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Monday, January 10, 2011

On Writing

In August, I sat in a classroom for the first time to formally
study writing. Introduction to Creative Writing began with a
quote by Rushi: Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger
pull of what you really love.

What I love is writing. I feel most alive when I am writing. For
me, writing isn't a talent. It's a passion. It's a way I can
express myself. It allows me to reach out to other people. And
I always hope I can help other people through writing about my
own experiences.

I loved my creative writing class at Kent State University. But
it was a hard semester for me. My body failed me. I could not
keep up with the reading and signing that was necessary to
participate in each class period. With a heavy heart, I knew I
needed to withdrawal from the course.

I was lucky to have such an awesome teacher. She wouldn't let me
go. She would do whatever it took to keep me in that class.
Most importantly, she wanted to keep me writing.

During the second half of the semester, I did not go to class.
I did everything via email. My work was still read in class and
students sent me comments and feedback through email. It
turned out to be remote education at it's best.

The Spring semester started today. I know I can't survive any
classes right now. My pain has not yet begun to improve.
Wisest choice is to take a semester off. But I never said I
was wise.

Actually, it was my teacher. She came recruiting. She asked me
to take another one of her classes. I can do this class the same
way. She is even going to tailor the reading requirements and
assignments to meet my specific needs and interests. I had to
say "yes" because that's what I most wanted to do. Now I will be
taking Poetry Writing I but it will be more of and independent
studies compared to what the other students will do.

If I'm up to it later, I can attend the actual class. If not,
that's okay. As long as I am writing. Perhaps this experience
will even be healing. There is such mental healing involved in
writing.

I want to honor this great and wonderful teacher. Few are so
adaptable or creative... or accepting. So I'm sharing this
story. Below is an article about Dr. Katherine Blackbird. I
didn't write this but I agree with every word. All I can really
say is, "Thank you."

Outstanding Teaching Award Recipient Blackbird Writes Toward a
Way Home
March 3, 2008
Colleagues describe Katherine Blackbird as the embodiment of all
of the essentials qualities of good teaching: inquisitiveness,
open-mindedness and passion. It comes as no surprise that
Blackbird is the recipient of an Outstanding Teaching Award.

Blackbird has been teaching at Kent State since 1992. She
currently teaches Poetry Writing I and II and Introduction to
Creative Writing, directs seniors' writing portfolios and mentors
graduate students who are teaching Creative writing for the first
time.

Blackbird lives in Burton, Ohio, a small town north of Kent
State. She came back to school as a nontraditional student in
1983, attended two of Kent State's Regional Campuses and earned
her degrees from Kent State. Blackbird is currently writing her
doctoral dissertation.

Blackbird's passion for writing began at a young age, maturing
and expanding through her life's experiences. "After my sister
died in 1984 my relationship with language significantly shifted
and deepened," Blackbird says. "For me, images that arise from
the unconscious in creative writing and poetry give access to the
heart of a matter. Writing is a way of awakening more fully to
one's experience, of find one's way home."

It is important to Blackbird to instill passion about writing in
her students at Kent State. And, she comments, she is happy to
"give back a little of what has been so generously given" to
her.

She describes the students at Kent State as smart, creative,
motivated and hardworking. "They're solid in hope and optimism -
those consistent predictors of success,," Blackbird says. "They
are the best.."

When asked how she motivates students, she quotes the poet Mary
Oliver. "To pay attention, this is our endless and proper
work." She adds, "I try to pay attention." She attends to her
own writing practice and shares from her experience. She is
delighted to see a good number of her students publish their
work for the first time and win contests and scholarships.

"Most students sense immediately how rare an opportunity they
have to be part of a creative writing class,." Blackbird says.
"It is an environment where students learn to see and to say, to
read and to write, toward the roots of their own stories, thus
opening a way of recognition of the self and others."

By Melody Wachowski

Foot note: Since this story was written, Blackbird has
completed her doctorate and recently changed her name. She is
now known as Dr. Katherine Orr.

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