When you publish a piece of writing, you imagine you are offering something to people, but you don’t get to see how they receive it. For a teacher in a classroom, it’s right there. They unwrap your gift. They try it on. It fits. In fact, it looks great on them. In the years since I started teaching writing to undergraduate and grad students, I’ve ended up finding as much pleasure in their work and their creative breakthroughs as in my own.
As a memoirist and NPR commentator, Winik knows a thing or two about expressing herself through words.
Winik is available for speaking engagements through redBrick Agency.
I began teaching more or less by accident after I married a philosophy professor in 1999. While I had gotten my M.F.A. from Brooklyn College in 1983, I didn’t realize this qualified me to teach anything, and at that point it probably didn’t. I had flitted from confessional poetry to autobiographical fiction, seemingly waiting for my real form, creative nonfiction, to emerge. Though classes in creative nonfiction are ubiquitous now, there was not an M.F.A. program in the genre until 1993. In fact, I was unsure what to call it when I wrote what turned out to be my first personal essay in 1987, "How To Get Pregnant in the Modern World."
Finding my form was an incredible relief to me; I had been wanting for years to write plainly in my own voice. I was already writing exclusively, if semi-covertly, about my life; now I could pursue openly my instinct that an actual set of experiences was as viable a gateway to truth as any other. And finally, though I would then have thought it déclassé to go on about “healing,” I found that writing a personal essay is for my money the single most potent way to change one’s emotional relationship to the turbulence of destiny. My books and my essays, like those that appear regularly in my "Bohemian Rhapsody" column (voted "Best of Baltimore" by Baltimore magazine!) in Baltimore Fishbowl, are really all about that. Writing is a way of taking control.
What I hope to offer students at the University of Baltimore is an invitation to candor and a license for curiosity. Whether you are writing about yourself or about the world outside (often the case in magazine writing classes), I am here to help you find the narrative arc in your experiences and your true voice on the page. (My own voice, by the way, shows up occasionally on National Public Radio.) I hope to instill in you the high standards and focus required to craft sentences and paragraphs capable of luring, snagging and bagging the unsuspecting reader—and I hope that you’ll get the same rush out of it I do.
Essays and articles have appeared in: