In the first writing class I ever taught, I had a student, an astute reader of literature and intelligent critic, say to me, “Writers come from the island of writers,” as if nothing in his own experience, perception, or imagination could possibly be the source of a story—as if he never received the secret invitation, and if you didn’t get that, you were out of luck. There was this idea that real writers are over there, and I’m over here. So, how does a writer become real?
I have been a fiction professor in the program since its inception, and some of my most remarkable teaching experiences have involved working with students who appeared to be writing one story, beneath which a kind of shadow story lurked. And this is where claiming your talent, your life, and your imagination comes in. The word claim comes from the French clamer, meaning to cry out, and sometimes the story that actually wants to be told appears to be silenced. But it only seems that way, and a writing teacher can be very useful in helping a student bring it forth.