Classy Talk with Elissa Washuta | Fall 2014

Posted Tue, 9/02/2014 - 10:14pm by  |  Category:

washuta_0.jpgWhat is the title of your class?

I’m teaching two fall classes: Narrative Momentum in Memoir (a six-week class) and Found Stories and Fake Texts: Literary Artifice (a one-day class).

What’s one thing you hope your students will take away from the class?

Although the classes are dramatically different, both will be all about my obsession with structure as a vehicle for meaning—and students will walk away with an understanding of how that works on the page.

What sorts of writers will you be reading/assigning in class? Why?

In the six-week class, we’ll read an excerpt from Wild by Cheryl Strayed, part of Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, and some other work that will illustrate different types of memoir structures we’ll discuss.

Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?

Absolutely. I’m on twitter, @misswashuta.

Are any of your works online and available to the public? 


The Chronicle of Higher Education


An excerpt of my recent debut memoir is available on my website.

What’s your teaching philosophy?

I believe in helping students see possibilities for their work—new approaches, forms, subjects, genres, methods, structures, attitudes. Too often, we are defeated by what we believe we can’t or shouldn’t do. I want to offer more options for the amazing writers, various in their writerly sensibilities, with whom I am fortunate to work.

What advice do you have about getting into the habit of writing regularly?

Try to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night so that you wake up well-rested and keep up your energy for the work you need to do. Keep yourself well-fed with plenty of high-quality fat to fuel your brain. Engage in all acts of self-care necessary to keep your brain sharp and your body fed and rested, because writing regularly can begin to feel like a performance that will bring on fatigue if you’re not caring for yourself properly. Feel free to turn down social calls. Know when to stop.

What are you working on right now? Where did the idea come from?

I’m working on an essay for the Hugo Literary Series. I was commissioned to read brand new work on the theme of “Rough Day” on October 17. All I can tell you is that the essay involves Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and it came from that place where all my essay ideas come from: way down the rabbit hole. I couldn’t really tell you where that is.

What’s your favorite word in the English vocabulary?

I tried to put the entire text of my book into to get a really good answer for you, but I received the response, “The gateway did not receive a timely response from the upstream server or application.” I don’t have an all-time favorite, but I am loving the sound of “nonsense” as I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s one of those words that only becomes more robust after repeat exposures.

Let’s talk writing inspiration—what’s the No. 1 thing that drives you to write?

The pressure of deadlines or something else to drive output. The effect is magical.