Conducted by Randi DePriest, September 26, 2005
DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH/AREAS OF EXPERTISE?
I am currently writing a novel set in Chicago. I grew up in the suburbs, but I am researching the current culture, neighborhoods, and so on. Also, my lead character is a compulsive liar, so I am researching the philosophy and psychology of lying.
My areas of expertise are fiction, contemporary American literature, and gay and lesbian literature.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE COMMUNITY LITERACY?
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but just as a layman, I think the percentage of Americans who are totally illiterate is a huge concern. I define literacy as not only reading and writing skills but the ability to interpret our culture as opposed to just living under it or along with it. Literate citizens are critical and active participants in culture. Literacy from the creative point of view is about helping people to realize that their experience is a huge part of literacy…expressing it and finding their voice is important.
WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH IN OUR COMMUNITY?
I participate in Writers on the Plains which aims to encourage literacy in rural areas.. We concentrate on literacy in rural counties of northeastern Colorado. We are currently working with public libraries in Eaton and Fort Morgan. Libraries are a community center for learning and literacy, and they should also serve as a center for celebrations or other community-oriented activities. We are also trying to bring in some writers who write about those areas for readings. The program is staffed by volunteers from the Morgan Library staff and the Creative Writing Program. Seehttp://lib.colostate.edu/writersontheplains/ for more info.
I am also involved in some community programs through the Creative Writing Program. We put the Reading Series together, which serves the entire community as a way to experience literary arts. One creative writing faculty member will be judging the Scholastic Art and Writing Program, which is a scholarship writing competition for Colorado 7th-12th graders.
HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE LEARNERS TO GET INVOLVED AND STAY INVOLVED IN YOUR PROJECT?
The Creative Writing program is very active in getting students interested and participating in programs. The faculty encourages them to get involved with both the Creative Writing Reading Series and the Writers on the Plains Reading Series. They are encouraged to submit their work to A, the Creative and Performing Arts Award, or other publishing/scholarship opportunities. Also, they can get involved with things like CSU’s Center for Literary Publishing, creators of the Colorado Review, the undergraduate-staffed A Literary Magazine, and writing-related internships at the university or in the community.
WHAT CASES STAND OUT IN YOUR MIND (PEOPLE YOU HAVE HELPED, SUCCESS STORIES, ETC.) THAT EMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY LITERACY PROGRAMS?
I don’t want to say one in particular. It is very awarding when students win the Creative and Performing Arts Award or continue in Creative Writing Programs. Many of our MFAs move on to teaching or a wide range of writing-related fields.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES WHEN DEVELOPING COMMUNITY LITERACY PROGRAMS?
Television! Just kidding.but not really. I think the biggest obstacle is making people aware that reading enriches their life.that it is important.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO BUILD SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS?
With Writers on the Plains, if you represent CSU, you are not imposing your programs or interests in a community. You are trying to build a bridge between the university and the community.