Hope Edelman Visiting Writer Creative Nonfiction Workshop

The Visiting Writer Creative Nonfiction workshop with Hope Edelman this Spring was invigorating and insightful.  It was an absolute pleasure to observe Hope’s unique approach to teaching Creative Nonfiction. I look forward to the opportunity to work with many more visiting writers here at UNCW in my MFA career!  

Hope’s commanding presence, her high-caliber professionalism and knowledgeable instruction all made for a fantastic experience.  My peers and I mourned the loss of the “too-short” class almost as soon as it had started – it was over in a flash, four weeks felt like the fast bonds that sleep-away camp forge. The concentrated month-long structure, combined with Hope’s unique teaching style provided an enriching and memorable workshop. 

The class was run in a typical workshop format, veering slightly off the beaten path by first focusing on identifying overall themes of each piece being workshopped and listing them on the whiteboard. This original approach to map themes as a jumping-off point for discussion was effective to help shape the author’s intentions for the piece.  Further, the theme “brainstorm” provided a dynamic platform to delve into how the work spoke to each individual reader – and what could be improved.  Each classmate I spoke to looked forward to this part of workshop, as each theme provided acute and valuable insight to reader reaction. 

 Hope also took the opportunity to pepper class time with “mini-lectures” on structure and craft.  Topics covered included the following: how to hit the sweet spot of exposition vs. reflection, when to deploy the personal essay form vs. memoir, how to distinctly define the “narrator” in creative nonfiction and temporal narration. These mini-lectures greatly enhanced the class time from just a plain-jane workshop to a multilayered, robust learning experience.

 The professionalism and poise of how the class was run was noted by me and my peers. Hope was extremely prompt and conveyed a “no-nonsense” but fair attitude – no class time was ever wasted.  She was an active, attentive listener and answered all our questions on our work in a thoughtful, encouraging manner.  Further, Hope communicated often and effectively through email, was thorough in her expectations for the course, and upheld her stellar standards for workshop etiquette. All in all, the professional polish that she exhibited was a power of example for all of us.  

 The only downside was the brevity of the course – she expressed that she wished she were here for a whole semester to get to know us and our work.  I, for one, was inspired by Hope Edelman’s extremely valuable approach to teaching creative nonfiction, and I look forward to the possibility of a future workshop where UNCW and Hope’s paths cross again.

—Beth Roddy
1st-Year MFA Student

The Power of an Image

Watching the second installment of ABC’s hit drama Resurrection last Sunday night, one image in particular hit home for me. Jacob is standing alone in the middle of a ball field. The other children, who were a moment ago playing happily with him, have all been called away by their mothers. Jacob, who doesn’t see himself as any different from them, doesn’t understand why. His mother, Lucille, is watching all of this unfold from over a chain link fence, and we in turn view the scene from over Lucille’s left shoulder. This is a plaintive scene, and you feel not only for Jacob and Lucille for different reasons, but also for the other children, and even for their parents—who cannot grasp the situation either, and whose protective behavior is therefore understandable. 

It must be a little surreal for a poet to find himself at the center of a phenomenon like Resurrection, which attracted over twenty-one million viewers on its first night. Poets, after all, are neglected as a matter of course. We feel fortunate to sell out an edition of five hundred books. Jason Mott, who recently earned his MFA in poetry at UNCW, probably felt the same way only weeks ago, until his hit novel The Returned became the hit series Resurrection

But I was thinking, based solely on the two episodes of Resurrection that I’ve seen, that this is a poet’s TV series, if anything of the sort can exist. In the scene above, I was moved not so much by the story but by the sheer power of the image. Jacob is wearing a green shirt, and is standing in the middle distance of a green field. The tone-on-tone effect heightens how lost and alone the boy must feel, how lost and alone any child sometimes feels. The chain link fence symbolizes Lucille’s helplessness, and by extension every parent’s helplessness at times. The scene lingered in perfect stillness on the screen for several seconds, and I couldn’t look away. 

I know that Jason isn’t the writer for the series, but there’s something here—something in the poet’s lyricism perhaps—that seems to have been imported intact onto TV. It will be interesting to see how the producers handle this raw, lyrical quality in the future.

Here’s a recent interview with Jason:


2014 AWP Conference


This is the word I was hearing a lot of at UNCW events during the AWP conference this past weekend in Seattle. It makes you wonder, out of all the great programs out there, out of all the hugs and smiles you see in such a tremendous crush of creative talent as all that, can little ol’ UNCW really stand out in such a particular way?

The short answer is, I don’t know. I heard the word around the table in the Bookfair, where we were displaying the immense array of award-winning books and journals produced by the Publishing Laboratory, under the immensely professional eye of Director Emily Smith.


I heard the word at the Ecotone and Lookout Launch party on the penthouse floor of the Sorrento Hotel, on Friday night, from several of the grateful authors we have published. And I heard the word many times more from participants at our annual Alumni reading on Saturday night, in downtown Seattle’s Alibi Room.
image(Bill Carty, ‘07)

I also went to great programs for my Creative Writing degrees, and not a day goes by when I don’t say a prayer of gratitude for the journey my life has taken. So I know what it feels like to finally belong in some deep, almost inexpressible way to a community of peers and artists and lifelong friends. I know as well that this is how we feel here in Wilmington and long afterward. It comes, I suppose, from what Elizabeth Bishop once termed “Efforts of Affection.” We do our best, but then something bigger takes over.

-Michael White