Professor Russo is Back
Published August 16, 2004 | Issue: Winter 2004
Richard Russo is coming back to the classroom.
Russo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (Empire Falls) and former professor of English and creative writing at Colby, returns to Mayflower Hill second semester to teach Creative Writing 478, a fiction workshop.
He said he is looking forward to working with bright, young college students, to being on campus with his daughter Kate '04 and to spending time with former office mate Jenny Boylan (English).
"With me being here in Camden and Jenny being in Belgrade, we don't see as much of each other as we'd like to," Russo said. "This is an opportunity to have some of the kind of meddlesome fun we used to have back when I was teaching there."
Russo, who has done a couple of guest spots in Boylan's classes since he left Colby, said he misses the actual teaching tremendously. "As soon as I walk into the classroom and start talking to students, I realize how much I've missed their youth and their enthusiasm and their good thoughts," he said. "It's going to be a kick for me, too, to see if I still have anything left in the hopper with these bright young people."
Students in Russo's course can expect a rigorous fiction workshop. Writers who enroll should have "a thick skin" and a desire to work hard on the fundamentals of fiction, he said.
Russo said his own writing may benefit, too. "The beauty, I always found in teaching, especially teaching undergraduates, is that you are forced day after day after day to deal with fundamentals," he said. "And revisiting fundamentals, even for mid-career writers, forces them to be thinking about these fundamentals themselves, in whatever novel that you happen to be working on. You cannot help saying to yourself, 'Yeah, alright. Sure. But how does it apply to what I'm working on? Is my own conflict clear enough? Is this the right point of view to be telling the story?'"
He said he will steer clear of one subjectrecounting his own experience of seeing his novels adapted for the screen. Writing for the movies may be seductive, Russo said, but the fundamentals of good fiction writing come first. "We won't be talking about what's happened on the set," Russo said, "or what Paul Newman is really like."