My work is an exploration of beauty through writing and visual art. As an artist, I’m deeply invested in my own inquiry and the need to know what will happen next. I don’t believe enough of us are authentically expressing ourselves with the rich materials already within our reach. For that reason, I recently took up painting, refabbing cast-off canvases, and building three-dimensional forms with my finds. I believe my purpose is to create, either alone or in collaboration with others.
I publish poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and photography in print and online magazines. Putting work out into the world is an act of power and hope. My current projects are what I call artists’ storybooks–or books I both write and physically craft, modern fairy tales, and novels that move beyond national borders and constraints. I believe we are all hybrids, mongrels, and possibly semi-magical creatures (you know who you are) living on a planet enduring intense stress wrought by human beings. It’s a complicated and powerful time to be alive. In my own work, I look to the visionaries of all kinds who create, listen, collaborate, and help us find a better way. All story writing is world building. When I write, I go down inside the story itself, a torch of hope in front of me. My task is to stay open to the words as they come. I’m in love with that journey.
For the last 25 years, I’ve taught creative writing to college students in the US, China and Turkey. I’m now a professor at Pacific University in Oregon, where I direct the creative writing program for talented students earning their liberal arts degree. Teaching writing to emerging artists is above all else a practice in “do no harm.” I guide them in building effective techniques they can use in realizing their ideas. Each draft they create is a stepping stone to their next discovery. It’s exciting and important work for them and me. My students publish their writing, win awards, and find great jobs in the arts and editing and publishing.
For more on my teaching and our program’s opportunities for college students wanting an intense education in the arts and humanities, visit my faculty page at Pacific University
Children Living in Orphanages in China
A former job teaching in China brought me to my daughters and into the world of orphanages and adoption. For the last fifteen years, I have joined forces with dedicated people in China, the US, and other countries to form nonprofit organizations that support orphanage staff in their work providing education and nurture for children in their care. By collaborating with Chinese caregivers and orphanage directors, medical and educational professionals in the US and China, adoptive parents and the kids themselves, I’ve learned that when it comes to creating real solutions to pressing world problems, borders exist largely in our minds. The best and most important thing we can do if we want to help is to put aside the noise of competing nationalisms and agendas and listen to the children and what they ask of us. Often what they want is not at first what we assume. We also have to recognize our help is crucial but temporary. Their lives and the paths they take as they reach adulthood are the greater story.
More on these great international efforts, the kids, and the dedicated people who work on their behalf: