Conversing with the editor: Stephanie Vanderslice on studying creative writing

Niyousha writes: We’ve been interviewing some of the contributors of Studying Creative Writing – Successfully (ed. Stephanie Vanderslice), this summer’s exciting addition to the Creative Writing Studies series. So far we’ve chatted with Garry Craig Powell, who advised us to “slow down” when doing a public reading, and Anna Leahy, who recommended having multiple projects on the go as a way of sustaining yourself as writer.


This week, we’ve interviewed the editor of the book herself.

Stephanie Vanderslice directs the Arkansas Writers M.F.A. Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas. She is the author of the first title in our Creative Writing Studies series, Rethinking Creative Writing.

She also blogs as The Writing Geek for The Huffington Post.


If you could only give your creative writing students one piece of writing to study, what would it be, and why?

It’s so hard to recommend just one. In terms of literature, there is so much to learn from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, the writing is just exquisite. In terms of the literary life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear, is a new go-to book for me and something I think all nascent creative writers would benefit from reading.

Your chapter in this book is about making the most of a creative writing degree. How can a creative writing degree make you more employable?

Like many other non-vocational degrees, which require that you consciously shape your time in college with internships, coursework and extracurricular activities, having studied creative writing means that you know how to pay attention to language and writing in ways that other people don’t. As most employers will attest, few skills are more valuable in the workforce.

You only get one life and you work a majority of it – satisfying work is important.

What do you wish you had known when you started studying for a creative writing degree?

I wish I had understood the importance – no, the necessity – of doing internships in the various fields I was considering working in. I did one internship as an undergraduate – I wish I had done many more, especially in publishing. I also wish I had taken advantage of informational interviews, where I could have learned about how to position myself for fields I was interested in.

What’s the most useful advice you’ve received regarding studying creative writing successfully?

The ability to write well and use creative skills is essential in the workforce – but you must develop the savvy to employ those skills and market them.

What’s made studying creative writing worthwhile for you?

There is nothing I would rather do than work with words and use my creative skills in work I enjoy. You only get one life and you work a majority of it – satisfying work is important.


About Anthony Haynes

Director, Frontinus Ltd Communications Associate, FJWilson Talent Services

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