At The End of the Fall Semester, Part II

Of all the sections of Intro to Creative Writing that I have taught at this university, you are, as a group, among the three most talented. You arrived in this room with unusual aptitude for language, for empathy, for taking risks: three things no writer succeeds without. And most of you worked hard–some of you worked very hard–to improve. For that, I am grateful to you.

You are also, collectively, one of the most inconsistent sections–in terms of attendance, promptness, workshop participation–that I have taught. I say this not to criticize, to make you feel bad–if you are the kind of person who feels bad about that sort of thing, you already do–but because it’s my job, technically speaking, to teach you how to succeed in our creative writing program.

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I’ve had this conversation with enough people by now that I think it’s worth putting down in some more permanent form. The audience for this piece is specifically white academics, or those who consider themselves educated (whether self- or formally-) white allies, though of course anyone can read it.  Continue reading


I have been lifting weights again, an endeavour to which I am partial because my only goal in lifting is being able to lift more, the same the-ends-are-the-means process that motivates me to write. On my better days, I am trying to make a poem so that I can make the next one. On my worst: to satisfy my ego’s gaping maw, its endlessly open wound. Continue reading

On the Last Day of the Fall Semester

Closing remarks to my introduction to creative writing students. As with most of what I do in the classroom, it’s at least 40% self-directed.

1 December 2016

It has been my honour and my pleasure to teach you this semester. It has also been my privilege to learn from you. Each one of you has done the kind of hard, honest work that constitutes an artist’s life: learned a new skill, challenged an old assumption, surprised yourself with a talent you didn’t know you had. Said something you didn’t think you knew how to say. You have also given me, unasked, your trust and your respect. I’m grateful for that. And I hope you feel that I have given you the same. Continue reading


It’s almost the end of summer break and I’m nearly through a notebook. Like most who spend much time with such accoutrement, I am fussy about my ink (black, fine, rollerball or fountain) and my paper, which cannot under any circumstances be white with blue lines. Continue reading


I spent many many years, as a young person, playing basketball. I was simultaneously pretty good and terrible, depending which end of the court I was on. Genetically blessed with relative height and wingspan, quick feet, and a decent vertical leap, defense was my game. Continue reading