“Once the habit of writing is ingrained, it can be practiced anytime,” says Sarah Inman. Inman teaches English at Delgado Community College, a Louisiana school whose student body consists of an underserved and unprepared population. Inman admits the work can be difficult at times, but she nevertheless enjoys the fulfillment of working with a diverse student body. “As a writer I think I provide sound advice to students because I know their academic weaknesses, and, oftentimes, student writers face the same challenges professional writers do.” Inman admits the grading isn’t always easy. At times, it can be soul-crushing.
Inman’s first challenge is getting students to care about their writing and realize its relevance to their lives. The ability to write, articulate, and express oneself follows students throughout their lives, thus Inman stresses to her classes not only the importance of writing, but the benefits of doing so competently. In this sense Inman empathizes with students, as communication through writing is a subtle art that takes committed, regular practice. “The nature of writing requires that one be alone with his or her thoughts, which can be a scary, daunting task,” she says. “Some students may lack the attention span or the time to think about an idea enough to formulate an essay, or perhaps they even lack the language to write what's on their minds. “ To address these concerns, Inman considers herself more of a writing coach than a teacher. At the end of each class she conferences with her students individually, and reminds them of the benefits of proofreading, despite its tediousness. Inman personally enjoys writing before the day’s events corrupt her mind, but saves editing and proofreading for later in the day—a scheme some of her students sometimes adopt. The process helps advance students’ writing in subjects even beyond Inman’s classroom. Successes such as these inspire Inman in her professorship at Delgado, and allow her to channel the same perseverance to all her students.
Inman also practices what she teaches. Inman published her novel The Least Resistance in 2010.The novel deftly addresses the impromptu militia, struggling black underclass, and other gritty issues in post-Katrina New Orleans, reflecting the startling, yet tragic reality communities faced at the time. Through the eyes of the novel’s mentally challenged protagonist, Inman offers an offbeat and ironic examination of New Orleanians’ struggles during the natural disaster and its aftermath.
Some of Inman’s best writing, including essays and creative fiction/nonfiction, appears on NOLAFugees.com, an online publishing outlet that helps humorously yet respectfully chronicle life in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The site features Inman’s essays in its recently published anthologies—“Year Zero” and “Soul is Bulletproof.”
Despite the serious nature of the topics she addresses, Inman also finds a way to add levity to her work. She attributes her lighthearted disposition to years of aerialist performance. Inman has practiced trapeze, hoop, and fabric acrobatics since 2000 to balance her artistic and kinesthetic ambitions. Inman performs regularly with a troupe of women and values the creativity, balance, and focus she hones in her routines. Inman translates these lessons into her daily writing and work with equal grace and poise, taking it all in stride.
—Amy Cunningham, ’15, William D. Adams Presidential Scholar