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Professor Interviews

The following are several student-conducted interviews with the English department faculty.

Mark Christensen, MFA, PhD

Interviewed by Andy Browers, Fall 2006


There are many varieties of teachers of writing - teachers who write, and writers who teach. Dr. Mark Christensen is clearly of the former variety, taking greater pleasure in the classroom with his students than making his writing available to the public. "Writing and teaching," he says, "are so entangled that I cannot separate them." Mark has enjoyed longevity in both fields, having been in front of various classrooms for over thirty years. His two passions have been feeding each other for many of those years, but the connection wasn't immediate. "I was seven years into my teaching career before I had the notion to write," he says. This is likely due to the great interest Mark devotes to his students, who have been ravenously devouring his attention for years. Mark, however, doesn't seem to mind at all to give that needed attention. "Being a student is healthily selfish," he explains. He understands students' need to focus on and learn about themselves, both as writers and as people. In fact, he goes on to explain, "most questions beginning writing students ask are about self worth, and not writing."


Mark found himself in graduate school for English while he was waiting to reapply to medical school. "I was twenty, and took graduate courses in English for kicks. During my first term I was asked to teach Freshman Composition," he says. The love affair didn't take long to turn serious. "Three weeks into it, I realized that teaching [writing] was it. Thirty-two years later, first semester Freshman Comp. is still my favorite [course] to teach. I love watching the awakening... people suddenly realize personal power they didn't know they had."

Teaching, however, is not Mark Christensen's only forte--he is an accomplished and published writer as well, specializing in poetry and the personal essay. His first publication came about rather serendipitously-an editor, whom Mark had met earlier in a workshop, met him again by chance while shopping in a department store. "She asked if I had a manuscript, and I said 'yes.'" That manuscript in question went on to become Mark's collection of poems Faith in Ice Time. While Mark has published more writing since, and is in the constant process of producing new writing, it is that very process that piques his interest most.

Still happily busy in the classroom, Mark Christensen continues to help young writers on their way to mastering the craft, as well as furthering his own understanding of writing. "I think we're always in process," says Christensen. "We aren't done as writers until we're done as people."

Lauren Cobb, PhD

Interview with Kate Beaver, Kasandra Solverson, and Jeremy Dewey, Fall 2006


As a group, we formed a list of questions to ask Lauren Cobb, both writer and professor.  We met with Dr. Cobb in her office one afternoon where we learned about her life and career as a writer.  The following is a narrative of that interview.

Dr. Lauren Cobb was born in Los Angeles, California. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, her Master’s in English with an emphasis in Writing from Iowa, and her Ph.D. in English with a Writing emphasis from the University of Georgia. She came to Bemidji State University, she said, because it was the best job offer, they hired her, and she likes the trees.  Dr. Cobb appreciates the lack of population density in Bemidji.  She says, “I get to breathe more air molecules that I don’t have to share with other people. I like that.”

At first, when asked about her literary influences, Dr. Cobb said, “With some people it's so-and-so is my God, but with me it's not that way.”  Though her literary influences do vary, she specifically mentioned Toni Morrison, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Anne Tyler, particularly Tyler's earlier works.

Dr. Cobb's first job was as a waitress in a restaurant. She began making her way into the publishing business when she took up work for a left wing, staff-owned newspaper. She worked in publishing for twelve years, the last five years as a travel writer. She said, in regards to travel writing, that she got to go on paid vacations, making the career worth her time for those five years.  Including her time as a Graduate Assistant, Dr. Cobb has been teaching for thirteen years.  She has been teaching full-time at BSU for five years.  She taught for six years in Georgia and two years in Iowa.  Dr. Cobb decided to teach because she was tired of travel writing and she wanted to read and write fiction and talk to others with similar literary interests. 

When asked what her favorite thing is about teaching writing, Dr. Cobb said, “Where to start?”  She explained that the students are engaged in creative writing, as opposed to the constrictions of College Writing, which makes for a constructive and fun classroom atmosphere.  She states, “I'm passionate about it.”

When asked if there was anything she avoids writing about, she said, “Not as far as I know.”  A lot of her writing, though fictional, deals with personal life and experience. She said that for her, writing fiction involves the challenge of figuring out where she is afraid to go and then going there.  She feels that her greatest accomplishment as a writer is getting better and staying with it while her best accomplishment as a teacher is helping some students to discover and be proud of who they are.

For advice to those interested in breaking into print, Dr. Cobb says, "Persevere, hire a secretary, and marry advantageously." She says that sending work out is important, but that it is important to know when to send it.  Never send it out too soon.  We should first focus on the craft of writing.

When asked if there was anything she would like to share about being a writer that people usually don't get, Dr. Cobb said, “I can’t say it often enough: do the work every day.  It's not about waiting for the muse to strike, it's about doing the work.  Gain skills so that when the music starts, you'll know how to play it.”

Maureen Gibbon, MFA

Interviewed by Liza Drellack and Indra Kenyon, Fall 2006


Writer’s block: does it exist to you?


MG: Writer’s block is a part of daily life; writing is not easy.  There are things that prevent people from writing, but it’s really a matter of sitting down and plowing through.  I worked for a newspaper; if you don’t get the writing done, there’s a block of empty page.  I didn’t have time for writer’s block.  All writing is good at a certain stage; there is no bad writing.  Sometimes I take William Stafford’s advice and “lower my standards.” 


How does teaching help with your writing?


MG: Teaching can be tough on my writing because I don’t have as much time to write.  Teaching pushes me to find material that will help student’s process, which helps me as well.  I love being able to do this for a living.  To be in the business of words—that’s a pretty nice business to be in.


How does reader feedback impact your work?


MG: You can go nutty hearing outside reviews of your work.  I have a group of friends who I read to; they are my best help.  I got some advice from a friend on my first novel—after it was finished for the first time—that I should move the point of view from third to first.  It was overwhelming, but I did it.  He was right; it really improved it.   


When you’re not writing, who do you like to read?


MG: Non-fiction—right now I’m reading about frogs and toads and mushrooms, 19th century France.  As far as novelists, Mary Gaitskill, Paul Theroux.  Poetry—Linda Gregg, James Galvin.  I could go on and on about poetry, but I won’t.  I keep certain books by my side when I’m writing: Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories, Willa Cather.  The  titles vary depending on where I am on a project.  I’ll follow the pathway of one book to another; if they mention another book in a book I’m reading, I’ll read it.  It’s intoxicating.


How do you prepare for public readings?


MG: One must prepare.  Practice the piece, practice reading more slowly than you think is appropriate.  When I gave a reading in Santa Fe I practiced and then I ate cheese and crackers and chatted with people beforehand.  I’d rather do that than disappear.  My anxiety is lessened around people because of my teaching experience.


Do you wait until you’re inspired to write, or do you have a regular writing regimen?


MG: It’s a combo, really.  I’m not usually a daily writer, but I may work daily sometimes.  I don’t wait for inspiration.


How do you deal with rejection?  How do you celebrate acceptance?


MG: I get burned like everybody else.  The successes haven’t come easily.  I didn’t get an agent right away; I sent her a draft and she told me she wouldn’t take the book the way it was.  I changed it, and she took me on a year later.  Rejection now is not the final no.  Some rejection is harder to take than others. When an acceptance happens, there is no bigger happiness.  I celebrate acceptance by filing—filing everything. 


Have you borrowed your style from other published authors or do you just write the way you hear the piece in your head?  If the latter, do you find yourself comparing it to other published authors afterward and find that you unconsciously integrated their style into your writing?  If so, which authors’ writings would you compare yours to?


MG:
Certain writers show up, but I like to think it’s wholly my mind.  One person told me my writing was unlike that of anyone he’s ever read, and he reads a lot, so I took it as a compliment.  Another person told me that one of my characters could have been the daughter of someone in a Raymond Carver short story.  I’ll take that.  It’s good to hear something like that.


How has censorship affected your writing?


MG: It has not affected me in my writing, but it has had an affect on who reads my book.  I try not to censor myself in order to be faithful to my character’s voice.  In Swimming Sweet Arrow, my character took over. The world does what it wants with what I send out and what they think of me.  I wouldn’t change my book. 


Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your writing?


MG: To students, to anybody, I would say tell the stories only you can tell.  Write about the people we don’t see on television.  So if there was a party or something else going on in Warroad or Wadena, write about it. 

Susan Carol Hauser, MFA

Interviewed by Katie Carter, Crystal Damar, Jessica Theroux, Fall 2006


Inspiration

Somewhere around the ages of 28 and 29 Susan Hauser found herself sitting in an American Literature course at Bemidji State University. The professor recited the poem Buffalo Bill by E.E. Cummings:

    Buffalo Bill's
    defunct
                who used to
                ride a watersmooth-silver
                                                       stallion
    and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
                                                                                Jesus
    he was a handsome man
                                          and what i want to know is
    how do you like your blueeyed boy
    Mister Death


Upon hearing the piece, a chord struck deep within. It was at that moment when Susan Hauser realized her passion. She began writing poetry whenever and wherever possible: in class, between classes, whenever inspired. As a result, she attained her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English from Northern Michigan University, then her Master of Fine Arts in poetry from Bowling Green University in Ohio.


Professional Experience

Since her awakening, Susan has published 13 books. Her articles, poems, and short stories have graced the pages of numerous anthologies, magazines, and journals. Susan’s first published book was Meant To Be Read Out Loud (1988), for which she won a 1989 Minnesota Book Award. Betty Rossi of Loonfeather Press heard Susan reading these essays on the radio and made the contact. This proved to be one of many fruitful publishing relationships for Susan.

Book Publications:

  • Sugaring: A Maple Syrup Memoir with Instructions (formerly Sugartime: The Hidden Pleasures of Making Maple Syrup), Lyons & Burford, 1997; paperback, Winter 2005.
  • Wild Rice Cooking: History, Natural History, Harvesting, & Lore, with Recipes, The Lyons Press, 2000, Minnesota Book Award 2001; paperback, Fall 2004.
  • Outside After Dark: New & Selected Poems, Loonfeather Press, 2002.
  • You Can Write a Memoir, Writer’s Digest Books, 2001.
  • Outwitting Poison Ivy, The Lyons Press, 2001 (formerly Nature’s Revenge)Outwitting Ticks, The Lyons Press, 2001.
  • Full Moon: Reflections on Turning Fifty, Papier-Mache Press, 1996.
  • Girl to Woman: A Gathering of Images, Astarte Shell Press, 1992.
  • Which Way to Look, Loonfeather Press, 1992.
  • What the Animals Know, Loonfeather Press, 1992.
  • Redpoll on a Broken Branch, Same Name Press, 1992
  • Meant To Be Read Out Loud, Loonfeather Press, 1988; Minnesota Book Award, 1989.

The Balance of Writing and Life

Susan's writing became an essential thread in the fabric of her life. Balancing writing with day-to-day existence, she has kept family a top priority by inviting them into her writing world, encouraging them to become a part of it. The mothering experience has always been a primary focus of her work and life. Susan realizes how essential it is for a life to be lived presently. By sharing her writing and creating the opportunity for her children to write poetry along side her, she passed on her respect and love for her craft. Once family understands the passion of the artist, that element of daily life, that time spent working is completely accepted and nourished.

Writing Rituals

When sitting down to write, Susan always cleans her desk, checks the water in her plants, tidies up her workspace. Once the area has been cleared, if she intends to write poetry, she sets her 8 by 14 inch paper down on her desk, landscape style, and begins to write using a fountain pen. On her desk is a basket of ideas scratched on small pieces of paper. They land in that basket when she has a thought, records it, and tosses it in for later use. Occasionally, she’ll take a look and discover the same idea or thought has been tossed in a number of times...a clear hint that something requires addressing.

Susan typically hand-writes her poetry. In fact, she always does, with the exception of “Mending.” The poem was created on her computer during commercial breaks on the eve of the beginning of the war in Iraq.

    ...I am older now than my mother lived to be
and it is not a family darkness that brings me
to silence. A war starts tonight and I
cannot stop it. In my hands I hold
a broken work shirt, heavy cotton, and inspect
the raveled gap that falls just above the waist. It
is too large to darn closed, and I sew shut a breast pocket
and trim out the fabric back, and then trim
the raveled gap, and patch it....

Susan’s writing conveys “truths” of humanity or nature she has witnessed. According to Susan, the successful creation of poetic truth happens when an author transfers an experience in a manner that refrains from implicating the loved ones or individuals who exposed a learned truth, while conveying the life lesson with passion and integrity.
 

Advice

When asked, “What was the best writing advice you have received?” Susan responded with two solid morsels:  After reviewing one her pieces, the great Robert Bly responded with only the words, “look at all these big words!” His poignant observation resulted in a an understanding of impact of word choice. Susan seriously internalized the revisions made by Lily Golden, her editor at Lyons Publishing. She noted how Lily shortened and tightened up her work, creating more concise, punchy pieces. She has since transferred these constructive criticisms to all of her work.

Reflection 

When asked, “Looking back, what advice would you give yourself about writing and about life?” Susan says she probably wouldn’t change much. She has always trusted herself to write about what is important to her.

CarolAnn Russell-Schlemper, MFA, PhD

Interviewed by Ginger Rechtzigel, Erin McMillan, Chris Spieker, Fall 2006


What inspired you to write? 

CR:  I’ve always written, since I was a child: journals, diaries, and lots of letters. Then, when I was sixteen, I went to Frankston school in Australia. I had a teacher who graduated from Cambridge, whose focus was British literature. He started the class with Chaucer and went all the way through. I memorized Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, read Hardy, DH Lawrence, and Dickens, and fell in love with British literature.

Later, in college, my first writing teacher was a poet from San Jose, and his wife was a poet too. He was inspired by the beat poets, and his poetry was very West Coast contemporary, so he introduced me to that school. Then during my MFA at University of Montana I studied under Richard Hugo, Tess Gallagher, and Madeline DeFrees, who had all studied under Theodore Roethke. It was lucky, because I needed to work in West Coast poetry. The first time I heard West Coast contemporary poetry, I experienced psychic recognition. It flew off the page right into my heart. I got it, and I knew I could write it.


What inspired you to teach it?

CR:  The people who taught me were teacher poets, which cannot be said of all poets. They shared a lot of themselves. They helped us because they loved us, and I thought, I want to do that too.

I always envisioned myself in the role of a workshop teacher, working with students who want to share and grow. It was truly a calling for me. I could never be a writer just off by myself writing. After 25 years of teaching, I’ve never seen the same thing.


How do you maintain a balance between your writing and teaching careers?

CR:   Don’t forget my family life. It’s crazy and I love it and it all works together. Someone told me once, brew it strong – your life, like coffee. I have to live my poetic form in real life to get to my poetry.

My writer friends sustain me. I think when you get unexpected things from others, it fills those gaps when you think you’re not doing enough.

And don’t forget, the balance changes with one’s life patterns. Sometimes you have to be more creative to make time for your art, but the poems never go away. They are waiting there – it’s a great solace. That’s why I love to travel. It gives time for reflection, for those things to surface. Once you start writing, it’s like you’ve found the spring. You just live from that standpoint, and it doesn’t go away.

The job thing is death to the artist. My teacher, Richard Hugo said, "It doesn’t matter what your job is. A job is a job is a job. Writing is your real work, and what you do to earn your money is something different. Keep a boundary around your writing that keeps it away from the professional. It can undermine your writing."


What happens in a good poem?

CR: A good poem always has a little bit of dirt on it, like a vegetable from your garden. It betrays your obsessions, and those are what set off your writing. Your obsessions contain the wounds and mysteries of your life. When you write a poem, you are writing towards your consolation. You are trying to save yourself.


The Tough Questions

An Interview with Susan Carol Hauser and Mark Christensen 

with comments by Indra Kenyon


Do you think that writing a memoir is in direct conflict with the Zen goal of being in the now?


SH: No - not at all. The contemplation of the past takes place in the now, and can illuminate the present.

MC: Writing is always in the now when done with commitment. Composing a memoir or a poem or a lesson plan, done best, is done exclusively. That sounds like Zen to me. Part of the pleasure of writing is the sense of presence we feel while doing it. I write, therefore I am. Now. Heidegger's Dasein. This is almost as much pleasure as a classroom of people who are also present, as opposed to classrooms of people who are not. I write for immediate pleasure. I teach the same way.

I K:
The time is always now. However, time is always associated with events, certain states of material objects, and our emotional responses to these things, and therefore we have a sense of time because of changes in these aspects. If time is a measurement of change, then I assume that the real Zen goal in being in the now is that we exist in every moment that is without giving ourselves time to lament change; this is supposed to make us more capable of adjusting to the changes.

If one has not fully adjusted to the changes that took place in one's past, perhaps the present is unattainable. It seems to me that a commitment to the present requires an inventory of past presents. I will explore this further in the second question.


What advice would you give writers who are blocking during the writing of memories they don't want to relive?


SH: I have encountered this difficulty numerous times in my life, and have an article published on it, in Personal Journaling Magazine: Write the Stories that Are Hard to Tell.

MC: The question excites my sadness sense. Some things for some people at some times should be put away. A third degree burn needs to be debrided for the sake of the sufferer's recovery. A puncture wound or cut may be better off left to scab over and heal from within. As a writing teacher I rarely can diagnose whether the wound is a cut or a burn, covered or raw. I can't reliably prescribe debriding, I can only recognize the hurt. In my own work I tend toward ruthlessness, but I am much less gentle with myself than I am with others. You ask for advice. Here it is: ask yourself if you are strong enough today to face yourself yesterday. Will confronting your former self relieve your current self? If so, write. If not, move on.

I K: I only have my personal experience to offer here. I slow down until I can integrate the confronted experience. I write a paragraph and abandon the computer, listen to music that commiserates, and go back and write a little more. I ask some oracle how to look at the experience from a different perspective, ask why I went through what I went through and what I need to integrate into my personality that would help me assimilate the experience. Sometimes I'll write what happened repeatedly until I am done shocking myself.

The details of the experiences can be devastating, but I write them because I feel that I won't have to return to them if I get them all out of my system. If you write it thoroughly, you only have to relive it once. (Maybe.) Also, forgive yourself at every stage you can. Forgive your emotional reactions, forgive yourself for being in each situation. If you can lose some baggage on this trip, the "now" gets lighter and lighter.


What advice would you give writers who fear that their writing will negatively affect their relationships with the people about whom they are writing?


SH: If you are writing a Truth of some kind, there will be more than one way to tell it, so it is not always necessary to write using "real" people. In fact, telling the story without the actual people in it can be very challenging, and can lead to new insights, new writing. Sometimes it is not enough to only tell the truth, or even to write what seems like positive things to you - others may still (and often do) take offense. I apply an old cliche when I write about someone: I don't say anything I wouldn't say to their face. That forces me to find new ways to write about the situation - I have to further investigate what it means to me, or what the meaning of the whole situation, even without that other person. Sometimes it means going from an incident to a time period - things like that.

MC: Fuck 'em. Writers have to write. If we write truthfully as best we know how, we confront and construct reality. This is the beauty of art. This is necessary. Artists offer themselves in their own confrontations with living. Once the offering is made, others choose how to receive those offerings. We have no power to impose that reality on others; we only have the power to offer it. We struggle with the construction of the offering. We suffer when those we care about reject that offering, but once the art is made, the artist no longer is relevant. The piece is the piece. Even we writers can end up offended by our own production. We can join in the revulsion. The piece done truthfully is still the piece, however fierce its truth may be. Relationships may suffer. Perhaps relationships so conflicted as to make a Truth an article of division need to face more truths.

I K: I think that when you write for validation of your own memories and not for someone else's approval, it might be handy to just keep your pages to yourself or to share them with someone you trust. If 1. someone you love is going to get hurt, 2. you still need to validate what you remember, and 3. you aren't convinced that you have a best seller on your hands, then write it and keep it to yourself.

If you need to confront someone you love with some Truth, then the above paragraph obviously does not apply. I think these people need a separate letter to get them to understand your point of view. I wrote letters to everyone I've ever known before I began my memoir. I didn't send the letters; I wrote them so I could get a clear picture of my feelings toward them. By first validating my emotions, I summoned the courage to write about them.

Sometimes others adjust, and sometimes we relent. Who knows; feel it out. But try to remember to have compassion while you write, if you can.


If it comes down to a conflict between the following two decisions, is art or being true to what happened more valuable when writing a memoir?


SH: Tobias Wolff said (something like) every memory has its own story to tell. I think the point of a memoir is the story. It should be told as the story demands. And I don't think there is a difference between art and being true to a story. Art allows one truth of a story/memory to emerge.

MC: Art. Always. Writers get messed up with this issue, especially early in their careers, but the truth emerges while the memoirist composes. In memoir we must not knowingly, overtly, misstate fact or falsely malign others, but we must use arrangement and selection to create emerging truth. Memoir is always written by a present self looking at a reconstructed self. The reconstruction is necessarily different from the self of the past; it is colored by the writer of the moment. This is inescapable. The memoirist does not photograph the present; the memoirist paints the past.

I K: Being true to what happened to me is more valuable to me than art when writing a memoir. Art happens through my voice and my perspective. It is not something I feel I have to strive to attain. I can't expect to get anywhere writing if I try to chase an image of what I think art is. The story is most times much more accessible.


>You've said that "Art is incidental to the artist." Explain what you meant by this statement.


SH: I think I mean that a story doesn't care who writes it. It is the job of the artist to create the art that is there to be created. It is not mere self-expression, even though it is expressed through the self.

MC: Susan Hauser is far too various, complex, and spontaneous for me to know what she meant. I'll tell you what I would mean were I to say that sentence, which I very well may have done. I mean it doesn't matter a good goddamn who wrote the thing. The art is the art. We worry and draft and lose sleep and ask for readings and pace the floor and do all the other fretful behaviors of artists creating, but once the creation is done and gone, it is done and gone and we don't matter any more. All the pride, arrogance, ownership artists feel and exhibit is so much bunk. Once done, it isn't ours any more, other than a marker of the living we once did while it was growing with us. We can say "Look at me, I wrote that, aren't I wonderful?" and some will agree that we are, but the work is the matter of moment.

I honor artists for the processes they undertake; I honor art for its presence, not the artist's.

I K: Susan and I have since discussed this statement and decided that she meant to say, "The artist is incidental to the art." I do agree that the story hasn't a care in the world. We are the ones with the cares and concerns and the impetus to tell the story. The statement, "It is the job of the artist to create the art that is there to be created," doesn't make sense to me. The art isn't there until it is created. Susan told me that she has read that Eskimos believe that the art is latent in the raw material, and it is the artist's job to bring that art out of the material. It's a very creative view of the world, and I've always been interested in reading about artists who create using this mindset, but it's not mine. I'm more likely to point to my will as the creator of art rather than refer to art's magical attributes and how it requires me to intuit its will. Is this a chicken/egg debate? Is it free will versus determinism?

I am unsure of the statement, "It is not mere self-expression, even though it is expressed through the self." The choice of what story to tell is also self-expression. I don't like the coupling of "mere" and "self-expression," even though I suspect that statement is meant to stress that stories have larger purposes than merely allowing us the expression of our perspectives. I don't think that writers need to think any larger than self-expression, though. If my story has a universal appeal because I experience things that others experience, then that lends to its circulation potential (a consideration when you are selling your piece with query letters), but people also want to hear perspectives with which they aren't familiar, so I don't think writers need to be reminded of the rest of the world while they are writing.

If I may take the statement literally (and out of context), I would like to examine how "incidental" is being used.

in·ci·den·tal adj. Occurring or likely to occur as an unpredictable or minor accompaniment: the snags incidental to a changeover in upper management. See Synonyms at accidental. Of a minor, casual, or subordinate nature: incidental expenses.

The artist is a minor accompaniment to the art. Doesn't it know it wouldn't be what it is without the artist? The artist is subordinate to the art - I disagree. The artist is subordinate to her idea of what she wants to create. To me, it's a subordination to one's own will rather than the latent art's will.

But then again, the latent art might be fooling me into thinking I am the prime mover. Or perhaps I'm just such a good channel that I can't tell the difference between my will and the will of the art. (Ha!) Either way, who cares! Look ma, I'm writing!


If you were writing your autobiography and you knew it would not be released until after your death, would you write it differently?


SH: I hope not, because of what I said earlier. The characters, the details in a story are incidental to the real meaning/message/value of the story. If I cannot tell that larger Truth without using people from my life, I do not understand the Truth very well. That is harsh, and I am not always up to my own judgment, but it is what I strive for.

MC:
I hope not. The only exception I can think of is that of writing true things about others that could lead to lawsuits in this life. They can't follow me to the next. What a wicked thought.

I K: I liked what Mark wrote about this. That question was really meant to get at the restrictions on writers. If they want to tell the truth (the truth of what they experienced), they have to worry about getting sued. Mark said, "What a wicked thought," about what he wrote, but I believe that what is wicked is a system which requires that you get a lawyer and an insurance policy before you tell your story.

I will probably have my autobiography destroyed. Or I'll keep it as a family heirloom. I don't intend to write it any differently from how I experienced it, other than maybe shifting the tone from a child's to an adult's perspective. I don't feel it's honest to change the names to "protect the innocent." And to pretend that others weren't there and that mine was a life full of me with no catalyst for my actions is not fair to me.

I write my autobiography as a meditation. It is not necessary that others know everything I've lived. I don't want to put myself in the position of possibly getting sued and hurting loved ones, and that covers the time before and after death.


Lastly, is the 8 a.m. class a message to writers that they will most likely have to hold down day jobs? (Note: The Creative Nonfiction workshops are usually scheduled at 8:00 AM as Mark and Susan are both "morning persons." SCH)


SH: Not at all. The subtext is that (1) I'm a morning person (2) if you really want to study Creative Nonfiction or study with me, you have to get up early. Regarding the latter: I appreciate the 8 a.m. hour because it discourages the insincere. But that is incidental to my preference for working in the morning.


Any closing comments?


SH: I enjoyed the whole interview. Probing and important questions. Thank you for asking them.

MC: Indra, you present questions challenging enough to be thesis statements. People write books about these matters. I hope you or your class will provide some commentary on my responses, as my thinking about these matters is unfinished.