Dear Friends — Yi Shun Lai asks guest faculty at this years August NILA residency to answer 5 questions.
To find out more about our residency up on beautiful Whidbey Island, click on http://www.nila.edu/mfa/
To find out more about my fantastically gifted and athletic teaching partner Janet Buttenwieser, click here.
Here they are along with my answers:
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR GUEST FACULTY
1. What’s your favorite thing about teaching writers?
Writers want to learn how to write well. Then they want to learn how to write better. And after that they want to learn how to write differently. Which means that they are engaged, demanding, curious, and ambitious. Never satisfied. Always pushing. I love that.
2. How would you suggest students approach a writer, agent, or editor they admire?
Approaching writers you love is simple. First, be sure you’ve remembered the title of their work correctly. Then go up to them and say “I love your novel/poetry collection/essay/blog/standup bit, and I just wanted to meet you and tell you that.” As for editors, if you like what they publish — it’s the same thing. Thanking an editor for publishing you by way of an intro is classy and appreciated. When I figure out how to approach an agent without sounding like a jerk, I’ll let you know.
3. How about a sneak peek of what we can expect to learn from you in your sessions at Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA?
Long answer: The element of surprise is crucial to teaching adult learners. Folks need to be slightly off-kilter in order to think out of the box. Interactivity, clarity, and a sense of connection to others in the class, promote increased ability to discover and to remember.
Short answer: Nope.
4. Tell us what “literary community” means to you.
It’s a tribe — an extended family with kinship and commitment to the well-being and success of every writer/artist in the tribe, whether they are writing outdoorsy essays, memoirs about boats, historical, literary, or commercial fiction, science-fiction/fantasy mashups, short stories, long novels, poems, or picture books. Self-published, indie published, big time published. People who show up for your reading when no one else does. People whom you show up for, and edit, and pimp and help in any shape or form you can think of, because they have already helped or are going to help you.
5. When not teaching or working at your “day job,” you can be found…
Watching tv, texting with my spawn about Hannibal, knitting, reading one of the tribe’s books, and/or complaining to someone (often Larry Behrendt who is writing his own book about Jewish-Christian dialogue) about something having to do with education, the economy, the two-state solution, racism, sexism, transphobia, gun control or the environment as I sit on a chair drinking coffee or wine in Coupeville WA or Los Angeles, CA. I have been known to visit the gym, and then I complain to someone about that.