For the first time at Mills, the Contemporary Writers Series is featuring authors who are all Mills professors.
The Contemporary Writers Series (CWS) offered by the Mills English department gives students who signed up for the 0.25 credit course the chance to read creative contemporary work by Mills professors. Due to the layoffs that occurred over the summer semester, Stephanie Young, the professor who normally teaches the class, was not able to continue with CWS. However, Cornelia Nixon, English professor at Mills, was able to take the reins and steer the series in a new direction. Instead of choosing outside contemporary authors, which is normally the case for CWS, Nixon thought it would be a good opportunity to pick some of her colleagues’ work.
“I have read many books by my colleagues, but I deliberately picked three I had not read, to increase my knowledge of the work being done at Mills,” said Nixon.
The selections Nixon chose for this semester’s series were “Days of Awe” by Achy Obejas, “A Brief History of Yes” by Micheline Aharonian Marcom, and “This Connection of Everyone with Lungs” by Juliana Spahr.
“I am currently taking classes with both Achy Obejas and Micheline Marcom,” said Cindy Nguyen-Pham, a senior majoring in creative writing. “Reading their novels were of particular interest to me because all their respective teachings were clearly reflected in the style and content of their works.”
Usually, in academic classes, students focus strictly on the assigned readings.
“I really like that Professor Nixon is using Mills professors’ works in the class because I am much more engaged in the works knowing that the writers are my teachers,” says Nguyen-Pham. She stated that this opportunity would give students a way to learn from their professors more directly than in the classroom.
According to Nixon, it is beneficial for students, especially those in the English/ creative writing program to see the various and innovative ways that writing can be produced.
“It’s crucial for students in creative writing to read work by their professors,” Nixon said. “We all write differently and therefore give different advice sometimes to students! You need to know where your writing teachers are coming from.”
During CWS sessions, Obejas and Marcom offered advice and input into how students and writers can help their own craft. Obejas mentioned during the “Days of Awe“ CWS session that writers should think metaphorically and symbolically because it is rare for someone to write in a straightforward way.
“Trust your intuition,” says Marcom to the CWS students. “Feel free to follow your obsessions” because if you find the subject you are writing interesting, “then it is interesting.”
CWS allows for an open dialogue between the authors, who are Mills professors, and the students. Students’ questions vary from content and form to the creative processes that the authors utilized during their writing, and given the setting, the professors will answer candidly. It is a space that fosters creativity from both the students and faculty of Mills.
“As far as I know, students don’t generally read the faculty’s books,” said Marcom after the latest session of CWS. “There are so many great writers in our department. We are all contemporary writers.”