MFA in Creative Writing - Leila Philip
If I were to describe my philosophy of teaching in terms of writing, I would say it is a narrative that I am constantly revising. Each time I teach I am learning. While my ideas, methods, and approaches to the teaching of writing develop each time that I enter a new workshop or seminar or begin the journey of mentoring a student, my approach stems from and illuminates a central philosophy. I believe that each of us is unique and that, being unique, each of us has infinite value. My aim as a teacher is to make this simple fact evident. I draw my philosophy of teaching from this belief and from the conviction that what we really learn and retain, we learn not from what other people tell us, but from what we are able to tell ourselves.
One of the great values of a one-on-one 'mentor' program is the possibility it offers for students to make real and concentrated progress with their work. As a teacher, I love to help facilitate that growth. But I do it carefully, for I believe that there are no short cuts; it is only when we internalize information by actively thinking out ideas, concepts, problems - when we tell these things to ourselves - that they become part of us. Thus my teaching style is to always begin with the student work in front of me - comments, line-edits, readings, and advice is focused around helping the student realize more fully, deeply, and eloquently their own story in their own voice.
As a graduate of an MFA program I know how important it is for students to know they are making progress and reaching their goals of becoming better writers and getting published, either for the first time, or in and ongoing way. I respond to student work promptly with line-edits and thorough written comments by mail, but I will email students comments ahead of a packet if they are particularly eager for feedback sooner. I like to follow up written comments with a phone conference.
I believe that we become better writers as we become better readers so I am big on reading and I will assign readings if it seems appropriate. Who are my favorite writers? Hard to say, I have so many. I am well grounded in literary studies and am fluent in Japanese with a background in East Asian Studies. I have taught courses in literary nonfiction, creative nonfiction, literary journalism, the lyric essay, the braided essay, and workshops of all kinds in all forms on nonfiction as well as workshops in fiction. I love all kinds of writing but I am always interested in writing that pushes at the edges of genre.
Having completed an MFA in fiction, published two memoirs, a book of literary journalism, a multitude of essays and short pieces of literary journalism as well as poetry, worked for years as a journalist before that and written straight up journalism as well as short stories, I'd conclude by saying that I am confident reading all forms of fiction and nonfiction.