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Writing, publishing and teaching: the strength of Wofford’s Creative Writing faculty
Wofford Today,  Fall 2010
by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington '89

In April Wofford Professor Elizabeth Cox will join the likes of Harper Lee, Eudora Welty, James Dickey, Walker Percy, Reynolds Price and Flannery O’Connor in The Fellowship of Southern Writers. She also will receive the Robert Penn Warren Award for her body of work, which includes novels, short stories, poetry and essays.

Cox’s upcoming honor adds another citation to the already impressive resumés of Wofford’s Creative Writing faculty. Within the past year alone:

  • Cathy Smith Bowers was named Poet Laureate of North Carolina.
  • Dr. Deno Trakas’ new book, “Because Memory Isn’t Eternal,” was released, receiving both critical and popular acclaim.
  • John Lane ’77 is waiting for the spring 2011 release of “Abandoned Quarry: New & Selected Poems” from Mercer University Press, and he’s traveling, along with Wofford Professor of Sociology Gerald Thurmond, in support of “Bartram’s Living Legacy: The Travels and the Nature of the South,” in which both have works featured.
  • C. Michael Curtis’ most recent edited anthology, “Expecting Goodness & Other Stories,” was published and won an IPPY award. He has chapters in two recent books — “Writing Short Stories” and “Naming the World: Exercises for Creative Writers” — and continues to shape American literary taste as editor of the Atlantic Monthly.

“Everybody is at the top of their game,” says Trakas. In addition to the core Creative Writing faculty, Dr. Mark Ferguson ’94, chairman of the Department of Theatre, teaches playwriting classes, and Dr. Julie Sexeny, a producer as well as an assistant professor of English, teaches screenwriting and film making classes. The department also brings in visiting writers and teachers to enhance the experience for students who want to study creative writing.

“I think Wofford has some amazing writers here on the faculty,” says Cox, who shares the John C. Cobb Chair in Humanities with her husband, Michael Curtis. “Their way of teaching is both exacting (they have a fierce way of looking at language) and offers a freedom to the imagination, and that’s a hard combination to achieve.”
Students in the Creative Writing program call the faculty accessible, knowledgeable and honest.

“The Creative Writing faculty is straight forward. They’re not afraid to give their opinion on your writing, but they’re also free about letting you work within your personal style. They realize that there is no one mold,” says Kemper Wray ’10, a creative writing minor who now works as a counselor in the college’s admission office. Wray just learned that the novella she wrote in Trakas’s class won the Benjamin Wofford Prize. She is working with Trakas this fall to edit the work so it can be published in the spring.

According to Trakas, the Creative Writing program has exceeded the expectations the college had for the program when it began 30 years ago with one course and one professor. Wofford now offers 10 courses in Creative Writing, a concentration for students majoring in English and a minor for students pursing majors outside of English. The courses are diverse. The faculty is accomplished, and the student writers capable and eager to learn. The program’s next step is securing endowment support to establish a student scholarship in Creative Writing.