Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writing Mentors

I've been fortunate to have had some wonderful writing mentors, teachers, and coaches over the course of my life, and I just want to give some credit to these amazing people:

Jim St. Pierre, English professor at Granite State College:  the first teacher to see something in my writing and encourage me.  I was a human services major before I met Jim; after a couple of classes with him, my focus changed, and I realized that poetry and literature were something that made me truly happy.  I changed my major because of this, thus changing the course of my life.  Also, because of him, I am now a good essay writer and thesis-developer.

Patrick Armstrong, poetry professor at Granite State College:  an accomplished poet himself, and the first person to get genuinely excited about my poetry.  It was in Pat's classes that issues of craft were first introduced in-depth, and I learned so much from him.  He made me realize that my voice was important, and that I should explore poetry more deeply.  His encouragement led me on to a MFA in Poetry, and I'm now proud to call him my friend.

Roger Weingarten, poetry professor at Vermont College of Fine Arts:  another accomplished and amazing poet.  I first took his workshop as a newbie in that scary college full of brilliant, aspiring writers.  His style of teaching was a little bit like poetry boot camp~he toughened me up!  My quirky use of line breaks comes from Roger, as do so many other more advanced craft techniques I employ in my poems (they seem to come to me more naturally now).  I miss our phone conversations about poetry, and his tomato garden.

Mary Ruefle, poetry professor at Vermont College of Fine Arts:  Oh, Mary.  I didn't know what to think or how to act when I first met her.  Intense, a little snappy, yet so kind-hearted, and funny as hell.  I met Mary in my second semester, just as I was undergoing some big doubts about this writing gig.  She pulled me back on ship, and used a holistic approach in coaching me along.  She actually asked to see the first poem I ever wrote.  I will always treasure the packets she sent to me, typed on an actual typewriter, pages and pages long, with endearing little "gifts" included.  She also did the introduction to my final graduation reading.  I credit her for saving me, when I wanted to quit.

Richard Jackson, poetry professor at Vermont College of Fine Arts:  Brilliant, yet down-to-earth.  There's just something about Rick that puts a person at ease.  I felt an immediate kinship with him.  He turned me onto some fine Eastern European writers, one of whom I focused my final thesis on.  I'll never forget the time we spent in Slovenia, in those laid-back, fun-filled workshops.  I think Rick really "got" my work, and saw something valuable in it, and he was the first teacher to professionally, academically critique and support me.  In short, he gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities.  A true gem!

Sascha Feinstein, poetry professor at Vermont College of Fine Arts:  my last mentor, and someone I now call a friend.  A truly gifted writer, poet, and musician, Sascha was just instantly likable, someone you could joke around with, and more importantly~trust.  He's got an amazing style all his own, yet he can see the value in all other styles, with an uncanny ability to pick out that which works, and that which doesn't.  He helped me to polish up my final manuscript for VCFA, and I think he truly believes in me, as I do him.  And I am seriously indebted to him for the first blurb for my chapbook (but shhhh...that's a secret until the book comes out!).  

These are all my professional mentors, but I also want to mention the many other friends who've helped me along the way, whether through poetry forums, or in writing groups;  the old friends and the new, who take the time to read the work, and offer up suggestions and encouragement.  As I said before~I learn new things about poetry every day, and I credit all of you with helping me along my path.  Thank you, so very much.     

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