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East entry to Ford Center for the Fine Arts.

Tasha Coryell '10

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Major in Creative Writing

Tasha, a Fulbright recipient in 2010, continues her fruitful and expansive writing career while working as an instructor at the University of Alabama.

What was your experience with the writing community at Knox? 

I attended Knox because I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and Knox is one of the few schools where I could actually major in creative writing and take writing classes as a first-year student. Although I found attending an MFA program to be valuable, there was something special about the workshops at Knox. I’m very nostalgic about the 7:30 pm to midnight class in Old Main, though I can’t imagine staying up until midnight at this point in my life.

I think, too, that the Knox literary community doesn’t end upon graduation. There are people that I wasn’t particularly close with in undergrad that I ended up reconnecting with on Twitter or in graduate school. I’ve also met Knox grads that attended at a different time than me, but we’ve connected over our shared experiences.

Why did you decide to work in higher education? Did you know you would follow this path when studying as an undergraduate?

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher of some kind. I always saw myself teaching creative writing because those were the classes that I loved to take as an undergraduate, but when I started teaching at the college level as a graduate student, I realized that I also love to teach composition classes. There’s something great about teaching writing to students who may not already love writing or don’t understand writing as a vehicle for power. I’ve had a lot of students tell me at the end of the semester that they’ve never thought of themselves as being “good” at English only to realize that they have a lot to say when writing about topics that they care about. I also teach a novel-writing workshop every semester, which is a really fun class to teach because it's like reading 12 novels simultaneously.  

You have a wide range of publications across genres. What is your favorite to write?

The first longer work I ever wrote was a YA [young adult] novel when I was 13 years old. I didn’t finish it, and every page seemed like an eternity. Now I’m 33 and am once again working on a YA novel with similar themes. Sometimes writing projects take 20 years to happen.

I am always working on a novel. Someday I’ll have a novel published, but for now, I keep writing them. I have written drafts of almost six different novels in the past five years. I work on whatever novel I’m writing almost every day. Sometimes I write 200 words, sometimes 2,000. I’m not a person who can sit at my computer and write for hours. I max out after a couple of hours a day.

How does your writing life relate to your teaching?

What I realized following my MFA was that I’d had my fill of workshops and found myself doing plenty of reading and writing without the structure of school. After a couple of years of [teaching], I realized that I missed studying theory, and I started a Ph.D. program in composition and rhetoric while continuing on as a full-time instructor. I was terrified that once I transitioned into composition and rhetoric, I would lose touch with creative writing. Instead, I found that it took some of the pressure off of publishing creatively, and I was able to love writing in a different way.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Another writing-related thing I do is serve as fiction coordinator for Best of the Net. I’ve never been interested in working on a literary magazine, but I think there is value in reading recently published work. I think work that’s published online often gets overlooked in terms of prestige, even though it’s able to be shared more often than work published in print magazines. It’s fun to be able to read already-published stories and consider what makes them good. There are a few Knox graduates that read or have read with me in the past, which is another way the Knox community continues outside of school.

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Printed on Saturday, June 22, 2024