutely stunning. I look forward to being witness, cheerleader, mentor, and companion as you find your true voice in creative nonfiction."

Scott Nadelson

Fiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction.

Statement: "As a writer, I am endlessly surprised and fascinated by the possibilities offered by narrative and by language; as a teacher, I try to get students excited about those possibilities by sharing my discoveries and encouraging them to make discoveries of their own. Above all, I try on a daily basis to remind myself and my students of the joy that literature can provide both reader and writer, the relief from a world that often suppresses joy, the pleasure of finding a way to communicate genuinely what it feels like to be human. What a wonderful way to spend one’s life, working day after day to create what Kafka’s called 'the ax to break the frozen sea within us.'"

Ann Pancake

Fiction, Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction and nonfiction.

Statement: "My greatest commitment as both a writer and a teacher is to writing that originates in deep personal investment because I believe that only by writing from this place in ourselves do we produce real art. For this reason, I think the most valuable expertise I can bring to my students is not my education in literature, nor what I've learned about craft after practicing it for twenty years, although I'll bring those, too. It's my ability to listen: to students, as they describe their interests, backgrounds, and aspirations, and to their drafts, from their earliest conceptions to their final stages. Through this kind of close listening, I help students find their passions. I guide them towards discovering and developing their own authentic voices. And I teach them to identify and then realize their drafts' richest potential."

Lia Purpura

Nonfiction, Poetry

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction and poetry.

Statement: "Just recently, when I read David Foster Wallace's description of a phenomenon he calls 'Total Noise' ('that seething static of every particular thing and experience, and one's total freedom of infinite choice about what to choose to attend to and represent and connect, and how, and why, etc.') I felt my role as a teacher clarify and firm up anew. I want to help my students settle and still their vision and fortify their own authentic responses to the Noise that daily threatens us to overwhelm us all. The bracing joy of receiving a real, live temperament/disposition/sensibility is what I long for (and fall for) as a reader. As a mentor, I look forward to finding these moments in my students' work, studying them, marveling at them – and then, working with them, in whatever way the poem or essay requires."

Marjorie Sandor

Fiction, Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction and nonfiction.

Statement: "One day in college, my favorite teacher came to the limit of her patience with me. I had nearly suffocated a personal essay full of similes and metaphors and the word 'I.' She looked at my five drafts, handed them back and said, 'You can do better than this. Just tell the truth.' The simple rightness of this struck me like a blow to the head, and still does: it is a model of great teaching. Of course I still commit, on a daily basis, the sins of over-decorating, of willful obscurity and unmediated anger and blindness to irony, but I know, thanks to her, that there is another way. And I try to follow her example as a teacher, too. The Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg once said she wanted to be 'the recording angel' of her family. I like this idea, and even better, her example. Her sentences are laconic, unadorned, stripped down in language and tragic in historical context, but rich in compassion, humor, and irony. She regards her characters with an astonishing tenderness, from a little distance, as if she hovers just above the earth's surface, still part of its atmosphere, but not confined by its petty passions. Another great writer, Nadine Gordimer, says you must write as if you were already dead. I almost know what she means, and I will spend the rest of my life reaching to accomplish it, if only in a single sentence that bears witness to the beautiful failures we are bound, by our humanness, to create. I read for it, write toward it, and teach with it always in mind."

Peggy Shumaker

Poetry, Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in poetry and nonfiction.

Statement: "Language is one way we make our way in the world. Our intensive sessions will involve writing new material for poems and working on drafts we've generated. We'll also practice reading as writers – looking at poems and prose to find tools we can adapt for our own uses. My own work comes from two deserts – the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona and the subarctic desert of Interior Alaska. Most of my poems depend on images and sounds to create their worlds. Right now I'm at work on a nonfiction book and a book of new poems." http://www.borealbooks.org/

Sherry Simpson

Nonfiction

Responsibilities

Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction.

Statement: "My favorite moment is when a writer who's struggling with a piece or a direction hears the right question and then realizes what to do next. To me a workshop or mentorship doesn't involve 'teaching' or 'learning' so much as rediscovering what we already know but may have forgotten, overlooked, or masked. I think we're all apprentices to our work, and the heart of this relationship lies in the way we choose to be in the world. I want students to interrogate their experiences, trust their sensibilities, and open themselves to the possibilities revealed through their work and the work of others. I hope they'll cultivate the narrative expanse of the draft and the beautiful discipline of revision.  I'm drawn by language yoked to purpose – language that rises from intonation and rhythm rather than words that rely on mere ornamentation. I believe that facts offer us some of the most imaginative opportunities. And is it so much to ask that all this thinking and exploring could be fun now and then?"