In the Spotlight
York College of Pennsylvania, Assistant Professor and Director of the Creative Writing Minor
York, PA Member Since: 2007
About: Travis Kurowski is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature at York College of Pennsylvania, where he edits Story, a new national literary magazine covering the narrative arts. He is the “Literary MagNet” columnist for Poets & Writers, and his book Paper Dreams: Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine was published by Atticus Books in 2013.
What is the best writing advice that you dispense to your students?
I guess you’d have to ask them. Personally, I feel that, for undergraduate creative writers in their first semester, explaining to them that no work of art is produced in a vacuum – that all writing steals obsessively and constantly from the world and from other writing (I show them examples from Austin Kleon and Kenneth Goldsmith and Lynda Barry) – seems to free them up as writers quite a bit. It seems to give them the freedom to explore and borrow and refashion, rather than stare at the blank page and wait for genius. To be honest, a great number of students don’t believe me that a portion of all writing is remix, and so much of this new “freedom” is born from classroom rebellion. But, when read aloud in class, that rebellion almost always produces some of the most exciting art of the semester.
Do you feel influenced by your peers to produce a certain type of creative work, or do you feel free to follow your own interests and passions?
Both at the same time, which I bet is true for everyone. You’re obsessed with your won, well, obsessions. But these get nudged and improved upon this way and that by being inspired by what else is out there.
Where do you get your best reading recommendations?
Probably Twitter. I follow hundreds of writers and publishers.
What is the best lesson that you have learned from a book?
First: That I am limited by my view of the world. Second: that I am not alone in my confusion and my suffering. (I don’t think I would want a book with just one of those, but I feel that nearly all great books have both in them somewhere.)
Would you like to share a project you are currently working on?
I would love to, but I’d better not. Then I would either (1) be no longer motivated to finish it or (2) be scared to abandon working on it because I told someone about it.
What would be your advice to new AWP members on how to make the most of their membership?
For students, I would recommend taking advantage of all the information the website offers regarding publishing and careers. For teachers, the pedagogical information and program management resources that AWP offers are unparalleled – it’s necessary in order to communicate instructor or programmatic needs across campus or to administrators. Wish I had known about it back in 2005, at the beginning of my teaching career.