Dave Griffith, the new director of creative writing, believes that writers need a place where they can learn from other writers. That’s why when he was offered the position last July he jumped at the chance. According to Griffith, “Even before the building of the Writing House, the creative writing program at Interlochen had a long storied history of bringing the best writers in the country to campus to work with the students, and it’s a tradition that I wanted to be part of.”
Since the program’s founding in 1974, numerous National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners and Poet Laureates have visited. Griffith says, “Having such distinguished writers visit and work with the students creates a challenging yet nurturing environment.”
But Griffith and his faculty are not looking to rest on tradition. He wants to emphasize the transformational work that goes on during Camp and Academy that eventually leads some to careers as writers. One of the first ways that he is doing that is to put increased energy into welcoming notable alumni back to campus. According to Griffith, “One of the most gratifying things about this job is being able to bring Academy and Camp alumni back to work with students.” This summer, fiction writer and Camp alumna Lisa Locascio shared her work with students via Skype, and another Camp alumna, poet Nandi Comer gave a reading in the Writing House, which had not yet been built when she was a camper in the 90s.
In the fall, Griffith is hoping to bring several other alumni who have just published first books, as well as a diverse lineup of luminaries in the contemporary writing world. In the fall the program will host Jamaal May, Terrance Hayes, Stuart Dybek, Dana Levin, and Kazim Ali, all writers known for their unique styles and perspectives on American life.
In addition to focusing on guest writers, Griffith and the creative writing faculty are working to help students understand how technology has changed and will continue to change the art of writing and the way readers engage with the written word. “Technology allows writers to share their work online through literary journals, personal websites and blogs,” says Griffith, “but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We need to be thinking into the future and imagining how we can use these technologies to expand what’s possible.”
“In the end, technology aside, our goal is to make creativity easier for them,” Griffith says. “Whether they’re writing in a notebook or on a laptop, our program is geared to help students develop healthy habits during the writing process so that they can become self-sufficient, resourceful writers. Ultimately, the goal is for writing to become less that unique, quirky aspect of their lives and more a way of life, of living.”