Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Ross Showalter! Ross is teaching Character and Conflict (Reg#  383933) in our deadline-driven online format, starting January 12 this Winter. He sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and his upcoming course.

What sparks your creativity?
I typically have questions whenever I read or watch or engage with something, and my spark of creativity often comes from those questions I have. Whether it’s a piece of media, a personal relationship, or something in the public sphere, I tend to let the questions that arise take over and guide the stories I tell. I do my best writing when I’m curious and I want that curiosity to guide me to wherever the writing goes.

What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
I’m a big reader, honestly. I started writing fiction because I didn’t see the stories I wanted to see in the world. I always try to read every day, even if I don’t write. Whenever I feel uninspired, I always go back to writing that’s inspired me time and time again and allowed me to see that the fiction I wanted to write was, in fact, possible.

What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
I love Jeff Nichols’s film Take Shelter. I think it becomes better and better with every viewing, and its commentary on American society becomes more necessary to think about with every year that goes by.

What’s your favorite quote about writing?
In his essay “My Parade,” Alexander Chee writes, “The only things you must have to become a writer are the stamina to continue and a wily, cagey heart in the face of extremity, failure, and success.”

Who do you wish you could write like (or: Whose writing discipline do you wish you had)?
I’m obsessed with Steven Millhauser’s short stories—more specifically, the slipperiness and tension that runs through his work. He has so much control over every story, regardless of genre or subject, and I really wish I could write like him.

What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
It’s an open-access program, so anyone can sign up. The fact that it’s accessible to all [adults] in that way, with no admission barriers, makes me so excited. I think the lack of admission barriers allows the opportunity for people to engage with reading and writing and learning in a way that’s very freeing, and I hope to see the people I work with make the most of that freedom.

What do you hope your students get from your course?
I hope they see writing as a method of play, first and foremost. I see writing as a place where you can talk about anything you want, whether it be something as simple as, “Look how cool aliens are,” or something as intense and necessary as, “This bad thing happened to this person or this group of people.” I really hope that, through the readings I assign and the writing assignments I ask them to do, people see that they can write literally whatever they want to write about.

Thank you to Ross for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!

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