BY DANA REYNOLDS – STAFF WRITER
With the addition of a new professor this academic term, Centre’s creative writing department is hoping to continue with the program’s expansion. The creative writing department currently offers a wide-variety of courses, from crafting non-fiction to poetry, that have become increasingly popular through the years.
According to English professor Daniel Manheim, creative writing has always been popular at Centre. However, recently the college has made the commitment to expand the department’s offerings.
“Until fifteen years ago, all we offered was a winter course taught by a visiting writer,” Manheim said. “Now we have two permanent positions. By offering more courses, we will be able to attract more students. This will help them develop their abilities as writers.”
In order to solidify its expansion, the creative writing department sought a talented, enthusiastic professor who embodied the ideals of a small, liberal arts college. According to Manheim, Assistant Professor of English Azita Osanloo, the newly hired creative writing professor will prove to be an excellent addition to the program.
“She’s a terrific writer, as we’re all going to discover as her career advances,” he said. “And she’s ready to work with students and faculty alike to keep making the creative writing program stronger and stronger.”
Osanloo completed her undergraduate degree in creative writing and Russian at Oberlin College. She then continued on to receive her M.F.A. from the University of Montana and her Ph.D. in creative writing from Florida State University. This semester, she is teaching sections of introductory humanities courses and an “Intermediate Fiction Writing” course.
The first section of the fiction course involves more research and reading. Currently, they are analyzing the different techniques that writers use within their writing. Senior Emma Comery, who is in the class, commented that she enjoys the creative, hands-on activities that Osanloo encourages. For one assignment, each student had to go to a place in Danville or on campus that was unfamiliar to them and observe the interactions and behaviors of the people around them before writing about their experiences.
“She really tries to foster personal relationships with her students,” Comery said. “She had personal meetings with us to discuss of goals as writers. She is very easy to have a conversation with and creates a ‘safe space’ for us to share our work.”
Osanloo is excited to continue pursuing her career in creative writing at Centre.
“I remember, very clearly, sitting at my desk last September, reading through job postings. When I saw the posting for Centre, I felt an immediate kinship. Literally, I got so excited my hands trembled a little,” Osanloo said, “My excitement intensified when I met my now colleagues, Lisa Williams and Dan Manheim at the MLA convention in Vancouver last January. I walked away from the interview thinking, ‘Those are exactly the folks I want to work with next year.’”
Within her classes, Osanloo seeks to help writers improve their skills in a fun, rewarding atmosphere. Her creative writing classes are different from English classes offered at Centre, as they will focus on how texts work instead of what they mean. These stories are then used as possible models for their own work.
“Writing—like life—is not a linear process,” Osanloo said. “Writing is basically this: you do the same thing over and over and over again—that is the only way to get better. I guess you could say that learning to write stories is pretty decent training for life.”
When Osanloo is not teaching or writing, she likes to sew quilts and other small garments. She also enjoys being outdoors and goes hiking, camping, and bike touring in her spare time. But currently, since she is new to Kentucky, exploring has become her new favorite past time.
“It gets me out of my head and gives me a break from words,” she said.
So far, Osanloo has really enjoyed becoming a part of the Centre community.
“The students in my three classes — and a few whom I’ve met in meetings and in the hallways — have been so welcoming and fun,” Osanloo said. “Moving is always an adjustment, sometimes a difficult one, but the first week of classes and engaging with my students confirmed for me that I had landed in the right place.”